Seniors Francois, McLaughlin, Riva honoured as Athletes of the Year


By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications

(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes wrapped up a successful 2014-15 varsity season tonight, April 1, at the Celebration of Champions event that highlights the annual athletics award winners and the UVic Sports Hall of Fame class of 2015.

Top honours of the night went to fifth-year co-captain of women’s soccer Carlita Branion-Calles, who was awarded the President’s Cup. CIS 600-m track specialist Rachel Francois was named Female Athlete of the Year for the second-straight season, while fifth years Chris McLaughlin, of men’s basketball, andThomas Riva, of men’s track, shared the Male Athlete of the Year honours.

Among those recognized Wednesday evening were UVic Sports Hall of Fame inductees Christin Petelski, Phil Ohl and Milena Gaiga. Petelski swam for the Vikes from 1995 to 2000 and was a three-time UVic Female Athlete of the Year after bringing home 10 CIAU gold medals and having a prolific international career that included two Olympic games. Phil Ohl played for the Vikings men’s basketball team when the dynasty was at its finest from 1981-85. In his four season Ohl was a four-time CIAU national champion and in 1985 he was named a CIAU All-Canadian, the CIAU Championship and Basketball BC Player of the Year. Gaiga, a two-time championship all-star in women’s field hockey helped the Vikes to three CIAU national championships and played for Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The President’s Cup is given annually to the outstanding student-athlete in fourth or fifth year who best combines scholastic achievement and athletic ability.

Carlita Branion-Calles, Women’s Soccer
A true fifth year player for Tracy David’s women’s soccer program, Branion-Calles excelled both on and off the pitch. Taking the status of student-athlete to an incredible level, Branion-Calles earned an impressive 8.7 GPA, on a nine-point scale, in Kinesiology. Co-captain of the team, the midfielder helped guide the team to a second place finish in the Pacific Division with an 8-1-3 record. Known for her speed, vision and tenacity on the pitch, Branion-Calles tallied three goals and one assist this season and was a starter in all 12 regular season games. On the side, the Richmond, B.C. native and Hugh Boyd Secondary grad currently volunteers at the Total Knee and Hip Replacement Clinic at Rebalance and over the summer spent time volunteering with a Dementia Care Unit and their Walk and Talk program. Among helping coach, be a regular Vikes ambassador and more Branion-Calles continues to show her ability to time manage and be a dedicated and successful student-athlete all around.

The other finalists for the President’s Cup was were women’s basketball captain and fifth year Jessica Renfrew and fourth-year men’s basketball player and team captain Reiner Theil.

The Athlete of the Year awards are presented to a male and female athlete, based upon outstanding achievements in university competition over the past 12 months.

Female – Rachel Francois
For the second-straight season Rachel Francois is the Vikes Female Athlete of the Year. The fourth year St. Albert, Alta. native raced her way to her fourth CIS gold medal in the 600-m, while also anchoring the Vikes to silver in the 4×400-m and 4×800-m relays. At the Canada West level Francois was named Canada West Female Track Athlete of the Year after winning gold individually in the 600-m and 1000-m, while helping the Vikes win record-breaking gold in the 4×800-m and silver in the 4×400-m. A four-time CIS First Team All-Canadian, Francois holds the school record for the 800-m and is ranked No. 1 in the CIS in the 600-m. In addition, Francois was also a Canada West All-Star in cross-country during her fall training. On the side, Francois, a History major, volunteers her time in several varsity council and department events and helps the cross-country and track program with their promotions and social media management.

The other finalists for Female Athlete of the Year were fifth year women’s basketball point guardCassandra Goodis, senior midfielder from women’s soccer Jaclyn Sawicki and CURC double silver medallist from women’s rowing Deborah Snell.

Male – Chris McLaughlin & Thomas Riva
Chris McLaughlin capped of an incredible fifth and final season with the men’s basketball program with several individual accolades. The six-foot-ten power forward was no doubt a strong contributor to the Vikes’ third-straight CIS Final 8 appearance. The Oakville, Ontario native was named Canada West Outstanding Player of the Year after leading the Vikes in both points and rebounds all season. The Vikes finished fourth at nationals and McLaughlin was named the team’s MVP in his final game. McLaughlin was also named Canada West Star of the Week three times this year, while the Vikes remained ranked in the CIS Top-10 all season. The fifth-year captain was named a CIS First Team All-Canadian this season and becomes just the 15th Vike to garner that honour since 1978.

