Mariah Thomas was hesitant to put her name in the hat for the 2017 Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence In Sports, but it paid off once she went through with it.
“I’m personally very reserved,” the 17-year-old Cowichan Tribes member explained. “And I don’t like to want anything.”
In mid-November, Thomas was announced as one of eight recipients of the award for the Vancouver Island Region, and one of 48 from across B.C., capping off a tremendous year for the talented young athlete.
“It meant a lot to me,” she said. “It’s a really good opportunity to be a role model for other youth. It shows how far sports can take you in your life. It was a big step for me just to apply for it.”
The selection committee for the Premier’s Awards looks at five criteria: sports achievements, leadership qualities, education, cultural awareness and future goals. Thomas fit what they were looking for in all categories.
In her own opinion, Thomas’s biggest achievement in 2017 was making the provincial team that went on to win gold in the U19 female soccer tournament at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto in July.
Instead of specific tryouts, a tournament was held in Prince George in the summer of 2016 to determine which regional team would represent B.C. at NAIG.
The Vancouver Island team, which included Thomas and fellow Cowichan athlete Maiya Modeste, lost to the Fraser Valley team in the final, but Thomas was named a tournament all-star and put on a list of potential additions to the roster, “only if they needed more players.”
Thomas spent months travelling to the Mainland to practice with the Fraser Valley team, and her commitment was rewarded when she and Modeste were invited to join them for NAIG.
That decision paid off for Team BC when Thomas scored twice in the 3-0 win over Eastern Door & the North in the final. Thomas was thrilled to contribute to the victory.
“We worked so hard for, like, a year,” she said. “It was really rewarding. It was definitely a collective effort. No one did it by themselves. I was honoured and grateful to be part of it.”
The gold medal at NAIG may have been Thomas’s biggest accomplishment, but it was far from the only one. She was also a member of the U17 Cowichan Chaos soccer team that won the Lower Island U18 league, the Coastal Cup and the Vancouver Island championship, becoming the only Cowichan team to qualify for provincials, where they finished second. Thomas was named Cowichan’s MVP at the provincial tournament.
A Grade 12 student at Duncan Christian School, Thomas also plays soccer and basketball for the Chargers, and hopes to continue playing soccer at the varsity level when she attends the University of Victoria next fall.
Besides sports and education, Thomas puts a lot of value on being a role model, “especially within the First Nations community. It’s a big part of reconciliation and inspiring others that might have the same opportunity.”
She has worked with kids at Cowichan Tribes camps the last two summers and is a member of the Youth Council.