Mathieu Betts a football player from the Laval Rouge et Or, and Kiera Van Ryk, a volleyball player from the UBC Thunderbirds, were named the winners of the inaugural Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards Presented by Makadiff Sports, as U SPORTS Athletes of the Year for the 2018-19 season.
The recipients were announced Thursday afternoon at the historic McDougall Centre in Calgary.
All eight nominees – one male and one female from each of the four U SPORTS conferences – received a commemorative gold ring from Baron Championship Rings, the Exclusive Provider of championship rings and recognition jewelry for U SPORTS. Betts and Van Ryk were also presented with a unique custom-made sculptured fossil-stone trophy and took home a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship to attend a Canadian university accredited by Universities Canada for a doctorate, master’s degree, first professional degree, or graduate level certificate and diploma (as classified by Universities Canada).
Celebrating their 27th year in 2019, the awards were relaunched this year as the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards Presented by Makadiff SPORTS, and championed once again by His Honour Doug Mitchell and Her Honour, the Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
Formerly known as the Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) and Howard Mackie Awards, the event has been a staple celebration in the national sport community since 1993, recognizing Canada’s top athletes competing in university athletics within U SPORTS.
The winners were selected by a combined vote of the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not-for-profit board chaired by His Honour Doug Mitchell – BLG national co-chair, philanthropist and UBC Thunderbird football alumnus – and the public on USPORTS.ca. The Canadian Athletic Foundation was established for the purpose of administering the Awards and protecting the integrity of the selection process.
“On behalf of the Canadian Athletic Foundation trustees, I would like to congratulate Mathieu Betts and Kiera Van Ryk, the winners of the 2019 Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards,” said Doug Mitchell. “This event has evolved into a national showcase for outstanding performance by inspiring young leaders. We are thrilled to share their outstanding accomplishments with you as we congratulate the eight finalists on their impressive achievements.”
“As Her Majesty the Queen’s representative, I congratulate Mathieu Betts and Kiera Van Ryk and offer each of the nominees my very best wishes for every success in your upcoming careers,” said Lieutenant Governor Mitchell. “I commend you for your dedication and hard work which has brought you to where you are today. I also very much appreciate and admire the passion, drive and determination that you pour into making a long lasting impact for all Canadians. Thank you, as well, to the many supporters of our athletes, including families, coaches, athletic directors and administrators, and the team at U SPORTS. Your collective efforts are truly helping these athletes realize their endless potential.”
“The Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards represent the highest honour for our student-athletes in Canada. This year’s nominees are not only outstanding athletes, but they are also glowing ambassadors for the entire U SPORTS membership,” said Graham Brown, President and CEO of U SPORTS. “On behalf of U SPORTS, I would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to both Mathieu Betts and Kiera Van Ryk. I would also like to extend our sincere appreciation to Doug and Lois Mitchell, for their support over the last 27 years and continued commitment to university sport in Canada.”
Doug Mitchell Trophy (U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Year): Mathieu Betts, Laval
- Sport: Football
- Year of Eligibility: 4
- Academic Program: Teaching Physical education and health
- Hometown: Montreal, Qué.
The name of Mathieu Betts will remain forever etched in the memory of football fans, not only at Université Laval, but across Canada.
The fourth-year defensive end was named Canada’s most outstanding lineman for a third straight year for the 2018 season.
In so doing, the Montreal native became the first player in history to win the J.P. Metras Trophy three times, the first football player to win four major U SPORTS awards in his career (he was named Rookie of the Year in 2015) and the second to claim the same national honour three times in a row, after quarterback Chris Flynn from Saint Mary's, who received the Hec Crighton Trophy back-to-back from 1988 to 1990.
With nine sacks in just six regular-season games last fall, Betts dominated the RSEQ for the fourth time in as many years, setting an RSEQ record with 35.5 career sacks.
Unsurprisingly, his nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss, both of which led the nation, earned him a spot on the U SPORTS All-Canadian team for a fourth straight season.
Destined for a professional career, the student in physical education and health made a total of 74.5 tackles in four seasons, including 45 for losses. He also forced five fumbles.
Considered the best prospect for the Canadian Football League Draft Thursday night, Betts was named MVP of the U SPORTS Valero East-West Bowl in May 2018, before being invited to the prestigious East-West Shrine Game last January, an event gathering top NFL prospects. Last week, Betts signed as an undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago Bears.
Named male student-athlete of the Rouge et Or for the last three years, Betts was also an RSEQ representative for the Athlete of the Year Awards in 2017. He was also an Academic All-Canadian in 2017-18.
In four seasons with the Rouge et Or, Betts won three Dunsmore Cups, two Vanier Cups, two Uteck Bowls and a Mitchell Bowl.
