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TOTEM 67: Seven Alberni students vying for Totem Spirit title

Basketball tournament begins on Thursday, Jan. 5
The Totem 67 Spirit candidates. Back row: Vanderlyn Dennis, Pallas Cote-Wallin, Sophia Bill and Alex McDowell. Seated: Jordan Maczulat, Macee Norlock and Jayden Blake. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

The Totem Spirit competition is just as integral a part of the annual Totem tournament at Alberni District Secondary School as the basketball. This year there are seven candidates vying for the coveted spirit title during the tournament, Jan. 5–7, 2023.

This year’s Totem Spirit competitors in the 67th annual event are Sophia Bill, Jayden Blake, Pallas Cote-Wallin, Vanderlyn Dennis, Jordan Maczulat, Alex McDowall and Macee Norlock. Each candidate is competing individually: they no longer represent a club, team or group at the high school.

Spirit candidates have spent the past few weeks promoting Totem in the high school as well as the community. Norlock, for example, was at Canal Waterfront Park on New Year’s Day with some of her supporters, kicking off 2023 with an informal Polar Bear Swim.

This year’s Spirit candidates have a range of experience with Totem. “I love the atmosphere of Totem,” says Bill, who has been a member of the dance team for a few years. “Getting to run for Totem and not just be a spectator is really exciting.”

McDowall, big on academics, said he has always been drawn to Totem, and it was a natural fit for him to run. “I’ve always loved basketball, I’ve always loved Totem, I love this town. I’ve always been on the sidelines. To be able to participate…is special to me.”

He said his family has been in Port Alberni for generations, and he has heard stories about Totem from his grandfather and his father. “I want to give memories to people. I want to be part of that.”

Norlock has been involved in Totem for a few years, through cheerleading and with leadership classes. “I just wanted to get as involved as possible for my last year and spread kindness,” she said. “I love the atmosphere—that’s probably my favourite part.”

Blake, who is also a seasoned cheerleader, said the energy at Totem is unmatched. “Just to be a part of it over the last five years, my love for the tournament has only grown stronger. This year has meant a lot to me to be a part of it because it’s my last year.”

Maczulat has cheered with the cheerleading team for four previous years; this will be her final Totem. “I want everyone who attends Totem to make the same amazing memories that I have.”

Dennis, part of the school’s arts community, decided to run for Totem Spirit “to step out of my comfort zone and try and make the most out of my Grade 12 year; stepping out ‘into’ ADSS and being more involved in the school community.”

Cote-Wallin said Totem is such a unique experience. “There really is nothing else like it on the Island that I know of. I think it’s a special opportunity to be able to come out and represent for the community and work with so many great people.”

Cote-Wallin plays the upright bass or percussion with the pep band (as well as others at ADSS). It’s a balancing act between the band and Totem Spirit: “It’s important of me in my schedule of being organized. I do rehearsals mornings, lunch times, after school and evenings…It’s just managing what (time) I do have and prioritizing what I can do for Totem.”

Norlock agreed that competing in Totem Spirit is all about priorities. “I have all academic classes too so it’s really all about your time management,” she said. “I’ve always been a really busy person so it’s not too different.”

“We’re all involved in grad council, myself, I’m in student council, we’re cheer captains—it’s everything,” Blake added.

All the Totem Spirit candidates are in Grade 12, but their desire to be involved in Totem came from their younger selves.

“Hopefully, we inspire the younger grades that they can step out of their comfort zone, they can try it out, because that’s what inspired me to (get involved), was the older grades,” Norlock said.

“We do all represent such different parts of the school, but we’re coming together, and that’s really what Totem is,” Blake said. “Totem is kind of a big deal; it’s a big deal to every part of the school.”

Dennis said it was Totem 66 candidates “that spoke to me, in a way. I was talking to them about wanting to run for it and they were very supportive and motivational.”

Cote-Wallin first went to a Totem tournament in Grade 8 “and I was a little confused: I thought it’s this big basketball tournament and there’s people doing flips and all this stuff. I got all excited. I went again last year and it was such a great time because I got really involved.

“After COVID especially, it was just so great to be back.”

The Totem Spirit winner will be crowned at the conclusion of the Totem championship game on Saturday.

ADSS teams play feature games

The ADSS Senior Boys will play their first game of Totem at 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 5 against Ballenas. The defending champion ADSS Senior Girls will play at 7 p.m. vs. Kwalikum.

The Senior Girls play Friday, Jan. 6 at 6:30 p.m. vs. Belmont, and the boys have the late game at 8:30 p.m. vs. Stellys.

Saturday, Jan. 7 the ADSS girls and boys will play at either 5 p.m. or 7 p.m., depending on how they finish their previous two games—opponents to be determined.

Admission is $10 per day for 18 years and up, $5 per day for ages five to 17 years and free for youth under five. Tournament passes are also being sold for $25. Organizers are expecting hundreds of spectators for the ADSS feature games.

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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