Totem 65, the longest-running high school basketball tournament in B.C., is kind of a big deal for Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) in Port Alberni.
Totem began in 1955 as a four-team boys’ basketball tourney, continuing until 1982, when it expanded to eight teams. Totem expanded again in 2011 when female teams were included, and in 2015 grew again to eight teams on each of the boys’ and girls’ sides.
Totem has evolved into so much more than a basketball tournament, though. It includes the entire student body at ADSS, and a lot of the excitement that grows in late December and early January is thanks to the Totem Spirit candidates.
The 2020 edition of Totem—also the 65th anniversary—has an abundance of spirit this year, thanks to nearly a dozen candidates spreading their enthusiasm.
“Some of the exciting things about Totem Spirit this year is we have 11 candidates from all different groups in our school, all Grade 12s,” teacher sponsor Lizabeth Bill said.
Grade 12 students Jodelle Antonchuk, Maggie Cyr, Madi Duncan, Nyah Fox, Melisa Engstrom, Jamie Fraser, Zach Hamelin, Amrit Hundal, Alyssa McGifford, Koel Strain and Alexa Tremblay are all vying for the Totem 65 Spirit title this year.
“This year we opened Totem Spirit up to anybody; you didn’t have to be sponsored by a group, you didn’t have to be on a team. This allowed more kids to participate,” she said.
It’s a record year, she thinks.
“In the times I’ve been involved in Totem for the past 15 to 20 years, it’s definitely more than I’ve ever seen.”
Opening it up also allowed students from the same team—for example, dance or cheerleading—to participate instead of only having one representative off a team.
“Now, if three kids on that team want to run for Totem Spirit, they can,” Bill explained.
“Our numbers have grown, we’ve seen great camaraderie between different groups that are running, and it’s a really exciting year.”
Bill welcomes the change to who can run for Totem Spirit: the new rules don’t pigeon-hole anyone. “I’m hoping it makes any student realize they can run for Totem spirit; you don’t have to be a basketball player, you don’t have to be a cheerleader or dancer. That really, as long as you love ADSS, you like promoting school spirit and you like being out and among your fellow students that you can run for Totem Spirit.”
The Totem Spirit winner is traditionally announced on Saturday night following the final game of Totem. This year that will be Saturday, Jan. 11 after the ADSS Boys’ feature game at 7:30 p.m.
Here, in no particular order, are the 11 Totem Spirit candidates and their reasons for running:
Alyssa McGifford — “I’ve been involved in Totem for the past five years, being both a leadership student as well as a member of the dance team. I am running for Totem Spirit because I know how much hard work is necessary for such a great event, so I am thrilled to be able to contribute in this year’s tournament!”
Maggie Cyr — “I’ve been involved in Spirit through cheerleading for the past four years. I’m running for Totem Spirit because I want ADSS to be more involved in Totem and share the common bond of school spirit!”
Jamie Fraser — “Running for Totem is completely out of my comfort zone; therefore, I am running so that I can inspire others to step out of theirs. All through high school I’ve been shy and I am grateful for musical theatre for giving me the confidence to be who I am.”
Nyah Fox — “I have been at ADSS for five years. Totem has always been my favourite time of year. I love performing with the dance team and supporting the basketball teams every year. I am running to try and spread the same love I have for Totem with everyone in Port Alberni!”
Amrit Hundal — “Over the course of the last five years I’ve really enjoyed participating in many different clubs and groups such as band, soccer, track and field, badminton, yearbook, social justice, Red Cross, scorekeeping and cheerleading. As well, I’ve been a part of the leadership team for the past four years.”
Alexa Tremblay — “I am running for Totem Spirit because I want to be part of creating school spirit and having a positive impact on the community. Totem is something I have always looked forward to being involved in, and I want to be as involved as I can in my final year of ADSS.”
Madi Duncan — “My high school experience has more or less been in the band room and art rooms. So, I am very excited to run for Totem to represent the arts while helping the community and to promote school spirit.”
Melisa Engstrom — “I have been part of Totem for the past five years through cheerleading and leadership. As it is my last year in high school, I have decided to run for Totem 65 as it will be a great experience to be a part of, and to look back on.”
Jodelle Antonchuk — “My five years of high school have been quite the experience, filled with so many fun memories, from friends and performances in band. I am running for Totem because I want to show that getting out of your comfort zone and being proud of what you’re passionate about is an amazing thing.”
Zachary Hamelin — “Totem is important to me because it brings people together and all of the people are so supporting and helpful. We are a team: we can accomplish so much as a team. ADSS is more of a family than a school to me.”
Koel Strain — “I am one of the ADSS Totem candidates this year. I have been trying to become more involved in school through activities such as the grad committee, and thought this might be a good chance to be involved in school spirit as well.”