U SPORTS proudly announced Monday the student-athletes selected as Top 8 Academic All-Canadians for the 2020-21 season.
Jane Hergett of StFX, Joe Gatenby of UNB, Samantha Gouveia of MacEwan, Max Eisele of Calgary, Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu of Ottawa, Erik Siksna of Queen’s, Marie-Pier Champagne of Laval and Félix Goulet of Montréal were nominated for their excellence both on and off the field of play.
The Governor General’s Academic All-Canadian Commendation was founded by the Right Honourable David Johnston, former Governor General of Canada, who first honoured Canada’s Top 8 student-athletes in 2013.
U SPORTS student-athletes achieve Academic All-Canadian status having maintained an average of 80 percent or better over the academic year while competing for one – or more – of their university’s varsity teams.
Among these outstanding individuals, one female and one male student-athlete from each of the four U SPORTS conferences are selected annually to make up the Top 8.
“The number of Academic All-Canadians continues to grow each year,” said Dick White, Interim CEO of U SPORTS “The growing list of Academic All-Canadians is a testament to the virtues of U SPORTS, our conferences and member institutions as well as the dedication of our student-athletes in classrooms and communities across the nation.”
Profiles of each member of the 2020-21 Top 8 are available below.
ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY SPORT (AUS)
Name: Jane Hergett
Hometown: Port Williams, Nova Scotia
Sport: Cross Country, Track and Field
Jane Hergett ran her way into the blue and white record books at STFX University in 2019-20. The 2019 AUS cross country individual silver medalist carried her success on the outdoor trails onto the indoor track, setting four school records. The nursing student graduated with distinction in 2021 but not before she established X-Women records in the 600m, 1000m, and 1500m and 4x800m events prior to COVID shutting down the 2020-21 season and the nation.
The native of Port Williams, N.S. and four-time U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian was also a four-time gold medalist at the 2020 AUS track & field championship, garnering honours as the AUS female track athlete of the year. Jane won individual gold as the 1000m and 1500m conference champion, and helped anchor the X-Women 4x200m and 4x400m relay teams to top performances. She was named the X-Women cross country and track & field MVP.
In the classroom Jane excelled in a demanding nursing program and was a Dean’s List student in all her four years at STFX. The recipient of the Phillip W. Oland Award, a major renewable scholarship at the university, she was consistently amongst the top students in her class every year.
“Jane is a person that elevates a team’s work ethic based on seeing what she’s putting in every day, on the track and in her academics,” said Eric Gillis, Head Coach of StFX Cross Country and Track and Field. “She’s a very determined person who loves to work on a team, and can also be counted to volunteer in the community at a moment's notice.”
Jane achieved top honours in the STFX Athletics Leadership Academy as a Leader of Distinction, captained the X-Women track and cross country teams, and was a representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Her determination, work ethic and commitment to her sport helped elevate the performance of her teammates as she led by example. She secured her teammates' involvement in numerous fundraising events, lending her time and effort to multiple community races, CIBC Run for the Cure, Relay for Life and several other local initiatives over her time at the Nova Scotia university.
Name: Joe Gatenby
Hometown: Kelowna, British Columbia
Program: Business Administration
Joe Gatenby is a defenceman with the UNB REDS men’s hockey team and a student in UNB’s Faculty of Management. He’s pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, with honours, in Finance.
Sporting a cumulative 4.3 GPA, he’s a three-time Academic All-Canadian and on track to achieve that status for a fourth straight school year.
On the ice, Gatenby was most recently named a Second-Team AUS All-Star for the 2021-22 season and received the Don Wells Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in the AUS Conference.
Prior to enrolling at UNB, Joe played five seasons in the Western Hockey League with Kamloops and Kelowna. In three of those seasons, he served as an assistant captain and was named his team’s top defenceman. In 2015, Joe was part of Kelowna’s WHL Championship winning team. That same season, he was the WHL’s Western Conference Scholastic Player of the Year, the WHL’s Hardest Working Player of the Year, an award voted on by fans.
He’s attended prospect and rookie camps with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres, and Chicago Blackhawks. In 2018, he played professionally with the Atlanta Gladiators of the East Coast Hockey League.
On top of his academic and hockey commitments, Joe is an avid volunteer. He’s given countless hours to community organizations in Fredericton, Kamloops, and his hometown of Kelowna.
“Joe has the ultimate high-performance mindset. He's one of our senior captains and leads with his consistently high level of play and work ethic on the ice. In the classroom, he'll graduate as the ultimate high achiever, with a perfect 4.3 GPA,” said Gardner MacDougall, Head Coach of the UNB Reds man’s hockey team. “In the community, he's certainly made a difference in the lives of many people with his volunteering, for a number of different organizations, and the many school visits he's made. He's an All-Star on the ice, in school, and in our community.”
CANADA WEST (CW)
Name: Samantha Gouveia
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
A model of excellence in the classroom since arriving at MacEwan University in 2016, women’s soccer student-athlete Samantha Gouveia is a four-time U SPORTS Academic All Canadian, maintaining a 4.0 GPA (out of 4.0) in a Bachelor of Arts program, which she graduated from with Distinction in 2021.
