News Bulletin’s Athlete of the Year

Nanaimo's Alyssa Mousseau won championships in both track and cross-country running.

Alyssa Mousseau is the Nanaimo News Bulletin's Athlete of the Year after winning championships in both track and cross-country running.

She ran her laps around the track, finished first, and kept on running. Alyssa Mousseau is the News Bulletin’s Athlete of the Year.

Mousseau, a Grade 12 student at Wellington Secondary School, has been a local track standout for years, but 2015 was a breakthrough year for a few reasons.

She won high school championships both in track and field in the spring and then in cross-country in the fall, and in between, she made Team B.C. and Team Canada.

The 800-metre specialist entered her first season as a high school senior athlete in the spring, already a two-time champ at the junior level. She completed the three-peat by winning her event in a personal-best time of two minutes, 9.04 seconds.

In July, she travelled to race at the World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia, where she placed sixth in her heat.

“I’m so honoured to be able to have had the opportunity to run for my country,” Mousseau said.

Worlds were a learning experience, as the competitiveness was ramped up.

“If you aren’t expecting that, then you’re going to get a little beat up,” she said. “But I felt like I did a good job of being able to handle the different running tactics.”

A few weeks later she was fourth at the Legion Youth Track and Field Championships in Sainte-Thérèse, Que.

In the fall, she moved off the track and ran cross-country to log kilometres, “so that when you get back to the track you aren’t working on the endurance side, you can just work on the speed and that’s a big factor for me, personally.”

She proceeded to place fourth at club cross-country provincials and make Team B.C. in that discipline, too. In high-school cross-country, she paced Wellington to a B.C. championship, the only provincial title won by any Nanaimo high school senior sports team in 2015.

“It was really fun to be able to share that and to be able to finish my high school cross-country with a win,” she said.

Mousseau will start 2016 with a couple of indoor track meets in the States. The straight-A student is also hoping to secure a post-secondary scholarship this winter, and then, come track and field season, she’ll be looking to make Team B.C. and Team Canada once again.

Her achievements in 2015 give her confidence, she said, but she won’t get cocky.

“You’ve got to make sure that you can stay humble and still work for what you want…” Mousseau said. “You’ve just got to work hard every practice, go out there, give it 110 per cent, keep the mentality of making the team and continually working hard to get there.”

Sports stars shine brightly

A lot of Nanaimoites could be named athlete of the year every year, and then there are always up and comers who join that mix. Here are some Nanaimo athletes who had outstanding seasons in 2015:

Pole vaulter Jason Clare had his best season yet, winning gold at Legion Youth National Track and Field Championships and going on to represent Canada at worlds.

Erin Burrett won her first-ever attempt at the marathon distance this year at the high-profile Victoria Marathon. She also won the Kelowna Wine Country Half-Marathon and was second at the B.C championships in both the 10-kilometre and half-marathon distances.

Vancouver Island University’s sports teams had some standout performers. Forwards Justin King and Jason Fortin led the men’s basketball team to a provincial championship and a runner-up finish at nationals. Tylar Turnbull captained the M’s women’s volleyball team to a provincial title and Jenna Carver of the women’s basketball team piled up points and rebounds as her team’s memorable season came to an end on home court at nationals.

The Nanaimo Clippers had quite a year, going all the way to the cup finals in the spring. The team’s MVP – and a finalist for league MVP – was goaltender Guillaume Decelles, who finished first in the B.C. Hockey League in wins with 34. Sheldon Rempal led the 2014-15 Clippers in goal scoring, but it was this past fall that he really caught fire and rose to the top of the league in goals and points.

The V.I. Raiders finished as runners-up in their league, too, and their strong season was attributable largely to a stout defence led by team MVP defensive lineman Quinton Bowles and a pair of All-Canadians from Nanaimo, linebacker Dexter Shea and rookie defensive back Cole Virtanen.

Also in team sports, Jon Diplock of the senior B Nanaimo Timbermen had a season to remember. Not only did he captain the lacrosse team to its first provincial title since 2003, but he had four goals and two assists in the championship-clinching 7-4 win and scored 73 points in 14 regular-season games.

Some others who were considered for athlete of the year include Nanaimo Pirates baseball sluggers Cole Warken and Zach Diewert, double-provincial-champion swimmer Riley Prout-Holm, volleyball MVP Jeff Webb, equestrian national champ Kassidy Keith, double-provincial-champion lawn bowler Hirendra Bhartu and Pan Am gold-medallist rower Martin Barakso.

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