Track meet renamed after KTFC’s Van Ryswyk
What has been known as the Kamloops Indoor Invitational track meet since its inception three years ago will now carry a different name, the Van Ryswyk Invitational, after Alwilda Van Ryswyk, co-founder of the Kamloops Track and Field Club (KTFC).
The list of Van Ryswyk’s athletics accomplishments reads like a novel and the 80-year-old, who is an active member of the KTFC’s executive committee, was thrilled to hear B.C. Athletics officials have renamed the meet in her honour.
“It was unbelievable,” said Van Ryswyk, who won a provincial softball championship in 1951 with the Nuthouse, a Vancouver-based squad.
“I just was so appreciative. It was great.”
The meet gets underway at the Tournament Capital Centre at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 20.
On Saturday and Sunday, the action starts at 8:30 a.m. and continues into the late afternoon.
Born in Strome, Alta., in 1930, Van Ryswyk took to athletics early and has been a lifelong sports nut.
“I can remember my very first track meet,” said Van Ryswyk, who in 1991 was the first woman inducted to the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame.
“I was doing the ball throw and the people officiating said, ‘Come and look at this woman throw that ball out there 80 metres.’ They couldn’t believe it. This little kid, six years old.”
Her family moved to Kelowna when Van Ryswyk was in Grade 9.
The young athlete’s involvement in pretty much every sport under the sun — volleyball, track and field, basketball, soccer and softball, to name a few (no grass hockey, her family could not afford the sticks) — meant Van Ryswyk would often travel to championship games and track meets in Vancouver.
“There was no Hope-Princeton until ’47, so we had to come through Kamloops,” Van Ryswyk said.
“We’d look at those barren hills and think, ‘Who would ever want to live in that godforsaken place?’ never knowing that I would live here from ’58 on.”
In 1954, prior to moving to the barren hills of the River City, Van Ryswyk was an official at the British Empire Games in Vancouver at Empire Stadium.
Yes, the same Games which England’s Sir Roger Bannister outlasted Aussie John Landy in the race billed as the Miracle Mile.
“Oh, it was fantastic,” Van Ryswyk said exuberantly, reliving the race’s final moments in her mind, noting the extraordinary August heat the runners dealt with 57 years ago.
Van Ryswyk completed her schooling in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia, where she became a certified teacher and met her husband, Albert, an agrologist, who found work in Kamloops.
The standout athlete-cum-official taught at Kamloops High School, Westsyde elementary, Lloyd George elementary and Parkcrest elementary, from which she retired in 1987.
Van Ryswyk has been in charge of organizing the officiating committees for every KTFC meet in Kamloops since 1972.
She also headed the officiating committee for the Canada Summer Games in Kamloops in 1993.
There are no computer programs required when Van Ryswyk does the scheduling — just paper, a pencil and a ruler.
In addition to her duties with the KTFC, Van Ryswyk is a member of the B.C. Athletics Junior Development Committee, and has been since 1972.
She was that committee’s chairperson from 1980 to 2002.
The development of young athletes is foremost in her mind, when it comes to track and field, and Van Ryswyk has simple advice for aspiring athletes.
“Just work hard and listen to your coaches. Have a dream.”
Albert passed away in 2002. Van Ryswyk has two sons and three grandchildren, one of whom (Olivia) will compete at her grandmother’s Games this weekend.
Van Ryswyk was inducted to the B.C. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1992; named the province’s official of the year in 1992; given the Ralph Coates Award for long-standing service in B.C. Athletics’ ranks in 1999; named Sports B.C.’s Presidents’ award winner in 2004 and given a plaque on the National Officials Commitee Wall of Honour in Ottawa in 2005.
Her body of work is undeniably impressive and the awards prove her service has not gone unnoticed, but it was never about personal recognition for Van Ryswyk, she said.
“I didn’t do these things for awards. I did them because I enjoyed them and I’ve met so many wonderful people.
“I couldn’t think of my life without being involved in athletics.”
Upcoming Kamloops track and field meets
• Van Ryswyk Invitational, Feb. 18-20
• Canadian Indoor Masters, March 19-20
• Kamloops Centennial Meet, May 21-22
• B.C. Junior Development meet, July 22-24
• Western Canada Games, Aug. 5-9