Six Thunderbirds earn top athlete honours at 94th Big Block Awards, presented by Freedom 55 Financial


VANCOUVER – Six UBC Thunderbirds won athlete of the year honours at the 94th Big Block Awards and Sports Hall of Fame Banquet, presented by Freedom 55 Financial, at the Vancouver Convention Centre West on Tuesday night.
Eleven different teams were represented among the winners of the 12 total awards handed out in front of the 1,000-plus people in attendance to celebrate Canada’s most successful university athletics program.
One of the most incredible eras of Canadian university sport was also in the spotlight on Tuesday as UBC’s ‘Decade of Dominance’ swim teams, head coach Tom Johnson and swimmers Brian Johns and Kelly Stefanyshyn were officially enshrined into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame.
BOBBY GAUL MEMORIAL TROPHY – Graduating Male Athlete of the Year
Track and field and cross country star Luc Bruchet was named the school’s Graduating Male Athlete of the Year and the winner of the Bobby Gaul Memorial Trophy. The White Rock, B.C., native, whose university career ended in the summer of 2014, became the first athlete to ever win all three of UBC’s major men’s awards (Male Rookie of the Year, the ‘Bus’ Phillips Memorial Trophy for Male Athlete of the Year and the Bobby Gaul Memorial Trophy).
Bruchet ran the first sub-four-minute indoor mile in UBC history in February of 2014 and set a school record in the indoor 3,000 metres the month before. Another highlight in his final track season was his participation in the 3,000 at the prestigious New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston.
He was an NAIA All-American in each of his four seasons running cross country and middle distance on the track for UBC. Bruchet won a dramatic NAIA national title in the 1,500 in 2013 and earned the senior national cross country championship that same year. Internationally, he has competed for Canada at the World Cross Country Championships and World University Games.
Other finalists for the Bobby Gaul Memorial Trophy were men’s soccer defender Paul Clerc of Coquitlam, B.C., and Vancouver native Tommy Nixon, a forward with the men’s basketball team.
The epitome of an outstanding student-athlete, Clerc won two CIS national titles as a T-Bird, was named a Canada West All-Star three times and a CIS All-Canadian twice. Off the pitch, he was an Academic All-Canadian every season and in 2013 was named one of the Top 8 Academic All-Canadians in the entire country. He also played for Canada at the World University Games, where he was named team captain.
Nixon helped UBC win two Canada West titles and made three trips to the CIS Final 8 in his career as a T-Bird. He served as team captain his last three years and saved his best for last, winning the Canada West league scoring title and earning a place on the CIS Second All-Canadian team this season.
MAY BROWN TROPHY – Graduating Female Athlete of the Year
Swimmer Savannah King and basketball player Kris Young were named co-winners of the May Brown Trophy as UBC’s Graduating Female Athletes of the Year.
One of the most dominant distance swimmers in Canadian university history, King wrapped up her career as a four-time CIS Champion and five-time Canada West Champion. A four-time Canada West Swimmer of the Year, the Vernon, B.C., native won 20 gold medals at the conference level. She also was a two-time CIS Swimmer of the Year, winning 10 gold medals and 20 medals overall at national meets. A multiple record holder and Grand Slam champion in both the 400m and 800m freestyle, King is also a two-time Olympian, having competed for Canada in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.
Young, of North Vancouver, finished her basketball career as the second-leading scorer in the program’s storied history with 2,384 points. She is the only T-Bird to ever win the Canada West Player of the Year award twice. Young earned CIS All-Canadian and Canada West All-Star honours three times. During her five years at UBC, she twice led the Thunderbirds to the CIS Final 8 national tournament, finishing second in 2012 and third in 2015. Both times she was named tournament all-star.
King and Young triumphed from another amazing field of finalists, which also included volleyball star Lisa Barclay (Brandon, Man.) and field hockey player Poonam Sandhu (Vancouver).
