O’Connell, Fells honoured by Vikes Rowing as outstanding rowers of the year

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By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA – Following an impressive day of racing at the annual Brown Cup, friends, family, staff and student-athletes gathered to celebrate the 2011-12 season of Vikes Rowing at their annual banquet. Major honours of the evening went to the outstanding rowers of the year, third-year Will O’Connell (Victoria, BC) for the men and fifth-year team captain Leanne Fells (Victoria, BC) for the women.
 

At the annual UVic Vikes Rowing Banquet, hosted bat Harbour Towers Hotel in Victoria, B.C., head coaches Howie Campbell, for the men, and Rick Crawley, for the women honoured several student-athletes and outlined the many highlights of the year. Among those highlights were both the men and women winning the Efficiency trophy at last summer’s Canadian Henley regatta, as well as a women’s 2011 Canadian University Rowing title and several medals and crew-best races.
 
For the women, top honours went to veteran and two-time CURC champion, Fells, who is the first to captain the women’s rowing program for four out of five seasons as a Vike. Fells was a leader on and off the water and won double gold the past two seasons at the Canadian University Championships in the lightweight double and four. She notched three golds at the Canadian Henley in the lightweight Under-23 four, eight and dash eights. Along with her doubles partner Alex Meiklejohn (Toronto, ON), Fells was honoured at this year’s Rowing Canada banquet as top female team of the year.
 
The outstanding male athlete of the year for the men went to O’Connell, who raced in this season’s Brown Cup Challenge in the seven-seat, a last minute change-up that helped the Vikes to cut their margin behind UBC down to only 0.93 seconds. O’Connell was a consistent leader for the Vikes men’s rowing program and continues to be valuable both in his performance and leadership on and off the water.
 
In his acceptance speech O’Connell humbly stated, “Up until Howie said the winner of this award was a dual winner, I had a thousand different names come into my head from this team that deserved to win this award… If only we could have 15 or 20 of these (awards) to give out tonight.”
 
A special award given in honour of a Vikes alum, Mr. Tony Zasada, who died after being struck by a drunk driver only five days from returning from a fifth place finish in the coxed pair at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The Tony Zasada award has since been awarded to one recipient from the men’s and women’s program in honour of Tony’s spirit as a team player and leader. For the 2011-12 season, UVic Vikes Provost Award winner Jonathan Chandler (Brentwood Bay, BC) and fifth-year veteran Ingrid Braul(Vancouver, BC) were recognized.
 
Also honoured at the banquet were the novice and rookies of the year. For the men, Isaac Davies was honoured as the top novice, while Gareth Lindstrom (Vancouver, B.C.) was named the top rookie. For the women, Meaghan Thorlekson and Rachel Dennis (Edmonton, Alta.) were named novice and rookie of the year, respectively. Most improved rowers for the 2011-12 season went to Sam Horn (North Vancouver, B.C.) and Alyssa Weninger (Unity, Sask.).
 
For the first year, the Vikes rowing program honoured two novice athletes for a new award known as the Spirit Award for positive attitude combined with performance on the water. The Spirit Award winners for this year were Sean Carnduff (Victoria, B.C.), for the men, and Anna Braunizer (Brentwood Bay, BC), for the winner.
 
For outstanding support to the rowing program, current Athletics clerk and former UVic Vike in the basketball program, Janine Prince was awarded the Service Award. Dedicated several hours behind the scenes at major events such as the Canadian Indoor Championships and the Elk Lake Spring Regatta, Prince has been a vital part of the registration process and overall efficiency of UVic-hosted rowing events.
 
2011-12 UVic Vikes Rowing Club Award Winners
Outstanding Rower of the Year: Will O’Connell and Leanne Fells
Tony Zasada Award: Jon Chandler and Ingrid Braul
Most Improved Rower Award: Sam Horn and Alyssa Wenninger
Novice of the Year: Isaac Davies and Meaghan Thorlekson
Rookie of the Year: Gareth Lindstrom and Rachel Dennis
Spirit Awards: Sean Carnduff and Anna Braunizer
Service Award: Janine Prince
Graduating Athletes: Ross Bringgold, Josh Morris, Ingrid Braul, Leanne Fells, Kayla Smith

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