Thomas Riva closed out his final season as a Vike smashing a 19-year-old Canada West record to win gold in the 1000-m. The engineering major and Qualicum Beach, B.C. native was named Canada West Male Track Athlete of the Year for the second-straight season and garnered Performance of the Meet for his record-breaking win. At the conference level Riva also helped the Vikes break the Canada West record in their gold-medal winning 4×800-m relay team performance. At CIS nationals, Riva picked up a silver medal in the 1000-m, 1500-m and in the 4×800-m relay, while going on to be named a CIS Second Team All-Canadian. Earlier in the year Riva was also a Canada West all-star in cross-country and became the first CIS athlete to run a sub-four-minute mile, crossing in at an indoor personal best of 3:59.00. Riva now holds the school record in the 1000-m and the mile.

The other finalist for Male Athlete of the Year was men’s rower Alex Walker, who is a four-time defending gold medalist in the men’s double and helped the Vikes claim gold at the Canadian University Rowing Championship in the eight.

The Chancellor’s Award is presented to a student-athlete, who is an outstanding contributor to his or her team, both in and out of the competition venue. They provide leadership and vision exemplifying the goals of the team.

Anna Braunizer, Rowing
This is the second-straight year Anna Braunizer was named as a Chancellor’s Award finalist. Student-athlete turned team manager, Braunizer is an integral part of the Vikes regatta scene taking initiatives in the event operations, while being the main coordinator for the student and community volunteer work force that helps in all aspects of the many Victoria-hosted regattas. This year that included her hard work and dedication in the Vikes-hosted Canadian University Rowing Championship at Elk Lake as well as the annual Head/Tail of the Gorge, Monger Erg and Elk Lake Spring Regatta. Braunizer puts in countless hours to help promote the Vikes rowing program, servicing as a social media content manager and photographer for almost all of the team’s regattas. As if her list of contributions weren’t long enough Braunizer also volunteers her time as a rowing coach with the Peninsula Junior B Girls, as an Adaptive Recreation Volunteer with Power to Be and is the co-president of the honor society in Psychology at UVic.

The other finalists for the Chancellor’s Award were from team captains and dedicate team contributorsCarlita Branion-Calles, from women’s soccer, and Kendra Pomfret, from cross-country and track.

Robert T. Wall Shield Award
The Robert T. Wallace Shield recognizes the outstanding female and male student-athletes in his or her first year of competition in intercollegiate sports.

Female Rookie of the Year – Amira Giannattasio, Women’s Basketball
Amira Giannattasio made quite an impression since her first appearance in pre-season all the way to the Vikes’ last game at the Canada West Final Four. Named this year’s Canada West Rookie of the Year, Giannattasio was a top-3 Vikes scorer in 17 of 27 games and went on to be the second Vike named to the CIS All-Rookie team, following high school team-mate and third-year Vike Jenna Bugiardini. The Hamilton, Ontario native helped the Vikes re-appear at the conference Final Four for the first time since 2006, while the three-point ace also drained 36 treys and averaged 12 points per game this season. Giannattasio’s most memorable performances this season include her buzzer-beating jumper to beat Lethbridge in January, while the rookie guard also put up an incredible 31 points in the Vikes’ win and final regular season home game against Trinity Western on Feb. 14.

The other finalists for Female Rookie of the Year were women’s golfer Brianna Carrels, who was the top female performer all season, as well as Canada West Cross-Country Rookie of the Year Chloe Hegland.

Male Rookie of the Year – Lawren Rowe, Men’s Golf
From their opening competition, Lawren Rowe has been a key factor to the Vikes men’s golf team’s success this season, which has included recent back-to-back wins at the Master’s College and Corban University Invitational events. Rowe is one of three rookies, alongside Mike Griffin and Andrew Funk, who have been regular qualifiers for the varsity team at tournaments. Rowe was the top Vike in three of the Vikes’ fall tournaments finishing third overall at the WolfPack Invitational, seventh overall at the SMU Invitational and 8th at the Cavalier Classic. Rowe boasts an NAIA average score of 72.55 (+1.10) with his lowest round this year being a 68.