Barclay finished her career as one of the most decorated women’s volleyball players of all time. A three-time CIS Champion and a three-time Canada West champion, Barclay is a former Marilyn Pomfret Award winner and a member of the Canadian senior national team. During her five years with the Thunderbirds, she was named the CIS and Canada West Player of the Year and was the Canada West nominee for the BLG Awards. As well, she was a two-time CIS First Team All-Canadian, two-time Canada West First Team All-Star, and a two-time CIS Tournament MVP.
Sandhu made history this year becoming the first women’s field hockey player to win five CIS championships. The Vancouver native was a four-time Canada West champion during her tenure with the Thunderbirds. Individual accolades for Sandhu include twice being named a CIS All-Canadian, Canada West All-Star, and CIS Championship Tournament All-Star. She has earned 41 caps with the Canadian senior national team including competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
‘BUS’ PHILLIPS MEMORIAL TROPHY – Male Athlete of the Year
The Bus Phillips Memorial Trophy for Male Athlete of the Year was bestowed upon swimmer Coleman Allen (Spokane, Wash.) and baseball pitcher Conor Lillis-White (Toronto).
The 2014-15 season was a record-setting one for Allen. He led UBC to Canada West conference and CIS national championships. At the league meet, he was named Canada West Swimmer of the Year, winning six gold medals and setting three individual conference records. At the CIS Championships, he set another three individual butterfly records while winning four gold medals. He also is a member of the Canadian national team, representing his country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and earning his first international medal at a FINA World Cup meet in Singapore last fall.
Allen also won recognition from his peers as the winner of the Thunderbird Athletes Council (TAC) Performance Award, which is based on a single performance by a UBC athlete. He won the award based on his performance at the CIS national meet in Victoria, B.C., where he set three Canadian university records.
‘BUS’ PHILLIPS MEMORIAL TROPHY – Male Athlete of the Year
In 2014, Lillis-White had the type of season a pitcher can only dream of. The left hander allowed just four earned runs in 78.2 innings of work, setting a new UBC baseball record with a 0.46 earned run average, the best in the NAIA. It also eclipsed the old mark set by long-time Major League Baseball pitcher Jeff Francis. Lillis-White finished the season with a perfect 9-0 record, 75 strikeouts and three shutouts while helping the Thunderbirds to a NAIA West Grouping championship and a berth in the opening round of the NAIA World Series. He was named a conference all-star and honorable mention All-American.
The other finalists for the ‘Bus’ Phillips Memorial Trophy were Nixon and men’s soccer star Navid Mashinchi (Port Moody, B.C.).
A midfielder with head coach Mike Mosher‘s crew, Mashinchi won Canada West Most Valuable Player honours after leading the league in assists and points, while placing second in goals. Mashinchi was named First Team Canada West All-Star and a CIS First Team All-Canadian.
Nixon was the leading scorer in the Canada West, with an average of 20.8 points per game, sixth best in the nation. For his efforts he was named a Canada West First Team All-Star and a CIS Second Team All-Canadian. He also had the third-best offensive performance in program history, scoring 45 points in one game earlier this year.
MARILYN POMFRET TROPHY – Female Athlete of the Year
Cross country and track and field runner Maria Bernard (Calgary) captured the Marilyn Pomfret Trophy as UBC’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Catching Bernard is easier said than done. Last spring, she led the women’s track and field team to a third-place finish at the NAIA national meet, winning the 3000-metre steeplechase and helping UBC win gold in the 4×800-metre relay. This past fall, she paced the Thunderbirds to a third straight NAIA cross country team championship, winning the individual title in the process. Bernard was an NAIA All-American in both track and field and cross country as well as an Academic All-Canadian.
Other female athlete of the year finalists were Sarah Casorso of women’s hockey, Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson of swimming and basketball player Young.
Kelowna, B.C.’s Casorso, the team captain, led all defencemen in scoring in the CIS while helping the Thunderbirds to a second-place standing during the regular season, the best in program history. For a second straight year, she was named a Canada West First Team All-Star and a CIS First Team All-Canadian. As well, she represented Canada at the 2015 Winter Universiade in Spain, winning a silver medal.
