Alex Johnson and JJ Pankratz play different sports, but the Yale Secondary classmates ended up choosing the same university destination for similar reasons.
Both Johnson (women’s softball) and Pankratz (men’s basketball) are headed up Burnaby Mountain next fall to attend Simon Fraser University after signing letters of intent to seal athletic scholarships.
The Clan sports teams are part of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, an NCAA Div. II league, and both athletes cited the opportunity stay close to home while facing competition from south of the border as a determining factor.
“It just seems to fit perfectly for me,” Johnson said. “It’s close to home, good academically, and has a good softball program.”
Pankratz’s post-secondary decision was complicated by the fact that he’s also an outstanding baseball player. The righthanded pitcher posted a 2.79 earned run average with the Abbotsford Junior Cardinals this past summer, and helped the team to a second-place finish at provincials.
But he’d also emerged as a blue-chip hoops prospect – at 6’5”, he boasts exceptional range on his three-point shot. Pankratz led the Yale Lions to a AAA provincial tournament berth last March, and in August, he was a catalyst for Team B.C. in a third-place finish at nationals. He scored 16 points and hit the go-ahead three-pointer in the final minute as B.C. edged Quebec 73-72 in the bronze medal game.
“I started to have a little more success in basketball, so I just decided to stick with it,” explained Pankratz, who is one of the headliners on a Lions hoops squad currently ranked No. 2 in the province.
Johnson honed her skills locally with the Abbotsford Outlaws, and is a member of the baseball/softball academy at Yale.
She’s a catcher, and said that the position is a good fit for her personality.
“Being a catcher, you have to be in charge of the whole playing field,” she explained. “You’re kind of the boss on the field. I try to make sure everyone’s lined up right and working as hard as they can. I love it.”