By Mike Jamieson’s count, it’s been at least a decade since anyone at Elgin Park Secondary could scan the B.C. senior boys rugby rankings and see their own school in the top 10.
But that’s exactly where the Orcas found themselves this month – No. 10 in AAA – as they head for provincial championships, for which they’ve also qualified for the first time in years.
And while the team’s current place on the provincial landscape is nice, Jamieson – who coaches both the Grade 10 and senior boys teams – is more enthused by the growth of the school’s entire rugby program, starting at the Grade 8 level.
“To be honest, I’m just really excited about the program as a whole, not just the senior team,” he said.
“Our Grade 10s won Surrey championships and so far have qualified for semifinals of Fraser Valleys, and this year is the first year we’ve been able to have separate Grade 9 and 10 teams.”
Elgin Park’s rugby resurgence is especially sweet for Jamieson, who played at Elgin himself, graduating in 2002.
“When I was in Grade 11, I think we came in about 9th, then 11th, then a year after that, I think Elgin was fifth. We were super strong back then,” said Jamieson, who has coached and taught at the South Surrey school for five years.
“It’s great to be back here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The reason I’m here, trying to (boost the rugby program) is because of the great experience I had when I went to school here.
“I’m just trying to give back, because I owe it to these kids.”
In order to have a strong program in any high-school sport, Jamieson said, support is needed right from the top. As well, he credits the school’s dedicated coaches – Tom Myring, Andy Blackburn, Everett Konsmo, Doug Kiloh and Tim Booker – for the revival.
When it comes to building a strong rugby tradition, Jamieson points to a trio of local examples – longtime Elgin Park coach Johan Mynhardt, who has coached the school’s girls and boys teams through the years; Earl Marriott’s rugby coach Adam Roberts, who has EMS perennially near the top of the AAA ranks, and former Semiahmoo coach Paul Horne, a legendary coach who spent 23 years at the helm of the program until leaving in the early 2000s.
“Sports programs are successful based on the people leading them,” Jamieson said. “It takes a lot of hands on deck – a lot of grown-ups – to keep these programs for these kids going strong.
“We’ve been extremely lucky at Elgin… our administration is super supportive of the rugby program here.”
At the senior level, Jamieson’s crew are in something of a holding pattern, waiting on results of other Fraser Valley games to see where they’ll end up at provincials. The Orcas lost their first Valley contest to Lord Tweedsmuir earlier this month, and will find out this week whether they slot into the first or second tier of the provincial tournament, which is set for May 25-28 in Abbotsford.
“The boys are super jazzed up about it. We’re going to take the Grade 10s with us, too, to give them the experience,” Jamieson explained.
“We have a very talented group of Grade 12s, but they’re hurt a bit by the fact that they weren’t there last year and don’t have that experience.
“Typically, you go to provincials and just try to beat your finish from the year before. But we’re going in with a clean slate, so having all these young kids come with us, it’ll give them something to try to beat next year.
“You just hope it continues to move upward like it is now.”