Seltenreich-Hodgson, an Ottawa native, swam for Canada at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, placing fourth in the 400 individual medley and fifth in the 200 IM. Seltenreich-Hodgson returned to UBC to help the Thunderbirds win a sixth straight Canada West Championship and fourth straight CIS title. She won five medals, including two gold, at the CIS Championships.
Young wrapped her university career with a remarkable season, earning Canada West Player of the Year honours while leading the Thunderbirds to a third-place finish at the CIS Final 8. She was named a Canada West First Team All-Star, CIS First Team All-Canadian, and a CIS Championship Tournament All-Star. She also set a new school record for points in a game, scoring 40 in the CIS quarter-final versus Ryerson.
Football player Marcus Davis (Victoria, B.C.) and field hockey goalie Lauren Logush (Richmond Hill, Ont.) were the first-year athletes named Thunderbird Rookies of the Year.
One of the most electrifying players in the CIS, Davis ran wild in his rookie campaign with the UBC football team. The receiver/kick returner finished fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards raking up 1,293 yards and six touchdowns. He was named the Canada West Rookie of the Year, a Canada West First Team All-Star and a CIS First Team All-Canadian.
He emerged victorious from the deepest field in the award’s eight-year history.
Before he even started at UBC, swimmer Yuri Kisil (Calgary) placed fourth in the 100m freestyle at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, He was then named the CIS and Canada West Rookie of the Year while helping UBC to a conference championship and national title. At the CIS championships, he was awarded the Sprinter’s Cup for winning both the 50m and 100m freestyle events.
Defender Chris Serban (Calgary) was outstanding as a starter on the best defence in the Canada West, helping UBC to a 12-4-1 record. He was named the CIS and Canada West Rookie of the Year. As well, this past January he was a member of the Canadian Under-20 national team and played every minute at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup qualifying tournament in Jamaica. He recently signed a professional contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.
Logush backstopped the women’s field hockey team to a Canada West championship and CIS title in her rookie season. She allowed just 13 goals against in 11 starts including a 2-0 shutout in the championship final over the previously undefeated University of Toronto. For her efforts she was named the CIS and Canada West Rookie of the Year. She also has 22 senior national team caps to her credit and was part of Canada’s eighth-place finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Softball player Shayla Kaplen (Richmond, B.C.) and swimmer Jacomie Strydom (Edmonton) were also finalists for Thunderbird Rookie of the Year – Female.
Strydom burst on to the CIS swimming season with an impressive rookie campaign helping the Thunderbirds to a CIS and Canada West championship title. She was named the Canada West Rookie of the Year, winning four gold medals, including a sweep of all three butterfly events and while setting three new conference records in the process. At the nationals, she won two silver medals and set a CIS short-course record in the 100m butterfly. She also was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team competing at last summer’s Pan Pacific Championships.
Kaplen started 29 games for UBC’s softball team in 2014 and finished with a .381 batting average, second best on the team. The centre fielder contributed 37 hits, five doubles, 15 runs batted in and 22 runs scored on the season while helping the Thunderbirds to a 16-15 record and a berth in the Association of Independent Institutions Conference Tournament.
Two UBC national-championship squads, women’s cross country and men’s swimming, shared the du Vivier Team of the Year Award, presented by Freedom 55.
After winning the A.I.I. conference championship, the women’s cross country team raced to its third consecutive NAIA national title, with five of its seven runners earning All-American honours along the way. Bernard, Amelie de Fenoyl (Toronto) and Natalia Hawthorn (Bracebridge, Ont.) finished first, third and fourth, respectively, in the individual competition, ensuring another dominant Thunderbirds victory.
UBC men’s swimming regained its place atop the CIS, claiming first at the national meet in convincing fashion, recording the second-highest point total in CIS history. As well, the men won their second straight Canada West championship title setting a new league record for most points scored.
The other finalists for Team of the Year included women’s field hockey, men’s rowing and women’s swimming.