She was the co-winner of MacEwan Athletics’ Top Academic Award in the Faculty of Arts & Science for the 2020-21 season – an honour awarded to the student-athlete(s) with the highest GPA in each faculty.
Her academic excellence has been achieved without sacrificing on-field performance as Gouveia proved she was one of the best players in the nation in 2021.
MacEwan’s captain played every minute of every game during the season at the demanding centre-back position and led the Griffins to a historic U SPORTS national championship – the first in the university’s history. At the Cape Breton University-hosted event, she was named U SPORTS nationals MVP and also made the tournament all-star team.
These honours came after she was selected to the U SPORTS second all-star team and the Canada West first all-star team.
Outside of her academic and athletic pursuits, Gouveia also has a lengthy resume of community service – a long list that includes on-campus initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk, Griffs Do Good Deeds and Mask Up MacEwan. She has also donated many volunteer hours off-campus, serving as a crisis responder for Canada’s Crisis Text Line, working at the Capital Care Kipnes Centre for Veterans, assisting with kayakers involved with the Paralympic Sport Association and many more.
“Samantha leads her team by the incredible example she sets in the classroom, on the field, and in the community, but what makes her so exceptional is her ability to connect with her teammates on a personal level,” said MacEwan Griffins women’s soccer Head Coach Dean Cordeiro. “She is a big sister to everyone, ensuring each teammate feels supported and valued, creating a team atmosphere where everyone is able to be their best. Despite the awards and accolades, she has received, Samantha is the most humble member of the team. She is positive and calm under the most intense pressure; a steadying presence that keeps her team focused.”
Gouveia’s leadership set a championship culture for her team and allowed everyone to become the best they could be.
Name: Max Eisele
Hometown: Ulm, Germany
Max Eisele has made a difference both on and off the court while at the University of Calgary.
Eisele helped lead the Calgary Dinos men’s basketball team to a U SPORTS National Championship in the 2017-18 season as well as two Canada West Conference Championships. Individually, Eisele was named the 2019-20 Canada West Defensive Player of the Year.
Since 2018, Eisele has been involved with the University of Calgary Health and Wellness Lab under the supervision of Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed. Eisele first volunteered for the Alberta Cancer Exercise (ACE) study, an exercise program for cancer survivors. After continued involvement with ACE as a research assistant and instructor, Eisele eventually wrote his Master of Science (MSc) thesis in 2021 on the online delivery of exercise programming for cancer survivors.
Additionally, in 2019, Eisele became involved with the Get Your Movement (GYM) program, a volunteer-based after-hours rehabilitation program for patients with spinal cord, stroke, and traumatic brain injuries, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases at Foothills Hospital. As the coordinator of the program, Eisele instigated the program’s restart during the COVID-19 pandemic and remains in continuous collaboration with the health care team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, and physiatrists to improve the outcomes for patients.
Eisele has also volunteered with the Catholic Family Service's CREW mentorship program for the past five years and Special Olympics Calgary.
In the classroom, his excellence continued being named a U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian five years in a row. In 2020-21, Eisele held a perfect 4.0 GPA and was admitted to the University of Calgary School of Medicine.
"Max is a leader, and he demonstrates his leadership skills through a true sense of service and principles,” said Calgary Dinos men’s basketball Head Coach, Dan Vanhooren. “He is highly academic and driven in the pursuit of his goals, and he demonstrates a compassionate, caring side in our community. He's a two-time conference champion, a national champion, and most importantly a great young man."
ONTARIO UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS (OUA)
Name: Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu
Hometown: Gatineau, Québec
Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu has always set high expectations for herself. She is a driven, fluently bilingual 24-year old Francophone from Gatineau, Quebec who is now in her fifth year of studies at uOttawa. She holds an Honours BSc-Science in Biomedical Sceince with a Minor in Psychology, and is currently pursuing an Honours BSc - Social Sciences in Psychology.
“I put pressure on myself because that’s just who I am,” said Lefebvre-Okankwu. “I can never go into a project or an exam with an attitude of not caring because I like to perform in everything I take on. I also don’t want to look back and regret not doing the most I can and then think that I could have had better opportunities.”
“Succeeding at school has always been very important to me. It’s a part of the values that my mom instilled in me. My mom has always worked hard and gave me strong values that are sticking with me,” said Lefebvre-Okankwu. “I originally picked my program because I was thinking of going to med school afterwards. Throughout my first couple of years, I have realized that I really want to play pro basketball before doing that. I hope that med school can still be a possibility after that, but I know that I want to go to the maximum of my basketball career.”
Brigitte’s basketball resume is impressive: named to the national All-Rookie team in 2017-18, she averaged 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game that season which led the Gee-Gees team. She led the team again in 2018-19 with an average of 14 points per game, and was the team’s leading rebounder in 2019-20. She is now a cornerstone of the Gee-Gees success as they build toward another run at the national championship.
Another big part of Brigitte’s story is the joy that she gets giving back to her community – whether it is locally in Gatineau or through sport internationally. “Small things to help can have a big impact on people,” said Lefebvre-Okankwu.
