They might not have had the most podium finishes at the 2006 Saskatchewan Winter Games, but that didn't keep Zone 3 from turning in an impressive series of performances during the second half.
In fact, it was almost enough to earn them one of the event's most prestigious honours.
Zone 3 earned 16 medals - five gold, three silver and eight bronze - on their way to finishing fourth overall in the run for the Joe Griffiths award, given each Games to the Zone that shows the most improvement. At 5.17 per cent, Zone 3 finished just behind Zone 2 Regina (5.77), Zone 7 Battlefords (8.06) and award winner Zone 6 Saskatoon (9.03).
In fact, with just a few more top three performances out of their numerous fourth place finishes, the award would likely have been Zone 3's.
"That's the thing, it seemed like it was a game of fourths for us, where we were fourth in this and fourth in that," said Zone 3 chef de mission Brenda Dowling. "We were so close in so many places but we just couldn't seem to get those medals. So it's a little disheartening not to win (the Griffiths), especially with how well things went in the second half."
Zone 3 picked up seven medals in the first half, three of those gold from downhill skier Morgan Waldo. Things picked up quickly after the changeover, though, with judo, bowling, badminton and speedskating all adding to the medal haul over the final three days.
"We're still really happy with how things went overall, we weren't that far off," Dowling said."
One area that received rave reviews from the Zone 3 athletes and staff as well as their fellow competitors was how efficiently the Melfort organizing committee ran the Games - from the food to the entertainment to the competitions themselves, almost every aspect was a perfect as could be.
"These guys went above and beyond, I've been to 12 Games now and they were by far the best I've seen," Dowling said. "We can't say enough about the hosts, both in the organization of the venues as well as in terms of things going on at the village for the kids and things like that . . . it was incredible.
And that's one of the things that make the Games such a valuable experience for everyone involved.
"I think everyone got so much out of the Games beyond just winning in their events," Dowling said. "It's always an amazing experience to compete in something like this, and I think everyone had a great time."
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Feb 20, 2006