UBC women’s field hockey had just four returning players in 2014, but under rookie head coach Robin D’Abreo, the team took home the Canada West banner and won its fourth straight CIS national championship and 16th McCrae Cup all-time.
For the first time since 2005, the UBC men’s rowing team was crowned the Canadian University Rowing Champions in 2014. The team was also crowned Western Canadian Champions and just this past weekend, won its fourth straight Brown Cup, defeating their archrivals from Victoria.
The women’s swim team continued its reign as the top program in the country, taking home its fourth consecutive CIS title and its 18th in 22 years. The group of 14 swimmers was able to overcome injury and adversity to uphold the program’s dominance.
The Arthur W. Delamont Award for school spirit was presented to Steve Tuckwood, UBC’s outgoing Director, Development and Alumni Engagements for Athletics. For more than a decade, Tuckwood was dedicated to elevating the Thunderbirds brand and enhancing the student-athlete at UBC through fundraising events like the Millennium Scholarship Breakfast, engagement with alumni and support of varsity games week in and week out.
The Carolyn Dobie-Smith Award was shared between men’s hockey student-trainer and head equipment manager Nathan Wong and four-year men’s basketball trainer Beth Rizzardo.
The award is in recognition of Carolyn Dobie-Smith, the student trainer for the women’s volleyball team from September 1989 to April 1990, who died suddenly in the summer of 1992. Carolyn displayed an exemplary level of dedication and commitment to the athletes with whom she worked, both as a trainer and a friend. She willingly shared her knowledge and expertise with less experienced student trainers, providing an excellent role model.
KAY BREARLEY SERVICE AWARD – Service to women’s athletics
The Kay Brearley Service Award was presented to cross country and track and field assistant coach Jennifer Schutz, who has volunteered with UBC for the past 14 years. She has spent countless hours helping coordinate travel, recruiting and training camps. During her tenure, the women’s cross country team has had six top-three finishes at the NAIA championships, including winning the last three national titles as well as three podium finishes at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Men’s volleyball player Ian Perry (Abbotsford, B.C.) and Colleen Nesbitt (Calgary), both fifth-year seniors, were named the winners of the TAC Buzz Moore Leadership Award.
A four-time CIS champion, Nesbitt was the Canada West Student-Athlete Community Service Award winner in women’s swimming. She is the founder and vice-president of the UBC Women in Science club. For the last three years, she has been a weekly volunteer in the Aquatic Rehabilitation Centre.
The team captain for four years, Perry earned starting time as both a setter and libero during his UBC career. In addition to his work and varsity commitments, Perry coached an under-17 club team to the national championships and ran three high school clinics this season. For the past three years, he has also organized a community fundraising match in support of his high school program, Yale Secondary School.
It was a special night for UBC swimming. In addition to the Big Block Awards victories, the school’s ‘Decade of Dominance’ squads, which won 10 consecutive CIS men’s and women’s national titles from 1998-2007, were inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in the team category.
Forty-two international competitors emerged from these teams, including 13 Olympians. In total, the 42 swimmers won a combined total of 109 medals on the international stage.
The main architect of the modern Thunderbirds swim program, head coach Tom Johnson, was enshrined as a builder, and was joined by two of his most successful swimmers, Brian Johns and Kelly Stefanyshyn in the athlete category.
A three-time Olympian, Johns won 33 of 34 CIS races during his university career and one of his victories included a world short-course record of 4:02.72 set in 2003 in 400-metre individual medley. Stefanyshyn won 31 CIS medals during her time at UBC and was a gold medallist at the 1999 Pan American Games.

The UBC Department of Athletics and Recreation also recognized two long-time coaches at the Tuesday banquet for their service. Marek Jedrzejek of cross country and track and field and former men’s rugby head coach and director Spence McTavish were both honoured with plaques for their decades of dedication to Thunderbirds athletes.
McTavish retired last year after taking over as UBC head coach in 1997. Jedrzejek, the school’s head cross country coach since 1988 and the head track and field coach since 2001, will retire later this year.
For a full list of previous Big Block Awards winners, please visit this page: