By Kristen McEwen and Andrew Schopp
More than 500 athletes, coaches and mission staff will represent Saskatchewan at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games, which kick off in Regina on Sunday.
Showcasing First Nations sport, culture and youth, the Indigenous Games will host teams from Canada and the United States competing in 14 athletic events including archery, badminton, baseball, basketball, canoeing, kayaking, lacrosse, golf, rifle shooting, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling.
Among the hundreds of athletes representing the host province in Regina on July 20-27 are Prince Albert products Brandon Bonneau and Arliss McCloy.
Bonneau, a St. Mary High School student, will be competing in the game’s U19 basketball event while McCloy will represent Saskatchewan on the lacrosse field, also in the U19 category.
“I’m pretty focused,” Bonneau said as he looks forward to the games. “I think we’re are going to do very well. We have a good coach and good team members. We work well together.”
Heading into Grade 11 in the fall, Bonneau said he originally attended tryouts for the game’s U16 squad, however, he was later offered a spot on the older U19 team, an opportunity he is thankful for.
“There could have been other kids playing, but I got chosen,” he said.
After a competitive bidding process, Regina was selected to host the 2014 edition of the games in a close race with Halifax and London, Ont.
Team from each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories will compete in the games, along with eight squads from regions in the United States; Wisconsin, Washington, New York, Florida, Connecticut, Colorado, California and a team dubbed “Eastern Door and the North.”
Joining Bonneau in Regina is McCloy, who recently finished his third season with the Prince Albert Predators of the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League. Now, he looks forward to playing against lacrosse teams from across the continent.
“I didn’t really know about (the games) at first until my parents and a few other people let me know about them,” McCloy said. “I thought it was pretty cool how it happened every four years and a couple of my buddies are playing on it too.”
The first Indigenous Games were held in Edmonton in 1990 followed by Prince Albert in 1993. The last games took place in 2011 in Milwaukee, Wis.
Fellow Predators teammate, Brendon Beaulac will also be playing with McCloy on Team Saskatchewan.
“I thought I’d play with them because there’s supposed to be some pretty good teams there,” McCloy said.
McCloy has attended a few practices in preparation for the games and he looks forward to playing with a full team.
He is excited to be extending his playing time this summer at the games.
“I’m excited to play against guys that are good and it’ll help me to get better,” he said.
Team Saskatchewan’s first lacrosse game will take place on Tuesday, July 22 at the Al Ritchie Arena in Regina at 5 p.m.
Bonneau will debut on the hardwood on Sunday at 8 a.m. at the University of Regina before the game’s opening ceremonies at Mosaic Stadium.