Championships Cross Country

LONDON, Ont. (Nov. 11, 2023) – Julia Agostinelli of Guelph and Jason Ushko of Alberta have been named the winners of the Student-Athlete Community Service Award for Cross-Country. U SPORTS made the announcement this afternoon in London, Ont., site of the 2023 U SPORTS Cross-Country Championships.

Women’s Student-Athlete Community Service Award: Julia Agostinelli

Julia Agostinelli, 21, is the third consecutive Guelph runner to take home the U SPORTS Student-Athlete Community Service Award, following Hannah Woodhouse in 2022 and Kiana Gibson in 2021. Agostinelli, an applied human nutrition major in her fourth year of studies and third-year of eligibility, became the 11th runner in program history to earn a first-place finish and OUA MVP at the conference championships. She joins former Gryphon cross country athlete Kiana Gibson as the only other Gryphon to take home the OUA MVP and Community Service Awards in the same season.

In addition to competing with the Gryphon cross country team, Julia has filled the role of a Student Athlete Mentor where she provides support to incoming Gryphon athletes adjusting to varsity life. She is also a representative for the Gryphon Mental Wellness Project which works to support teammates mental health and wellbeing by facilitating the distrubution of mental health resources to student-athletes. This past summer, she also worked to support a local nutrition initiative, the Food Uniting Neighbours, a local initiative which seeks to combat food insecurity in the Guelph community. Finally, Julia has contributed to the University of Guelph Grove Youth Wellness Centre where she has been instrumental in providing essential support to youth in their mental health and wellness journey.

Other nominees:

  • AUS: Hannah Levysshon (Moncton)
  • RSEQ: Maude Gagnon (UQTR)
  • CW: Jaira Cross Child (Saskatchewan)

 

Men’s Student-Athlete Community Service Award: Jason Ushko, Alberta

Jason Ushko suffered a tragic loss last March, when his girlfriend succumbed to cancer. He accompanied her in the final phase of her medical journey - Ushko called it her bell lap - as she demonstrated incredible mental and physical toughness to cross the finish line. He persevered and successfully completed the academic year, and as part of the healing process began volunteering at the hospice where she stayed. Through his four-hour biweekly shifts, has been giving back by offering the same care and comfort to patients and their families facing terminal illnesses as he and his partner received.

In addition, Ushko is a representative on the University Athletic Board, where he enthusiastically promotes and encourages team participation, showing a strong presence in events, such as reading to students at Aldergrove School in Edmonton. He is also involved in coaching programs at three high schools in Edmonton: Holy Trinity, Old Scona and Strathcona.

“Jason is a remarkable young man. He is obviously gifted in the classroom, gifted on the XC course & the track, and grounded to a degree that we do not see within this current generation of student-athletes,” said Sean Baynton, Alberta’s head cross-country coach. “To have gone through the loss that he encountered this past spring — at his age — is an experience that no human being can be prepared for. Jason had every excuse to pull back. Instead, the experience has strengthened Jason's resolve. We have seen evidence of this by his augmented commitment to community, and his continued efforts to engage those community members around him into believing in something larger than themselves.”

Ushko, a Science major, is also a three-time Academic All-Canadian, carrying a 4.0 GPA in each of the past three years.

Other nominees:

  • Rory McGarvey, Saint Mary’s
  • James Lavallée, Concordia
  • Nicholas Bannon, Guelph

The 2023 U SPORTS Cross-Country Championships will be held on Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Thames Valley Golf Course in London. The women’s race is set to start at noon Eastern, while the men’s race gets underway at 1 p.m. The other major awards for cross-country will be announced at the conclusion of both meets