She has travelled to Togo and Haiti with the Gee-Gees to help build basketball courts for community sports programs, and also works to promote underestimated sports, music, and artistic talent in Gatineau through Underdog Mixtape. “You get to see how basketball brings so many people together. I love being part of different causes and making an impact.”
Lefebvre-Okankwu was a founding member of the Black Student-Athletes Advocacy Council at uOttawa and serves on the executive committee as secretary and helped spearhead a fundraising and awareness campaign for Black Lives Matter in 2020 with a virtual run of 1666 kilometres to Minneapolis. The effort sparked important conversations and raised $3200 which was donated across several organizations chosen by the Gee-Gees women's basketball team: Black History Ottawa, The Odawa Native Friendship Centre, The Congress of Black Women of Canada, Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario, and Colour of Change.
In December of 2020, Brigitte signed her first contract to play basketball professionally, joining Sharjah Sports Basketball Club in Dubai in UAE’s premier league before returning to Ottawa at the end of the season to re-join the Gee-Gees for 2021-2022. Midway through the 2021-22 season, she inked a contract to play in Australia for summer of 2022.
“She puts everything - her heart, her mind, everything into what she does and she absolutely deserves the honours she has received as a result,” said Rose-Anne Joly, Head Coach of the Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s basketball team. “She is a leader within our team on the court and off and she has grown so much over the last four years in terms of using her voice. Her ability to excel in the classroom, on the court, and in the community is a big inspiration to many people.”
Name: Erik Siksna
Hometown: Markham, Ontario
Erik Siksna has been a force for the Queen’s Gaels, both on the volleyball court and in the classroom.
In 2019-20, the Markham, ON native received U SPORTS rookie of the honours for his excellent play and was recognized as Second-Team All-Star. In his rookie season, he helped lead the Gaels to an OUA Championship, where he played a pivotal role. More recently, Siksna was named the OUA East Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season. He was also a member of Team Canada in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in 2021.
Off the court, Siksna is just as impressive. In 2019, he took part in a service trip to Ecuador where he helped build the foundation of a new school and took part in various initiatives in Ecuadorian communities. He has also served as an Assistant Coach of a high school volleyball team, and helps mentor other student-athletes as a Gaels tutor.
In the classroom, Siksna is a two-time Academic All-Canadian and holds a 4.1 GPA and was a recipient of the Queen’s University Excellent Scholarship for entering with a 90%+ average.
“It takes a special type of Student-Athlete to excel at the level Erik has been able to in just his first years both on and off the court. His calm, cool and collected demeanor has allowed him to manage the stress of both a heavy commerce workload as well as the big playoff moments,” said Gabriel deGroot, Head Coach of the Queen’s Gaels men’s volleyball team. “Erik’s success comes with little surprise when considering the time, effort and dedication he puts into every detail of his life.”
RÉSEAU DU SPORT ÉTUDIANT DU QUÉBEC (RSEQ)
Name: Marie-Pier Champagne
Hometown: Quebec City, QC
Program: PhD in National planning and regional development
A basketball player and doctoral student in National planning and regional development, Marie-Pier Champagne has been a standout not only for her academic excellence, but also her involvement within the community. In the absence of a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 25-year-old student-athlete maintained a perfect 4.33 GPA in the first semester of her PhD this past fall. She is also one of the rare Rouge et Or athletes to have completed a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and started a PhD over the course of her eligibility.
When society needed it most, Champagne continued her impressive work within her community, getting involved with a number of community aid organizations like the “Vide ta sacoche” campaign which encourages individuals to donate cosmetics and personal care items to those in need, in addition to the numerous hours of tutoring she offered her fellow Rouge et Or student-athletes.
“It represents my journey with the Rouge et Or,” admits Champagne, who succeeds Samuel Lamhamedi as the winner of the prestigious Jean-Marie de Koninck Academic Merit Trophy. “A journey filled with effort, sacrifices, successes and also failures. It shows just how much I’ve grown as an individual with the Rouge et Or.”
Name: Félix Goulet
Félix Goulet completed his fourth year of study in Neurosciences with a 4.03 GPA. As a goalkeeper for the Carabins men’s soccer team, Goulet backstopped the program two a national championship in 2018-19 and again in 2021-22.
He is a two-time Academic All-Canadian (2017-18 and 2020-21) and a four-time RSEQ champion.
Head coach Pat Raimondo says, “I have so much admiration for my players like Félix who puts in the work on the field in the classroom and who brings the program together. He’s like the glue that keeps our team together.”
In the fall of 2021, Félix began a Masters degree in Audiology while posting 7 shutouts in nearly 950 minutes of play as the Carabins earned their second U SPORTS title in three seasons.
He attributes his success on the field and in the classroom to a solid support network as well as his ability to organize his time. “I have been fortunate that my program supports my athletic and academic pursuits. When I have practice or a game, I am able to work around that because my professors are so supportive of what we do. Being a varsity athlete has taught me to be structured, disciplined and is helping me now as I work on my Masters degree in Audiology.”