Skip to content

Ten scholar athletes Rambling on to college sports

MRSS has an impressive group of graduates
Tiffany Westerberg. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

An impressive group of 10 scholar-athletes from Maple Ridge secondary will be moving up to play collegiate sports next year

“In a good year, we will have two or three kids, maybe, who are going somewhere to play,” said counsellor Sacha Page. “This is a pretty unique group, for sure.”

He always encourages kids to set their goals high and apply for scholarships. This year’s grad class didn’t need any prodding.

“Grad classes have their own little personalities. This group is a very conscientious group, and they work hard, and it’s demonstrated by the kids we have here,” Page said.

“When I look at this group of good athletes, but these are some of our better academic kids. They stand out not only because they’re great athletes, but because they do really well in the classroom, as well.”

All of the kids talked about their hard work and sacrifice.

Water polo star Ava Morrant said she practises for 15 hours per week year-round. That’s going up to 20 hours at the next level. On top of that and studying for class, she had to prepare herself to take the standardized tests for college admissions in the U.S.

“It’s mostly just water polo and school,” she said.

Hayley Vaughan said all other sports for her had to give way to soccer eventually, with her being on the field four or five times per week.

“And we’re expected to train when we’re not practising, so I’m probably working out or practising seven days a week. You have to maintain your fitness in order to play at this level,” she said.

“You have to learn how to balance your social life, school and sports. When you’re an athlete, you have to just focus on school and sports, and then it all pays off in the end.”

Emma Hall hit the books even while away at a hockey tournament.

“It’s a lot of balancing, and a lot of late nights trying to get stuff done,” she said. “It’s not always fun if you’re on a trip, and you’re in the hotel and you want to hang out with teammates, but you have to do your homework and study.” “But now it’s all good.”

“It is a unique thing – to have 10 kids go on,” said Page. “We’re very proud of this group.”

They’re pretty proud of themselves too. Track star Jorrin Lenton, offered his own unique take on his classmates:

“They’re a great group of people – we’re the best grad class from Ridge in forever.”

They are:

Jorrin Lenton is a nationally ranked 400m hurdler who will be following in the footsteps of both his parents.

Andrew Lenton and Alana Kripps were both B.C. high school track and field champions who went on to compete at Simon Fraser University. He was a cross-country champion, and she was B.C.’s best in the 400m.

Jorrin was also an elite hockey player, who has played triple A as a goalie, and also took his speed to soccer and lacrosse when younger. But since Grade 11 he has focused on track.

It’s paid off, as he is Fraser Valley junior record holder in the 300m hurdles, has been provincial champion in 300m hurdles in club competition, and was runner up in the 400m hurdles at the the high school provincials last year. He also finished fourth place at nationals as an under-20 competitor, and is a medal favourite this year.

He will study environmental science, and Lenton is excited about attending SFU.

“It’s a great school. I like the academics and the track program. Both of my parents were All-Americans there back in the early 1990s. I really like the way they work – the style of workouts they do.”

Aaryanna Kurucz has been offered track and field scholarships in Canada and the U.S., but has yet to make the huge decision.

She will visit Idaho in January, and hopes that will help her make this big call.

“So I get to look at their facility in person, rather than just emailing and talking on the phone with the head coach.”

Kurucz runs the 400m hurdles, 400m and 200m, and trains with Universal Athletics in Surrey

Last year she won provincially in both the 400m hurdles and the 400m in club competition.

She was also on the Ramblers relay team that set a new Fraser Valley record in the 4x400m, and this spring will again anchor that relay team. She is part of an amazing MRSS girls track team that should win the provincial women’s team championship for a second straight year.

Kurucz also won bronze in at the B.C. high school championships in the 400m last year, and is favoured to medal again this year.

She plans to study criminology.

Esther Lee will be going to the UBC and playing for the Thunderbirds women’s golf team. It was an easy choice based on her relationships with her future teammates.

“I really like the girls there. We’re all friends, and they have a great environment,” she said.

“The girls are all really positive, really supportive of each other, and they’re really funny.”

If she likes a laugh, Lee is serious about her schooling.

She boasts a sterling 4.0 GPA.

As a golfer, she’s one of the top junior girls in the province, and placed second at B.C. Junior Girls Championship in July.

She plans to study psychology and says her future career lies in sports psychology. Being a golfer, she said there is a lot to learn about how we think relates to how we perform in sport.

“I’ve learned so many things, just being a golfer, and I want to learn more about how the human brain works under pressure.”

Zack Ashley is a soccer standout who is on his way to Edmonds College in Washington State. It is a junior college, and his plan is to play for two years and then try to turn pro.

“It’s close to home, but I wanted to play in the States, because it is better for soccer, and for my career. I might go to England afterwards, after my two years.”

Ashley has landed with HPL (High Performance League) Fraser Valley team for the past two seasons, which is the top level in the Lower Mainland.

He’s a centre midfielder, but brings a lot of offence.

He won provincials as a metro player, and he scored three goals en route to the final game – which is high output for a centre mid.He played for B.C. in North American Indigenous Games during the summer in Toronto, and won gold.

Ashley plans to study kinesiology. He is already a coach for a soccer academy as a part-time job, and would love to end up as a pro coach when his playing days are done.

“I want to keep in the sports industry,” he said. “I want to keep growing that expertise and stay on the field.”

Taylor De Adder will be going to Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. on a softball scholarship to play in the NCAA second division.

She can do it all on the diamond. She can pitch, in the field her defence sees her play shortstop, and at the plate she hits either cleanup or third. Her average last year was a whopping .382.

She had options, but Lee won her over.

“The campus is really pretty, the coaching staff is very welcoming, and the girls seem really great.”

