The Panthers’ roar could be heard loud and proud at Merritt Secondary School’s banner raising and sports award ceremony, with students and teachers alike showing their school spirit and supporting their sports teams during unprecedented times for the school.

The athletics program at MSS, directed by Gian Cavaliere, has had anything but a straightforward path to success the past two years, with pandemic restrictions and devastating flood damage hindering their ability to not only play, but practice, meet, and balance their personal lives.

“It is a symbol of the resilience, commitment, unison, and effort of this community to ensure the youth were still provided opportunities to participate and play sports,” said Cavaliere, who serves as both vice principal and athletic director for the school.

“They are supported by a large group of adults who wanted to ensure this piece was still in place during difficult times.”

Five of the school’s sports teams and its players, coaches, and supporters were honoured during the ceremony, which began with introductory remarks by Cavaliere, the teams’ coaches, and students. Four of these teams secured spots in this year’s BC School Sports high school provincials, with cross country, track and field, golf, and ultimate frisbee sweeping the West Zone Championships to compete. The ceremony was capped with the raising of MSS’s newest banner, naming them 2021-2022 Outstanding School. 

MSS Banner Unveiling by Marius Auer

Student athletes at MSS have been kept busy and on their toes for the past year, balancing work, school, sports, and life to deliver their best work all around. Many students and staff put their personal time and resources into preparing for sporting events and practices. With the flooding of
November 2021 destroying much of the Panthers’ training grounds, teams practiced in locations all over Merritt and surrounding communities.

“It is a tremendous feeling and though the students are excited about this achievement, I don’t think they realize just how special this award is. To beat out 400 other schools for this award is an impressive feat in itself,” added Cavaliere. 

Students at the school were hired to assist cleanup efforts during the immediate aftermath of the Merritt floods, and chose to donate their payment to families struggling to recover. Their volunteerism in the community and dedication to school sports made BC School Sports take note, and they were given the distinction of Outstanding School along with G.W. Graham Secondary School in Chilliwack.

Moving forward, both the school and its students are looking to support sports activities over the summer, with many of its student athletes joining summer leagues to keep sharp and active. Come September, the Panthers will strike again.