by Wilson Wong
January 17, 2014, Vancouver (ISN) – A dominant team, a brilliant coach and two outstanding athletes make up the contingent that will represent the UBC Thunderbirds when the Sport B.C. Athlete of the Year Awards are handed out in March.
The 48th annual awards ceremony and gala dinner, set for March 5 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, recognizes B.C.’s best amateur athletes, coaches, and officials for outstanding performances in their sport over the 2013 season.
The finalists were announced on Friday and two T-Birds are up for the University Athlete of the Year award. Volleyball player Shanice Marcelle, of Victoria, wrapped up her phenomenal career in 2013 by winning the Canada West title, a fifth consecutive CIS national championship, her second CIS Player of the Year honour and the Jim Thompson Trophy at the BLG Awards as the top university female athlete in Canada.
In the summer, Marcelle continued playing with the senior women’s national volleyball team and was the flag bearer for Canada at the opening ceremonies of the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia.
UBC’s second nominee in the category is rower Maxwell Lattimer. In July, the Delta, B.C. native finished fifth in the lightweight men’s pair event with partner Evan Cheng at the 2013 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria.
The next month, Lattimer won three gold medals representing BC at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que.
In November, he was honoured as the Canadian University Rowing Association’s Male Athlete of the Year for an outstanding performance at the Canadian University Rowing Championships in Montreal, which included a gold medal and two silvers.
UBC athletes have won the University Athlete of the Year award on 18 occasions, with former swimmer Brian Johns as the only three-time winner (2002, 2006 and 2007) in the award’s history.
Graham Thomas, head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds women’s hockey team, is one of three nominees for Male Coach of the Year. In his first season at the helm of the T-Birds, the Calgary native led the team to a 17-7-4 record, an unprecedented improvement from the 1-21-2 campaign the year before. UBC’s 2012-13 season was the greatest turnaround in CIS history. On top of that, Thomas guided his squad to a Canada West title in the post-season and a berth to the CIS championship, where UBC finished fifth. His exploits earned him Coach of the Year honours from both the Canada West conference and the CIS.
Former UBC coaches who have been recognized by Sport B.C. include Doug Reimer (2010 women’s volleyball), Tom Johnson (1999 swimming), Dick Mosher (1994 soccer), Bruce Enns (1987 men’s basketball) and Frank Smith (1986 football).
The CIS and Canada West-winning UBC men’s soccer team is nominated for Team of the Year. The Thunderbirds went 19-1 in non-conference, regular season and playoff action in 2013 and swept every major Canada West award. The year included big wins over some traditional rivals: a 3-0 drubbing of NCAA Division II semifinalists Simon Fraser, a 4-0 win over Alberta and two triumphs over Trinity Western by a total score of 11-2. UBC beat Saskatchewan 6-1 at Thunderbird Stadium to clinch the league title on Nov. 3 before capturing the national banner by beating Laval 3-1 a week later in Fredericton, N.B.
Seven UBC squads have been previously honoured as Sport BC’s Team of the Year, with the most recent win going to the 2010 Thunderbirds women’s volleyball team.