The national season award winners were announced Thursday morning prior to the start of the 2017 U SPORTS Track & Field Championships.
On the women’s side, Niki Oudenaarden from the Calgary Dinos was named the outstanding performer in field events. Joining her were Sherbrooke’s Émy Béliveau (outstanding performer in track events and rookie of the year), and Western’s Joy Spear Chief-Morris (Student-Athlete Community Service Award).
In men’s competition, the recipients included Antoine Thibeault of Laval (track MVP), Peter Millman of Lethbridge (field MVP and Student-Athlete Community Service Award) and Keysean Powell of Guelph (rookie of the year).
The three-day U SPORTS meet, hosted by Alberta for the third time in four years runs from Thursday to Saturday at the Unviersiade Pavilion.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (TRACK EVENTS) & ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Émy Béliveau, Sherbrooke
Émy Béliveau is the first female in the history of the Vert et Or track and field program to win both the U SPORTS Track Athlete and Rookie of the Year major awards.
She won double gold in the 60m and 300m events at the recent RSEQ Championship in Quebec City, while also capturing medals in the 4 x 200m relay (silver) and 4 x 400m relay team at the event, helping the Sherbrooke women earn their third consecutive RSEQ banner and the eighth in the past 10 years.
Béliveau is the top-ranked sprinter in the 60m, with the best time in the country at 7.42 seconds.
The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., native is also sixth in in the 300m, with a performance of 39.21 seconds and will be a key asset for the Vert et Or relay teams in the 4x200m and 4x400m events.
“She just had a fantastic rookie year. Émy is an athlete able to deal with all the challenges on her way,” said Sherbrooke head coach, Luc Lafrance. “She has a great capacity to take volume and intensity in trainings and also to deliver in competition. She had great performances throughout the season but more importantly she was able to be steady in the last three months. From a coaching perspective, she is committed to excellence and very receptive and is highly motivated to improve herself. What she did in 2017 is simply remarkable, but we just started to hear from her and she is a gifted and exceptional student athlete.”
Nominees from other conferences for Track Athlete of the Year were Colleen Wilson of the Dalhousie Tigers, Joy Spear Chief-Morris of the Western Mustangs and Ashley Whiteman from the Alberta Pandas.
The other nominees for Rookie of the Year were Maya Reynolds of the Dalhousie Tigers, Lucia Stafford of the Toronto Varsity Blues and Rebekah Eckert from the Manitoba Bisons.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (FIELD EVENTS): Niki Oudenaarden, Calgary
Niki Oudenaarden becomes the first University of Calgary Dino to be named the U SPORTS Field Athlete of the Year since former Olympian Jessica Zelinka who earned the award in 2007.
After taking off the 2016 season due to extensive surgery to reconstruct her ankle, Oudenaarden returned to the U SPORTS scene with a vengeance. The fourth-year track and field athlete won five medals at the 2017 Canada West Championships in February to earn herself the conference Field Athlete of the Year for the second time in her career, the first time coming in 2015. Oudenaarden won the pentathlon, the high jump and was part of the winning 4x400m relay team. She added two silvers to her collection this season in both the long jump and the shot put.
Oudenaarden has previously competed at the World Youth and World Junior championships, as well as the NACAC and FISU Games. She also competes at nationals yearly.
“Her performance at the Canada West Championships was not unexpected if you know her,” said long-time coach and former University of Calgary DInos head coach Les Gramantik. “Her results, for me, were expected for her to do what she did. Her performance is starting to look Zelinka-like in her capacity to compete in virtually seven events in one day. She is a premiere university athlete right now, not just from here, but for the whole country,”
The other nominees were Jennifer Bell of the Mount Allison Mounties, Ariane Dubois of the Sherbrooke Vert et Or and Kaleigh Hole from the Western Mustangs.
STUDENT-ATHLETE COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: Joy Spear Chief-Morris, Western
Joy Spear Chief-Morris, a social science student-athlete specializing in History with a minor in First Nations Studies, has been a U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian since transferring from the University of British Columbia.
Spear Chief-Morris' passions extend beyond the classroom as she's actively involved in the Indigenous community as a volunteer speaker/motivator for the Kainai 5k Community Fun Run, which encourages health and fitness in the Kainai community. She was also the keynote speaker at the Kainai Truth and Reconciliation Conference's First Nations Track and Field Day, where she spoke to 150 youth ages 12-14 about the power of sport.
The Western record holder in the 60m, 60mH, and 4 x 200m first leg split of 24.4, is also the defending U SPORTS national champion in the 60m and bronze medalist in the 60m hurdles and 4x200m. Already this season, she won three medals at the OUA Championships, earning Women’s Track MVP honours for the second consecutive season.
“Joy is an exceptional student-athlete. Not only does she excel on the track and in the classroom, she is heavily involved in the indigenous community as well, participating in numerous events,” said Western head coach Vickie Croley. “Joy is a leader, both on and off the track, and has demonstrated her ability to be a role model for not just her teammates, but also her coaches and younger athletes.”
