VICTORIA – The meet hasn’t officially started yet but fifth-year athlete Tyler Smith has already earned the first piece of hardware for the University of Victoria Vikes track team after he was named the U SPORTS Student-Athlete Community Service Award winner. Honoured at the annual award luncheon in Windsor, Ont. on March. 8, Smith won the award for his work on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
“The reason we nominated Tyler for this award is the growth we have seen from him in the last five years,” said Vikes assistant coach Hilary Stellingwerff.
A member of the Vikes Varsity Council for the past three years, Smith has volunteered his time helping set up initiatives such as blood donations and Power to Be collaborations with the Vikes athletes to help promote community engagement and mentorship.
Further to that, Smith has also been a volunteer with Big Brothers, Big Sisters for the past three years as well as volunteering with the St. Michael’s University School track team.
The native of Wetaskiwin, AB is an Education major that earned a spot on the 2017 Vikes Honour Roll list.
“He has really improved in his ability to manage and balance being both a student and a top-level athlete,” said Stellingwerff. “It’s so impressive and we thought he should be recognized for that because not many people know about the work that he puts in off the track as well.”
Not only has Smith excelled off the track in 2018, but the reigning U SPORTS gold medallist in the 4×800-metre relay and silver medallist in the 600-metre race has also been outstanding on it.
Smith claimed four medals at the Canada West Championships in Winnipeg, MB from Feb. 23-24.
In his fifth and final conference championships, Smith won gold in the 600-metre, 1000-metre and 4×800-metre relays as well as a bronze medal in the 4×400-metre relay.
OTHER U SPORTS AWARDS
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (TRACK EVENTS): Thomas Land, Guelph
Thomas Land, a fifth year mechanical engineering student, has been instrumental in helping the Gryphons men’s track and field?team capture an OUA title in 2018 while also maintaining the top spot in the national rankings throughout the 2017-18 season.?The Turkey Point, Ont., native who a year ago was named Outstanding Athlete of the Meet at the U SPORTS Championships, produced a double-gold medal performance at the 2018 OUA Championships, crossing the finish line first in both the men’s 600m and men’s 1000m events. Throughout his university career, Land has established him as one of the top middle-distance runners in U SPORTS history, and will look to cap his collegiate career by helping lead the top-ranked Gryphons to a second consecutive national title.
“Tommy is a focused, talented guy who brings his ‘A’ game every time the gun goes off,” said Guelph head coach Dave Scott-Thomas. “We went into this year with a simple goal of having him just try to win as many races as possible. He has used some different tactics and styles along the way, but every time he’s on that line we are trying to do something big.”
CW: Austin Cole, Alberta
RSEQ: Sebastian Saville, Carleton
AUS: Angus Rawling, StFX
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (FIELD EVENTS): Benjamin Ingvaldson, Lethbridge
Ben Ingvaldson of the Lethbridge Pronghorns is the 2018 U SPORTS Field Athlete of the Year. Ingvaldson becomes the second consecutive Pronghorn, and third all-time, to win the award. Fifth-year Peter Millman won the award last year and Olympian Jim Steacy won the award four times in his Pronghorn career (2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009).
The Surrey, B.C. native continues Lethbridge’s strong tradition in the men’s throwing events, claiming top spot in both men’s throwing events at the 2018 Canada West Track and Field Championships and was named the Canada West Field Athlete of the Year. The double gold medal performance is the fifth year in a row that a Pronghorn has achieved the feat, following Millman’s four-year reign at the top of both podiums. In his shot put win, the 5-foot-11, third-year thrower set a new personal best with a throw of 15.99 metres and narrowly missed his personal best in his weight throw win.
Ingvaldson has medaled at the Canada West Championships in both events all three years but this was the first two golds of his Canada West career. Last year, he won silver in the shot put and bronze in the weight throw, and as a freshman won bronze in both events.
“Ben has been having a great season, while taking up the leadership reigns in the performance department and being named the field performer of the year reaffirms this,” said Lethbridge head coach Larry Steinke.
OUA: Nicholas Fyffe, York
RSEQ: Émile Ollivier, Montreal
AUS: Audley Cummings, Dalhousie
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Mark Bujnowski, Guelph
Gryphon rookie Mark Bujnowski has burst onto the U SPORTS scene in 2017-18, establishing himself as one of the country’s best in both the shot put and weight throw. Currently the nation’s top-ranked shot putter, with a throw of 16.57m at the McGill Team Challenge, Bujnowski has seamlessly transitioned to the new weight implement of 16 lbs. (an increase of nearly 3 lbs. compared to the weight used at the junior level).
Aside from being the top-ranked shot putter in U SPORTS, Bujnowski is also currently ranked eighth in the country in weight throw. Bujnowski’s sister, Kristen, represented Team Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, where she competed in the Bobsleigh.
“Mark is everything you’d want in a young athlete. He’s open minded, positive at practice, he communicates well and he is a monster physical talent who has a great brain to go with it,” said Scott-Thomas. “It’s a rare combo. His Gryphon career is off to a great start and we want to give him all the resources he needs to be as good as we believe he is, which is world-class.”
CW: Wesley Calef, Alberta
RSEQ: Jean-Simon Desgagnés, Laval
AUS: Andrew Peverill, Saint Mary’s