Two-sport star Temitope Ogunjimi of the Calgary Dinos and reigning university football player of the year Ed Ilnicki of the Alberta Golden Bears have been named the Canada West Athletes of the Year.
The pair were announced Tuesday as the conference’s top athletes from the 2017-18 season, as U SPORTS unveiled the nominees for the 2018 BLG Awards, which honour the top university athletes in the country.
Ogunjimi excelled as a wrestler and rugby player during her five seasons at the University of Calgary, winning five Canada West wrestling gold medals and a pair of rugby conference championships. On the pitch, the Calgary native helped turn the Dinos into a conference power, winning back-to-back CW titles to end her career. As a wrestler, Ogunjimi was both a conference and national champion in 2017-18, while being named U SPORTS Outstanding Wrestler, and winning the national Student-Athlete Community Service Award.
Meanwhile, Ilnicki is coming off one of the best seasons in Golden Bears and Canada West football history in 2017, winning both the conference and national player of the year awards. The fifth-year running back set a new single-season Canada West rushing record with 1,468 rushing yards, while also leading the country with 11 rushing touchdowns. On top of his athletic accomplishments, Ilnicki also spent the year as the President of the University Athletics Board, winning the Canada West Football Student-Athlete Community Service Award.
Both CW athletes now move forward as the conference nominees for the national athlete of the year awards, and will be joined by athletes from the three other U SPORTS conferences – Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), and Ontario University Athletics (OUA).
The eight national nominees will be honoured on Monday, June 4 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver, B.C., as part of the 2018 U SPORTS Conference and Annual Meeting. It will mark just the second time the BLG Awards have been held in Vancouver and first since 2011.
The BLG Awards were established in 1993 by U SPORTS and national law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP to recognize the top male and female athletes from U SPORTS-affiliated universities.
2017-18 Canada West Female Athlete of the Year
University of Calgary
Year of eligibility: 5
Academic Program: Arts
Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
Temitope Ogunjimi finishes her career as one of the most decorated student-athletes in University of Calgary Dinos history. Now, she’ll look to make history as the first in her sports to capture the BLG Award.
Neither wrestling nor rugby have ever captured the BLG Award, male or female, in the honour’s 25-year history – something the 22-year-old Calgarian and aspiring lawyer could rectify with a win June 4 in Vancouver.
After immigrating to Canada from Nigeria at age 10, sport was a way in to the community for Ogunjimi. She took up wrestling in junior high school at the suggestion of a teacher and found it was a good way to make friends, and she enjoyed the sport. She added rugby in high school, having always enjoyed running.
After graduating from Calgary’s Centennial High School, she enrolled at the University of Calgary in September 2013 initially intending to pursue an engineering degree before settling on a law and society major, setting her up for her long-time dream of attending law school. Athletically, she focused on wrestling and captured her first of five consecutive Canada West gold medals in 2014, earning conference Rookie of the Year honours after her win at 59 kg. She jumped up to 63 kg a year later, winning the conference title in that weight class for three consecutive years.
Ogunjimi added varsity rugby to her plate in the fall of 2016, joining the Dinos program and helping them capture their first-ever Canada West title and a trip to the U SPORTS championship, where they won the bronze medal. She was named an All-Canadian along with a conference all-star after scoring five tries in the Canada West semifinal. Back on the wrestling mat, she won a third straight CW gold medal at 63 kg.
Heading into her last season of varsity competition, Ogunjimi was back on the rugby pitch where she again earned All-Canadian status as the Dinos won their second straight conference title and finished fourth at the national championship. With her focus back to wrestling in 2018, she moved up to 67 kg and won a fifth straight Canada West title and headed to the U SPORTS championships in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in search of that elusive national title. In the final bout of her university career, Ogunjimi climbed the mountain to take home U SPORTS gold, then added Outstanding Wrestler of the Year honours as well as the national Student-Athlete Community Service Award to her portfolio.
She added another gold medal to her collection at the Wrestling Canada senior national championships in March, winning the 68 kg weight class. On Apr. 3, Ogunjimi was named the University of Calgary’s female athlete of the year.
“For sports like wrestling and rugby, this kind of recognition is important – these are sports where athletes at the varsity level go on to represent Canada, and recognition like this helps them continue to grow in prominence. Personally, this makes me feel like the work I’ve put in over five years is being recognized,” said Ogunjimi.
“It hasn’t always been easy, battling through injuries and trying to get to the top, and it makes me happy because people can see that the work I have put in is being recognized, especially because everyone thought I was crazy for trying to attempt both sports! Finally, this will help show my parents and my family that being a competitive athlete hasn’t been a waste of time – I’ve learned to make connections, be part of a team, to deal with adversity, and other valuable lessons that will help me for the rest of my life.”
“Temitope Ogunjimi has been a dedicated member of our Dinos wrestling team for five years,” said Dinos wrestling head coach Mitch Ostberg. “She has grown into a leadership role with the team and has been a performance leader this season. Her volunteer activities and warm personality add a counterpoint to her fierce competitive nature. Temi always adds some energetic whoops to any team celebration.”
2018-18 Canada West Male Athlete of the Year
University of Alberta
Year of eligibility: 5
Academic Program: Business
Hometown: Spruce Grove, Alta.
After completing one of the most dominant seasons in University of Alberta and Canada West football history, senior running back Ed Ilnicki’s accolades continue to pile up.
Ilnicki broke the Canada West single-season rushing record with 1,468 rushing yards in 2017, leading the Golden Bears back to the Canada West playoffs for the first time since 2010. Ilnicki also added 151 receiving yards in 2017, breaking a 42-year old program record for single-season all-purpose yards with 1,619. The Spruce Grove, Alta., product also led U SPORTS in carries and rushing touchdowns this past season, winning the prestigious Hec Crighton Trophy as the top football player in Canada.
His rushing total was tops in the country by more than 300 yards and the fifth most all-time nationally. Ilnicki concluded his five-year career as Alberta’s all-time rushing leader with 4,145 yards – the second most all-time in Canada West history. He also ends his career as the Golden Bears’ all-time leader in all-purpose yards (4,978), carries (691), and rushing touchdowns (28).
While his on the field accomplishments speak for themselves, what also set Ilnicki apart from his peers was his work both in the classroom and in the community. A four-time Academic All-Canadian, Ilnicki also spent his fifth season as the University Athletics Board President, the University’s student-athlete led community service group.
He volunteered with both the Stollery Children’s Hospital and KidSport Edmonton, while also leading campus initiatives such as Bear Pause, Bears and Pandas Bike-a-thons, and the student-athlete blood drive. Because of this, Ilnicki was named the 2017 Canada West football Student-Athlete Community Service Award winner and a nominee for the U SPORTS Russ Jackson Award.
“This award would be a culmination of my experience as a university athlete, and it would represent the hard work that those around me have put in to help me achieve excellence as a student-athlete.” said Ilnicki. “In the future, it would remind me of the effort put in by those contributors, and motivate me to have the same impact on everyone around me every day possible.”
“Ed, by pure strength of will and hard work, has turned himself into one of the best football players in the country,” said Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris. “I think that’s what makes him special; he understands how hard you have to work. He respects the game and he respects the process. He is a young man of impeccable character who tirelessly serves his team and community. Ed embodies everything that is good about university athletics, and that’s what this award is about. “