“Mathieu is dominant, period. He’s so explosive that he's able to change the outcome of a game on his own, and he showed that again this year,” said Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin. “Plus, he's an excellent teammate; humble, he supports all the guys around him and makes the team atmosphere really enjoyable. He makes his teammates better through his attitude and play.”
“Just being nominated is a great way to finish my four years with the Rouge et Or,” said Betts. “It's hard to put in words. Just being able to stand out in my sport is already a great achievement. To do it on my varsity team, even more so. Finally, to be able to stand out provincially and nationally… that is something I'm very proud of.”
This was the second Athlete of the Year nomination for Betts, who received the same honour in 2016.
“It represents the work of many people over four years. Starting with my head coach Glen Constantin who gave me the chance to grow in this program. Both he and the defensive coordinator Marc Fortier did a good job of helping me improve and also of putting me in favourable situations to do well on the field. All my teammates had an impact one way or another. Obviously, I think of my father, my mother and my girlfriend who have always supported me. As a student-athlete, we don’t always know who is working behind the scenes so that we can evolve in our respective sport, but I know that there are many people who support us and work to make our lives easier at Université Laval, and I can’t thank them enough.”
- CW: Adam Sinagra, football, Calgary
- OUA: Jace Kotsopoulos, soccer, Guelph
- RSEQ: Mathieu Betts, football, Laval (winner)
- AUS: Christopher Clapperton, hockey, UNB
Jim Thompson Trophy (U SPORTS Female Athlete of the Year): Kiera van Ryk, UBC
- University of British Columbia
- Sport: Volleyball
- Year of Eligibility: 2
- Academic Program: Kinesiology
- Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
Kiera Van Ryk is the fourth Thunderbird to capture Female Athlete of the Year honours, adding her name alongside swimmer Annamay Pierse (2009), and volleyball standouts Liz Cordonier (2010) and Shanice Marcelle, a two-time nominee who triumphed in 2013.
In just her second year of university volleyball, Van Ryk reached U SPORTS supremacy individually and with her team. She led her Thunderbirds squad, seeded eighth at the national tournament, to an unprecedented championship. UBC beat top-ranked Trinity Western and No. 4 Dalhousie to reach the final against the sixth-seeded defending titlists Ryerson. The Thunderbirds came back from two sets down to claim the school’s record 12th U SPORTS banner. Van Ryk had 24 kills, three aces and 13 digs, all team highs, in the final.
She was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, after averaging 5.07 kills and 5.7 points per set in three matches. The championship MVP honour was her third major individual award of the 2018-19 season.
After an outstanding regular season in which she topped the entire country in kills (398), kills per set (4.52), points (489), points per set (5.6), service aces (68) and aces per set (0.77), Van Ryk was named the Canada West MVP and the Mary Lyons Award winner as the U SPORTS Player of the Year.
She became the first player to win the Mary Lyons Award in her second season of eligibility in 16 years.
Van Ryk’s 0.77 service aces per set established a Canada West record, while kills, kills per set, points, points per set, service aces, and aces per set statistics were all UBC records.
Last season, the UBC School of Kinesiology student won the Canada West and U SPORTS Rookie of the Year awards, while earning a place on the second All-Canadian team.
Then last summer, she played with Canada’s senior national team, earning best server honours at the XVII NORCECA Pan American Cup, leading the squad to a bronze medal - its second-ever podium finish at the event. Van Ryk then appeared at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in Japan.
For her to accomplish what she has as a second-year player is so impressive,” remarks UBC head coach Doug Reimer. “Her high-end is incredible and I've been impressed with her development over the season in terms of her consistency of play. Beyond her velocity and skill in attacking and serving, she works so hard and contributes so much defensively, and in her passing as well. I'm very happy for Kiera, without question she's a very impressive player and has carried a heavy load for us this season."
“Being a part of sports my whole life has taught me many life lessons and shaped me into the woman I am today,” reflects Van Ryk. “A key lesson I have learned is the value in embracing struggle and adversity, and learning how to overcome these trials. Through athletics I have learned the importance of teamwork. Teamwork comes with so many different pieces of the puzzle and teaches many life-long traits. Some of which are responsibility, leadership, perseverance, dedication and resilience.
“An aspiration for my future is to be a part of the Canadian Women’s Volleyball National Team and help lead the team to the Olympics. I also aspire to encourage young athletes to striving for excellence in everything they do. This award is a testament to a collective effort of all my coaches, teammates, friends and family who have pushed me to be the athlete and person I am today.”
- CW: Kiera Van Ryk, volleyball, UBC (winner)
- OUA: Theanna Vernon, volleyball, Ryerson
- RSEQ: Sarah-Jane Marois, basketball, Laval
- AUS: Courtney Baker, volleyball, Dalhousie
For a full List of all-time Award winners and nominees click here.