Back row, left to right: Colton Merner, Tayden De Pol, Crawford Seward, Doug Rogers, Mitch Turko, John Stymiest, Kaden Browne, Olivia Lundman. Middle row, left to right: Rachel Jones, Vicky Long (accepting on behalf of Isabella Bortolotto), Cathy Coulson, Angela Behn, Shea Battie. Front row, left to right: Jake Putz, Jayden Watson, Danielle Hyde, Naomi Mayer, Kiana Jepson. (News Bulletin photo)

Nanaimo sports standouts celebrated for their achievements

Nanaimo Sport Achievement Awards were held Thursday, Feb. 20

Outstanding achievements in sports were celebrated in Nanaimo last night.

The 15th Nanaimo Sport Achievement Awards were held Thursday at the Coast Bastion Hotel, with champions, star athletes and others recognized for their 2019 accomplishments.

This year’s Sports Story of the Year was the Vancouver Island University Mariners’ court sports teams sweeping the PacWest provincial championships with the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams all winning gold in 2018-19.

Male Team Athlete of the Year was Thomas Vaesen of the junior A Nanaimo Timbermen, a 50-plus goal scorer in box lacrosse and a 70-plus goal scorer with his NCAA field lacrosse team.

Female Team Athlete of the Year was soccer player Shea Battie, who helped both her VIU Mariners and the Nanaimo United premier team to championship seasons.

Another Mariners athlete and provincial champion, golfer Mitch Turko, was Male Individual Athlete of the Year and Island Top Team jiu-jitsu standout Monica Bonczak was Female Individual Athlete of the Year.

Team of the Year was the United premier women and Junior Team of the Year went to the John Barsby Secondary School senior boys’ cross-country team.

“This stuff doesn’t just happen, as all of you in this room well know. You don’t get to be an outstanding athlete, you don’t get to be a well-respected coach, you don’t get to be the proud parent of a successful athlete without a lot of work and effort,” said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog. “So I just want to pay tribute, on behalf of this very grateful city, to all of you tonight who draw honour to this community year after year by doing your absolute best, for pushing the limits, whether it’s volunteering or competing or doing whatever you do.”

Junior Male Team Athlete of the Year was Barsby Bulldogs football player Kaden Browne, Junior Female Team Athlete of the Year was baseball player Isabella Bortolotto, Junior Male Individual Athlete of the Year was swimmer Tayden De Pol and Junior Female Individual Athlete of the Year was race walker Olivia Lundman. Partners of the Year were the synchronized swimming duo of Naomi Mayer and Kiana Jepson and Masters Athlete of the Year was Nanaimo Ebbtides swimmer John Stymiest.

High-Performance Coach of the Year was Doug Rogers of the Mid Island Pirates, and Grassroots Coach of the Year was Angela Behn for Special Olympics.

This year’s winner of the Michael Rhode Memorial Award for longtime commitment was lacrosse trainer Crawford Seward, who has helped with first aid, physiotherapy, equipment and behind the bench at many different levels over several decades.

“Coaches and athletes respect him because he has such a wealth of experience from being so close to the game for so long. He’s well-liked for his good nature and he’s trusted because he’s reliable and the things he’s responsible for get done,” said Evan Rhode, who presented the award. “His contributions to lacrosse and local sports deserve special recognition.”

Nanaimo Buccaneers volunteers Barb and Chris McLeod were honoured with the Hero In You Award and mountain bike racer Jordie Lunn, who helped build the Steve Smith Bike Park, was post-humously awarded the Steve Smith Memorial Award for contributions to extreme sports.

Also, minor lacrosse and hockey exec Cathy Coulson was chosen Sport Administrator of the Year and lacrosse ref Colton Merner is Official of the Year.

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