Ucluelet local Heather Morrison has returned from her final BC Summer Games with some impressive hardware.
Morrison arrived back in Ucluelet on Monday with both an individual and team medal as she placed third in her weight class and her Zone 6-Vancouver Island and Central Coast-team placed first overall.
This year's summer games were held in Nanaimo from July 17 to the 20 and Morrison earned a spot on the
Zone 6 team at trials held in Port Alberni just four days prior to the Games' opening ceremonies.
With the new plans arriving at such late notice Morrison expressed big time gratitude to her employer Black Rock Resort for being flexible with her schedule and allowing her to compete in the Games.
It was the second BC Games experience for Morrison, who took home an individual silver medal and Zone 6 team gold medal at the 2012 Games.
She said the experience was less daunting the second time around because she was familiar with the territory and was so busy with last-minute travel preparations that she forgot to panic.
"Because this was my second time going I had more confidence and I was a little bit more prepared, I knew what to expect," she said. "I was still feeling a lot of anticipation and nerves but I think a lot of that was dulled because it wasn't really what I was focused on, I was more focused on making sure I got there and packing and just getting ready. I was too busy to be too worried about it."
She was stoked to arrive in Nanaimo and be immersed in the competitive culture of the Games, which boasts about 30 different sports with over 3,000 competing athletes.
"It's amazing; it's got this really incredible atmosphere of excitement and everybody is just so ready to go out there and compete and be a part of this really amazing experience," she said.
"You get there and the opening ceremonies are absolutely amazing, it's just this incredible feeling of being a part of something so big."
Despite earning an individual bronze medal by finishing third in her weight class, along with a team gold medal, Morrison was disappointed with her performance.
She said she had previously wrestled every girl in her weight class at other tournaments
and beaten each one at least twice.
"I had beaten these girls before," she said.
She said running into familiar faces on the mat is par for the course at this stage of her wrestling career and rivalries develop into friendships.
"I meet them over and over at different tournaments and it's a really great way to judge your development versus how other people are developing in wrestling," she said.
"You see them all the time and you learn from them and you end up creating relationships with these people and it's pretty amazing the community that's out there."
She suggested athletes from larger cities are able to take advantage of year round programming and training that she does not have access to on the West Coast.
"I'm a little bit more out of practice and a little bit less in shape than some of these other athletes and I was off this weekend," she said. "It was frustrating but it happens and sometimes there's not much you can do about it but just learn from it and hope to do better next time."
Morrison was proud to fly Ucluelet's flag as one of 25 athletes selected to represent the Island's Zone 6. "I got an opportunity to be one of those 25 and it was a really incredible experience. Wrestling is an individual sport but you still have a team and to get to be a part of a team with people that I'm often competing against is a really amazing experience," she said.
"I'd really like to say thank you to all of the athletes that were there with me and helped to create the experience that I got to have." She also thanked her local wrestling coaches Mike Rhodes and Noranda Sigmund for their dedication to honing her craft.
Morrison will no longer be eligible to compete in the BC Summer Games by the time the next ones roll around in 2016 but she has her sights set on plenty of other goals.
"I've never gotten a first place medal at Provincials, I've never placed at Nationals, I've never wrestled at a university collegiate level and those are all things that are still out there for me to go out and get," she said.
"There's still endless possibilities for me and there's still so much room for improvement, so my goals now are to just go out there and keep working hard and get better."
The 15-year-old athlete is heading into grade 11 this year.