The other finalists for Male Rookie of the Year were, from men’s soccer, striker Michael Baart, and from men’s field hockey, defender Amardeep Sidhu.

Provost Award for Excellence
The Provost Award is presented to a returning student-athlete with the highest academic average in the previous year. This year’s recipient was presented the award in November at the Vikes Honour Roll luncheon, when the Vikes celebrated our 66 Academic All-Canadian award recipients.

Shannon Fitzpatrick, Women’s Rugby
Third-year women’s rugby team member Shannon Fitzpatrick, from Calgary, Alberta, was named the Provost Award winner after earning the highest academic average for 2013-14. Fitzpatrick was one of 69 Vikes Honour Roll recipients that were recognized in a special reception in November. Each of the recipients received $500 thanks to the generous support of the University of Victoria and the apparel and on-campus partnership between Nike, T.Litzen Sports and the UVic Bookstore. As Provost Award winner, Fitzpatrick received an additional $500. The third-year boasted an impressive 8.78 GPA studying Kinesiology in the Faculty of Education. Recently, Fitzpatrick helped the Vikes claim a bronze medal at the 2014 Canada West Championship. Fitzpatrick and all of the student-athletes from sports that compete in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) also received an Academic All-Canadian certificate personally signed by His Excellency, the Right Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

The Times Colonist Publisher’s Award for Community Contributors is awarded to those individuals within the community who have made an outstanding volunteer contribution to a varsity program.

Pacific Coast Swimming – Men’s and Women’s Swimming
Since 2002 Pacific Coast Swimming has been an important partner with the Vikes men’s and women’s swimming program both in athlete development, recruiting, staffing and championship hosting. With their support the Vikes varsity program are able to benefit from high performance access at Saanich Commonwealth Place, allowing for the continued building of national and international excellence. Pacific Coast Swimming hosts a number of events each year which not only provide competitive opportunities for Vikes athletes but also promote the UVic-PCS partnership. Over the years Pacific Coast Swimming has been an integral partner in hosting CIS national championships in 2003 and 2015, as well as Canada West Championships in 2004, 2009 and 2013. Their long-time dedication and support of the Vikes has not gone unnoticed whether it be coordinating the many volunteers it takes to run a swim meet, to technical setups to show live webcasts and results, to organizing officials, Pacific Coast Swimming’s contributions has been truly essential to Vikes swimming program’s success.

Dr. Margaret Penning, a founding member of Pacific Coast Swimming, and general manager Mark Lancaster, were in attendance to accept the award.

Recipients are varsity student-athletes who have competed as a member of a national team or played professionally over the past year.

Field Hockey: Rosie Beale, Lindsay Cole, Jenna Dhillon, Kathleen Leahy, Brenden Bissett, Toby Owen,Aidan Pye
Cross Country: Ryan Cassidy
Rugby: Lukas Balkovec, Macbryan Bos, Luke Bradley, Luke Campbell, Casey Cavers, Dustin Dobravsky, Justin Douglas, Guiseppe du Toit, Sean Duke, Lucas Hammond, Sawyer Herron, Patrick Kay, Oliver Nott, James Pitblado, Casey Reed
Rowing: Deborah Snell, Jacob Koudys, Lee Hall, Alex Walker, Andy Muth, Will McTavishSwimming: Jon McKay
Track: Rachel Francois, Thomas Riva, Tyler Smith

Recognizes the unsung hero on each squad, peer selected for leadership, dedication, community involvement and positive attitude.

Basketball: Cassandra Goodis, Chris McLaughlin
Cross Country and Track: Kendra Pomfret, Thomas Riva
Field Hockey: Alanna Macdonald, Derek Wiggins
Golf: Alex Cartwright
Rowing: Amanda Pomphrey, Brandon Carnduff
Rugby: Tiffany Picketts, Remi Anctil
Soccer: Carlita Branion-Calles, Alex Redpath & Craig Taylor
Swimming: Rachael Newman, Brett Zollen