The Valley Royals came into being in 1980 when a group of parents who had until that time been involved with the Abbotsford TC decided that they wanted to go in a different direction.
During its first years of operation the club was basically junior development oriented with just a scattering of older athletes as members. During those early years the club operated on a very limited budget and funds were basically generated through car washes, garage sales and cake and cookie sales.
Paul Anderson was elected as the first President of the Royals . Paul set the vision for the club which was to assemble a knowledgeable, dedicated and trusted coaching staff whose primary goal would be to serve the best interests of the athletes. In turn, Paul stressed that the coaches should not be out of pocket financially in carrying out their club duties and from the very beginning Royal coaches have received an honorarium that covers out of pocket expenses.
Paul’s second goal was to put the club on a sound financial basis and through some very hard work he was successful in this regards. By combining gaming revenue, key sponsorships, revenue from hosting events, memberships and a miscellany of other endeavors the club has had a stable financial history. In 1985 the Royals merged with the Abbotsford TC and the synergy generated by this combination further helped stabilize the club’s financial future.
From the club’s beginning, Gerry Swan has served as the Royals head coach. Swan’s philosophy mirrored those of Anderson’s in that he knew it was vital to assemble a group of certified assistant coaches that could, in a responsible manner, tap the potential of the athletes under their charge. The strength of the coaching staff is self evident as all of the Royal coaches have developed athletes that have been represented on BC and Canadian teams.
The first international athlete to join the Royals was Brit Townsend. During her many years as a world class runner Brit established six Canadian records, won medals at the Pan American Games and was a 1500 metre finalist in both the World Championships and Olympic Games.
Greg Duhaime, a former Canadian record holder in the 3,000m steeplechase (8:18), was the next international to join the Royals. Greg’s ferocious work ethic, competitive spirit and loyalty to his new club set a tone that Coach Swan utilized in his coaching philosophy. Unfortunately, Greg passed away prematurely which was a great loss to Canadian Track and Field.
In addition to Brit and Greg the Royals have produced a host of athletes that have represented Canada internationally. Sarah Howell won medals at both the World Student and Pan American Games. Other Royals to represent Canada internationally include runners Kevin Robinson, Angela Froese, Heather deGeest, Courtney Inman, Marty Cluff, Cari Rampersad, Jas Gill, Wes Boudreau, Matt Clifford, and Corrina Wolf. Rarely a year passes that the club does not have medallists at Canadian Championships. The success of the club is reflected in the rankings of clubs by Athletics Magazine. During the past 10 years, out of more than 125 clubs ranked, the Royals have always placed amongst the top 10 clubs in Canada.
The Royals have always maintained a strong junior development system and the club is proud of the number of athletes they have successfully brought through this younger age group and developed into some of the best juvenile, junior and senior athletes in Canada. Year after year, the Royals have provided the nucleus of athletes and medal winners that represent BC teams at Western Canada and Canada Games competitions.
Throughout its history the Royals have had a record of success in hosting major track and field competitions. Over the years the club has hosted Junior and Senior Canadian National Championships, NAIA Championships, the Harry Jerome Track Classic and several international dual meets. In addition, the Royals have hosted a never ending number of BC Championships. This has been made possible because of the superb facility the Royals use that is located at Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium. This facility has a well maintained running surface and international caliber equipment. The Royals have been proud of their ability to solicit funds that have made it possible for Rotary to be known as a world class track and field facility.
A few years ago the Royals appointed Christa McAuley as administrative manager. Under her direction, the club organizes the Elementary Schools Grand Prix (a series of four cross country meets that attracts 1,000 youngster), spring/summer camps and clinics for officials. Christa is also responsible for athlete registration and meet entries, volunteerism, administration of meets and fund raising. Through the Christa’s encouragement the club has had a number of its members become certified officials and these people help officiate at meets throughout the province.
Valley Royal Track and Field club has developed a strong following within the community of Abbotsford and it has attracted a strong loyalty amongst many individuals and institutions. Some of the top officials in BC are now members of the club. The Mayor of Abbotsford attends many of the Royals meets. Many area businesses help sponsor Royal projects. The community newspaper gives excellent support in the form of news releases that track the performances of the clubs athletes and projects. Through the years the Royals have worked hard to build the loyalty and respect that has made it a leading athletic club.