By Cole Parkinson
With one school month complete, students at Barnwell School have something to look forward to as they kick off October.
After major renovations were made to Barnwell School, vice principal Aaron Edlund had an idea for the school to break in the new gym — exhibition basketball games between his two former schools, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and Medicine Hat College Rattlers.
“The main motivation was we move into the new school, renovations are almost 100 per cent done, we still have a little bit of construction woes going on but for the most part we’re just thrilled with our new building and our new gym. I was trying to find different ways to get other people in there, you know everyone from Barnwell is going to see it but I wanted a different crowd and a different set of eyes,” said Edlund.
Edlund is a former student athlete at both the University of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat College where he had a chance to play post secondary basketball.
With Barnwell close to being roughly equidistant between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, the vice principal saw a perfect opportunity to have men’s and women’s competitive post secondary basketball right in Barnwell.
“I actually have pretty strong connections with the University of Lethbridge, I played there years and years ago so I knew the coaches and floated the idea to them and they thought that it was fantastic that we have a gym that’s capable of hosting a university game, not just a tiny little junior high game because the court space is big enough,” said Edlund.
“Barnwell isn’t in the exact middle but it’s an easy location for both of them to get to and do some warmups for their upcoming seasons. Obviously they’re two different levels of basketball.”
With Barnwell School alumni Millay Johnson making her U Sports debut this year with the Pronghorns, the hometown crowd will get a chance to see one of their own on the court.
“It will be interesting because Millay will have no home court advantage over anybody because she’s never played in the new gym, she is used to the old tiny one. But we’re happy to have her home and we’re definitely very proud of her and all that she has achieved. It’s fun to look at the program guide at the U of L and see Barnwell, Alberta next to her name. In a small town that doesn’t happen often so everybody around here is proud of her,” said Edlund.
Johnson finished up her high school basketball career with W.R. Myers and an MVP award, shared with Jessica Zarowny who also committed to the Pronghorns.
While students are excited to see former Trojan Johnson, they are also excited to see two post secondary school teams do battle in their own hometown gym.
“It’s a big deal for those kids and I hope the U of L and Medicine Hat College see some benefit from it. Just to play in a smaller gym is easier to fill and we’re hoping to fill it so it has some atmosphere. It’s just more fun to play when there are people screaming and yelling,” said Edlund. “I think the U of L will have gained the advantage in the fan support with the kids because they’ll be making a connection that afternoon and even on Wednesday because Millay Johnson signed with the U of L. So on the women’s side we have an alumni. So I think U of L will be the crowd favourite for both nights.”
Neither of the games will have gate admission. Instead, Barnwell School is asking those to donate admission in another way, by bringing a non perishable food item for the Taber Food Bank.
Edlund says that they’re happy to give back to the community as well as put on a good event for people to attend.
“Because we want everybody to come and see the gym, there’s no admission cost. We planned women’s and men’s games last spring and I’m also on the Taber Food bank board and next Wednesday, the same night as the girls game is the annual food bank food drive.”
“My heart kind of sunk because I don’t want to pull people from one or the other because both are pretty good. So in lieu of an admission, we’re asking that if anybody wants to make a donation, either goods or cash donation to the food bank than we would graciously accept that on behalf of Barnwell School, Medicine Hat College and U of L,” said Edlund.
With both of his former schools heading to his current school, some are wondering if VP Edlund will suit up and get in the game, but Edlund isn’t quite sure if the skills would still be there many years later.
“Slim to nil, I made a university career out of being able to run and jump. I was never the best shooter, I was never the best dribbler but at 39 years old the running and jumping has long disappeared. The side baskets at Barnwell School can be lowered so if anybody needs to see me dunk it won’t be on the glass backboards, I will be cranking (the nets) well below nine feet probably just to relive my glory days,” said Edlund with a chuckle.
Preparations are nearly complete for when the Horns and Rattlers pass through Barnwell and Edlund hopes to see the new gym at full capacity for both games.
“I think our bleacher capacity is 300 but there is lots of standing room in the corners. I would be thrilled if we filled it, in my mind I didn’t really think that that would happen but Darryl Moser, the principal over at Central School, said ‘it’s probably going to sell out, are you worried that there’s not going to be enough room?’ That hadn’t even crossed my mind so I hope he’s right and I’m wrong because that makes for a fun atmosphere. Next year maybe they want to do it again, it’s a good location and a nice court. We’ll know if it went well if they ask me again.”
The women’s Horns and Rattlers hit the court at 6 p.m. tonight and the men will follow on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.