Totem Spirit turns 51

The competition is on for the 50th Totem Spirit crown.

The 61st annual Totem Tournament starts today.

The 61st annual Totem Tournament starts today.

Totem Spirit hits its golden anniversary this weekend.

To put it simply, it’s kind of a big deal.

“Totem is the longest running basketball tournament in B.C., it’s at 61 years now,” said April Davidson, a Totem Spirit candidate.

Totem began as a four-team boys-only basketball tournament at Alberni District Secondary in 1955. Since then, it’s grown to 16 teams—eight boys and eight girls.

But a sporting event is nothing without the hype and that’s where Totem Spirit comes in.

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“It’s a competition between certain Grade 12 students to see who can raise the most awareness about Totem, get your community involved with Totem,” said Jamie Vissia, a Totem Spirit candidate. In the early days, it used to be called Totem Princess. The name changed to make it more inclusive but the passion has remained.

“It’s a really big deal here at ADSS,” said Vissia. This year, there are seven girls competing for the title—and it’s a lot of work.

“You’re getting people to come out and support the basketball teams in Totem because yes, it’s ADSS but it’s also our Port Alberni teams as well,” said Davidson.

“I don’t want to say it’s stressful but it is stressful. We all have our teams helping us but there’s multiple posters that we had to make, we had to make a poster board with all that we’ve been doing, we had to get the community involved, your school,” said Vissia.

Davidson agrees.

“It’s a lot of time, effort and money,” she said.

“It’s good though, it’s all worth it in the end­—hopefully!”

The candidates all have different reasons for taking on the task.

“We’ve come out to the games [in prior years],” said Davidson. “I’m on the dance team so I’ve danced for all four years.”

Many of the girls are in the leadership class, which is taught by athletic director Mike Roberts, and are involved even without Totem Spirit.

“We’re setting up a lot of things, planning things, we have a pep rally on Wednesday and the leadership class play a big role in that.”

“I’ve had prior friends in it and they had a really good experience with it,” said Davidson.

“You really get to control your school and show how much school pride you have. It’s a great way to make memories in Grade 12—you don’t really get this much excitement in your high school experience.”

But it all comes back to just the sheer fun of it all.

“It’s just a lot of fun. Every year I look forward to Totem. There’s so much stuff going on that you want to be a part of it,” said Vissia.

“Everyone gets together and it just feels like a big family,” said Davidson

“The whole gym’s filled every night. The feature games are unreal.”

Celebrating 50 years makes it an even bigger honours just to be involved.

“It’s a tradition thing too,” said Vissia.

“Every year the previous winner comes back and does the crowning of the new winner. As the Totem Spirit winner you’re involved in Totem for basically forever. You’ll always be called back to be involved in Totem.”

Totem kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 7 with the ADSS girls taking on Kwalicum at 5:15 p.m. and the ADSS boys taking on Woodlands at 7 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 8 continues with 10 games from 10:15 a.m. till 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 9 has 12 games from 9 a.m. till 7:30 p.m.

Totem Spirit winners will be crowned after the final game is played on Saturday night.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com