The other nominees were Tess McDonald of the UNB Varsity Reds, Catherine Gagnon of the UQAM Citadins and Morgan Lawley from the Alberta Pandas.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (TRACK EVENTS): Antoine Thibeault, Laval
The reigning 1500m and 3000m national champion, Antoine Thibeault is in good position to repeat this year as he actually has the country’s best performance in both events in 2016-2017. The Shawinigan, Que., native was named the RSEQ athlete of the year after having notably posted a 8:04.78 time at the 3000m event of the Boston University Valentine Invitational on Feb.10, which also gave him the conference track performance of the year distinction.
“Antoine has once again been exceptional this season; he is currently ranked first in the country at the 1500 and 3000m events, as he was last year before the national championship. His experience of last season will serve him well this year. He was then able to manage the pressure and confirm his favourite status, and everything indicates that he will be in a good position to do the same in Edmonton. He is approaching the 2017 U SPORTS Championship in a good way, determined to defend his two titles acquired last year by also being aware of the challenge ahead, as several other excellent runners will be present on the starting line.”
The other nominees were Mike Van Der Poel of the Dalhousie Tigers, Jack Sheffar of the Western Mustangs and Cole Peterson from the Victoria Vikes.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (FIELD EVENTS): Peter Millman, Lethbridge
Peter Millman of the Lethbridge Pronghorns is the 2017 U SPORTS Field Athlete of the Year. Millman becomes the first Pronghorn to win the award since Olympian Jim Steacy, who won the award four times in his Pronghorn career (2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009).
For the fourth consecutive year, the fifth-year thrower swept the throwing events at the Canada West Track and Field Championships and was named the male field performer of the year. In his shot put win, the Truro, N.S., product set a new personal best with a throw of 17.54 metres.
Millman led the Pronghorns to a sweep of the weight throw podium and wrapped up his Canada West career with five consecutive gold medals in the event.
“Not only is it fantastic that Peter was named the outstanding athlete in his final year of eligibility,” said Lethbridge head coach Larry Steinke. “But it's doubly nice when it's a repeat award and shows how he has dominated the throws in U SPORTS competition the last few years.”
The other nominees were Jordan Bruce of the Dalhousie Tigers, Marc-Antoine Lafrenaye-Dugas of the Sherbrooke Vert et Or and Jared Skeath from the Guelph Gryphons.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Keysean Powell, Guelph
Keysean Powell of the Guelph Gryphons has been named the 2016-17 recipient of the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year for Track & Field. He becomes the third Gryphon to take home the award, joining Yves Sikubwabo (2012-13) and Jason Diston (2009-10).
Powell, a dual sport athlete at the University of Guelph who also plays receiver on the Gryphon football team, burst onto the scene in 2016-17 with a pair of silver medals at the OUA Championships in the long jump (7.26m) and 60m (6.81) events. The economics major finished just .01 second behind his Gryphon teammate Kyle Thompson for the gold in the men’s 60m at the OUA Championships.
While Keysean’s world-class physical gifts are easy to recognize, it is his mental approach that separates him from the rest of the field according to Gryphons Associate Head Coach Jason Kerr.
“There are very few athletes that I have seen that are as emotionally invested in their athletic success as Keysean is,” said Kerr, who oversees the Speed and Power Events for the top-ranked Gryphons men's track & field program. “He puts his heart and soul into training and competing and has made massive improvements across the board in a very short time with our program.”
Powell, a native of Brampton, Ont., was predominantly a jumper in high school but has also quickly emerged as one of the top sprinters in the country. Although he was primarily recruited as a track athlete, having the opportunity to compete as a two-sport athlete on the Gryphon football team was something that was very important to Powell during the recruiting process. The 5-foot-11, 160-pound freshman will now look to cap off a memorable rookie season by trying to reach the podium at the U SPORTS Track & Field Championships in Edmonton.
The other nominees were Andrew Wood of the Memorial Sea-Hawks, McChristian Casimir of the Sherbrooke Vert et Or and Austin Cole from the Alberta Golden Bears.
STUDENT-ATHLETE COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: Peter Millman, Lethbridge
In addition to an exceptional athletic career at the University of Lethbridge, fifth-year thrower Peter Millman has become a true example of what it means to be a student-athlete in Canada.
Athletically he has been a dominant force in the Canada West throw events over his career, winning five Canada West weight throw gold medals and four Canada West shot put gold medals, to go with two U SPORTS shot put golds heading into the final meet of his career.
Since his arrival from Nova Scotia, Millman has entrenched himself in his new community and has been a key member of the Pronghorns student-athlete council. This past year, Millman was heavily involved with the mental health initiatives that have been undertaken across Canadian university athletes. In addition to organizing much of the Bell Let’s talk campaign, he was also one of the Pronghorn athlete ambassadors for the Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) and was an integral part of raising over $1000 for SAMHI.
In addition to the mental health initiatives, Millman also volunteers with Lethbridge Family Services, Operation Red Nose and Junior Horns run jump and throw program/
In the classroom, Millman was named an Academic All-Canadian last year and is well on his way to repeating that feat this season with a GPA of 3.85.
“In addition to having a great athletic career, Peter has become a leader for not only the track program but the entire Pronghorn program for what it means to be a student-athlete,” said Steinke. “He has immersed himself in both the university and the southern Alberta community and has been a great ambassador for Pronghorn Athletics.”
The other nominees were Troy Wilson of the UNB Varsity Reds and Antoine Morin of the Montreal Carabins.