The territory’s best performing athletes of the year, along with their coaches and support systems, were recognized for their hard work and dedication to their respective sports at a banquet held in Yellowknife this weekend.
Shedding their gear for a more formal uniform, the athletes gathered at the Explorer Hotel on Saturday evening, where they were addressed by keynote speaker and Canadian Olympic volleyball player Michelle Sawatzky before receiving their awards.
Since playing in the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Sawatzky has encouraged youth to fight to achieve their goals against all odds, a message that Northern athletes live out with every competition they attend.
This year’s Mary Beth Miller Memorial award for senior athlete of the year went to cross country runner Alea Stockton, who has carried her athletic career from the NWT to Kelowna, where she competes for his school at UBC Okanagan.
Hockey player Johnnie Bowden from Yellowknife was also recognized as a senior athlete of the year, while Fort McPherson’s Rayna Vittrekwa was named junior athlete for her curling skills.
After years of rising through the ranks, judo came out as one of the big winners this year, with multiple awards going towards the sport. N’dilo’s Brent Betsina, who nabbed the NWT’s only medal at this year’s Canada Winter Games, was honoured with the title of male junior athlete of the year. His coach, Mario Desforges, was also recognized as the territory’s top coach of 2015.
North American Indigenous Games veteran Darius Andre of Tsiigehchic was awarded for his efforts as a top canoeist at the 2014 summer games, where he captured medals and glory for his team. He and Madison McPhee of Hay River, a star track runner, both took home youth athlete of the year awards for their amazing performances.
Yellowknife’s NWT Rebels Broomball celebrated being named team of the year after both the men’s and women’s teams swept gold at the 2014 World Broomball Championships in Japan.
Softball enthusiast Paul Gard, based in Yellowknife, was given this year’s Ruth Inch Memorial award for his years of contribution to the sport.
Roslyn Firth of Fort Liard, who organizes the community’s fledging snowboarding programming, as well as cross country skiing and soccer, was given the Delma Kisoun Memorial award for her work as an outstanding community contributor.
You can’t officially play a sport without an official, and anyone will tell you that some are better at making calls than others. Yellowknife’s Glen Meehan, a softball shot caller, took home the Dennis Crane Memorial award for being the official of the year.
It’s also tough to play organized sports without funding. This year’s top corporate contributor to sport was Yellowknife’s Canadian Tire Store #453.