Last year she won silver at nationals with the White Rock Renegades 2000 team. She also won provincials in 2013, and the next year won their division in the prestigious Canadian Open.

De Adder plans to study health science, with a pre-physical therapy emphasis, and she would like to be a physio.

Ava Morrant is also going south, on a water polo scholarship to play for the Michigan Wolverines, in the prestigious Big Ten.

She has a full-ride scholarship for second, third and fourth years.

She had also visited some tempting schools in California, but her emphasis on academics took her east.

“Michigan was the best academic school out of all the offers, which was more important to me.”

Last summer she played for the Team Canada juniors, and went to Peru for the Pan American Games.

This year brings the world championships, which will be in Serbia.

She plays as a utility attacker, “so I do everything,” she said, but prides herself on playing tough defence.

She used to be a competitive swimmer, and was a silver medallist at provincials with the Neptunes.

“But I wanted to be on a team sport, because swimming is like an individual thing,”

Her GPA is a near-perfect 3.9, and she has a lot of interests. Morrant plans to study psychology, as well as international studies and comparative civilizations.

Hayley Vaughan is a soccer player for Surrey United in the HPL, and is the team captain of one of best teams in the province. She plays striker, scoring and racking up assists.

Next year, she’s going to the University of Texas in El Paso, on a four-year, full-ride scholarship at the NCAA Div. 1 school.

“That’s what I’ve always aspired to do, since I was younger.”

Vaughan started soccer in Pitt Meadows, but has played in the HPL, the highest level, since the first year under-13 intake. Numerous times her Surrey teams have won the provincial cup at her age level.

“Our team has been the best in the league for several years,” she said.

You would think her soccer idol would be a woman, but she names the former Liverpool captain.

“I do love Team Canada, but I watch a lot of Premier League,” she said. “So it’s probably Steven Gerard, I grew up watching him with my dad.”

El Paso will be just the start of her studies. She is going into medicine to become a pediatrician

“I can get my pre-med there and then come back here to finish school.”

Emma Hall didn’t really need a lot of offers and options. The hockey standout has known she wants to play for the UBC Thunderbirds for a long time.

“I talked to other schools, but this [she tugs her UBC shirt] is the only school I wanted to go to. Since I was 11, I’ve wanted to go there.”

She made it happen. Hall played with the Ridge Meadows Rustlers until the age of 12, playing against boys. At the bantam level she jumped to the Surrey Falcons Female Hockey Association, and the past two years has been with the Greater Vancouver Comets, who play female midget triple A. So far this season she has nine goals and five assists in 17 league games, good for top-10 in league scoring.

She plays on the power play, on the penalty kill and at all three forward positions.

“Wherever the coach wants me.”

She prefers to talk about her team’s accomplishments.

“Last year we set a record when we went 29-1. We lost once all season,” she said. “And we almost got to go to Esso Cup, which is like major midget nationals, but we lost in Alberta so we didn’t get to go.”

She has also been a Team BC player for the past two years.

“We came bronze [at nationals] both years, and that is only the second and third time that B.C. has ever medalled,” she said. “Which is pretty awesome.”

Hall has committed to UBC, and is now working hard to get into its rigorous engineering program.

She said UBC women’s hockey is a program on a big upswing.

“They’ve been really successful the past few years, the coaches are amazing, and they’ve got a great rink and a great jersey. I’m really excited.”

Ashleigh Lesser is a Burrards lacrosse standout who is still considering offers from NCAA field lacrosse programs.

She is now playing under-19 field lacrosse, and because not enough girls in Maple Ridge at that level she is playing in Langley for the Thunder. In the box season, she will be back in a Burrards jersey.

She’s a Team BC player, and travels to the U.S. for tournaments where there are college recruiters. She recently returned from a tournament in Florida, where she was approached by two NCAA Div. II schools.

“I’m looking for a school that has good academics, because that’s what matters to me the most, but also a school that has a good lacrosse program, that plays at a high level.”

One of her career highlights came in 2014, winning the box lacrosse nationals.

“That was one of the most exciting things that I’ve been a part of,” she said.

In 2016 she was in Calgary for nationals, part of team that won silver.

Lesser plans to exercise sciences and become a physiotherapist, hopefully for a sports team.

She’s got a 3.9 GPA and and is taking lots of sciences.

Lesser has six Team BC teammates who have gone on to get field lacrosse scholarships in the U.S., and said there are many good opportunities in the sport for BC girls.

Tiffany Westerberg has rare blocking ability got her multiple offers from university volleyball programs.

The middle blocker plays for Academy Volleyball in White Rock, and is now on her way to Oregon State University.

“I thought I was going to schools in Canada, but Oregon State came along, and I just couldn’t say no,” she said. “They were looking at another player on my team, and they found me.”

“The campus is so lovely with old architecture, the academics are good and so is the volleyball team.”

Westerberg is over 6’2” tall, with leaping ability that recently saw her touch 10’2.” Volleyball coaches test for that, and it’s a big number.

“It’s impressive in B.C. or Canada, but in the States its pretty average, so I’m working on getting it higher,” she said.

Club volleyball is where it’s at in B.C., but she has also been the captain of the Ramblers senior varsity team.

She played for Team BC during the summer and went to Canada Summer Games. She made 16 points, which is an uncommon total for a middle blocker.

In her under-16 team year, her team won nationals and she was awarded a tournament all-star.

Last year they won provincials, and Westerberg won the MVP award – a rare award for her position, because middle blockers don’t generally have that kind of impact on the team.

She plans to study kinesiology, and wants to have a job with sports teams in the future.

Ashleigh Lesser. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Ava Morrant. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Hayley Vaughan. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Zack Ashley. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Jorrin Lenton. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Taylor De Adder. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Aaryanna Kurucz. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Emma Hall. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)
Esther Lee. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
Read more