Sports

Kelowna rugby player Sam Overton awarded first ever memorial bursary

OKM rugby standout Sam Overton is the first ever recipient of the Courtney Walls Bursary after an exemplary high school rugby career ended with OKM
OKM rugby standout Sam Overton is the first ever recipient of the Courtney Walls Bursary after an exemplary high school rugby career ended with OKM's best ever finish at provincials.
— image credit: Doug Manning

To say it's been a good year for graduating OKM rugby player Sam Overton would be a mild understatement.

The 18-year-old captain of the OKM Huskies rugby club led his team to its best ever finish: A fifth place showing at the AA provincial championships in Abbotsford last weekend. After the event he was awarded one of 10 B.C. Rugby scholarships and earlier this year was presented with the Athletic Excellence Award for outstanding achievement in sport in Kelowna.

Now Overton, a hard-running flanker who moved to Kelowna from England in Grade 9, is the first ever recipient of the Courtney Walls Bursary, handed out by the Central Okanagan Rugby Enthusiasts (CORE) and named in memory of Walls, a 1982 OKM grad who tragically lost his life in 1997.

"I'm really honoured to have received the award," said Overton this week. "It definitely means a lot to me. From everything I have heard about Courtney he sounded like a great guy and someone that if I knew him he would have been a role model."

CORE says the award will be given annually to an OKM graduating rugby player who demonstrates key qualities of Courtney Walls: The recipient must be "a top rugby player, a good academic student and be well-liked by staff and students of the school...all characteristics that his fellow 1982 grads remember of Courtney."

"Sam is a fantastic first recipient of the bursary," said Bob Callahan, a key driver in establishing the award. "He sounds a lot like Court: A good player, a good student and a good guy. We hope the bursary encourages more people to aspire to be great at the things they do while never taking themselves too seriously."

For Overton, who has committed to attend UBC Okanagan next year, hearing the words that go along with the Courtney Walls Bursary is something very meaningful.

"It's something that has all the aspects of being good at rugby, working hard and being a likable person," said Overton. "It means a lot to me that people see me that way."

Since coming to Kelowna with his parents from the UK, Overton has taken big strides in rugby at the same time the sport has also grown in the Okanagan. In 2010 he was selected to the Team Canada Under-16 team and this weekend will begin the tryout process again, looking to advance to Team B.C. and hoping to attract the attention of Team Canada rugby scouts. But it is the 10-1 season the OKM Huskies completed and the team's efforts in the provincials that remain his on-field highlight

"It was great," he said. "It was the best OKM had ever done. We went down expecting a lot of competition and we really stepped up our game. I don't think I've ever been more proud to play on a team than in those last final games when everyone was hurting and we just kept trucking on."

With a commitment to attend UBCO next season and play rugby 7s as well as the Kelowna Crows Under-19 squad this fall Overton looks to be trending towards big things in his career. But like a pass to the outside, he is taking it all in stride.

"It may sound cheesy but my main goal is to just go out there and do everything I can and do the best that I can," he said. "The main thing is you have to go out there and play your heart out and see what happens."

•••

When the Central Okanagan Rugby Enthusiasts (CORE) announced the first ever recipient of the Courtney Walls Bursary this week it was another example of just how far the sport of rugby has come in Kelowna in the past several years.

Rugby may not be Canada's top sport but in the Okanagan it is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to CORE, established in 2010 to promote the sport in the Central Okanagan.

For OKM's Sam Overton, he has watched rugby grow since moving to Kelowna over three years ago from England, where rugby is one of the top sports.

"Playing in the area I see so much potential that I really want to be part of the evolution of rugby here," said Overton who was offered a rugby scholarship to UBC in Vancouver but decided to stay local at UBC Okanagan. "I really think in the next couple years it's going to grow even more. There is a lot of funding that CORE is putting into rugby."

According to CORE, it was established to promote the growth and development of rugby in the Central Okanagan with the long range goal of increasing the number of players to 3,000 by 2020. It has helped to  introduce rugby 7s and touch rugby to the region and also wants to create a sustainable financial base, providing support so that local players have the proper infrastructure to succeed in the sport.

You can find out more at www.corerugby.com

•••

The first ever Courtney Walls Bursary that Sam Overton was awarded this week is financially supported by an endowment fund launched by Bob and Linda Callahan and supported by over 20 donors so far. The fund has targeted $20,000 to sustain forever the annual bursary to be handed out each year at OKM.

So far, $15,508 has been raised. Anyone interested in doanting to the endowment can visit

 

 

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