It was announced this morning that Josh Kozelj from the University of Victoria Vikes cross country and track program was the recipient of the U SPORTS Correspondent of the Year Award presented by The Globe and Mail.
“When I got the call from U SPORTS, I was speechless. This isn’t something that was on my radar at all,” said Kozelj, a fourth year runner. “This is quite the honour and I am very thankful for the writing opportunities U SPORTS provided me this year.”
The Coquitlam product becomes the first Vike to score the national honour.
The Correspondents Program launched in 2016-17 and is aimed to give student-journalists from across the country an opportunity to write a variety of human-interest stories and profiles on U SPORTS student-athletes and programs, promote university sports in Canada and develop their portfolio. This year, there were 20 correspondents in the program.
Kozelj has been covering UVic’s campus for more than four years, after he joined UVic’s independent newspaper, The Martlet, in 2016. From there, he progressed into a staff writer role and eventually a senior staff writer.
Instead writing about the thing that comes easiest to him – sports – Kozelj has spent the past few years rounding out his resume by reporting on news, culture pieces, while also learning how to craft intriguing opinion pieces. Approaching his fifth year with The Martlet, Kozelj estimates he has cranked out more than 170 articles for the biweekly paper.
“The Martlet has been a phenomenal experience for me. It has provided me exposure to doing different types of writing and honed in my skills,” said Kozelj, who will graduate from the Fine Arts program next spring with a major in writing and a minor in journalism. “I also feel like I will graduate with a degree from The Martlet. It’s been an amazing experience.”
This past year, Kozelj added to his already full plate when he enrolled into the Correspondents Program last August.
“Seeing something that I pitched, reported on and then wrote, published on the U SPORTS website was amazing,” said Kozelj. “I also participated in the Weekend Watch, which was another experience that helped develop my skills.”
Kozelj sent his weekly contributions into the Weekend Watch – a column where correspondents pitched impactful games in various sports across the country to appear on the national website.
Kozelj’s piece on Calgary Dinos cross country runner Eric Lutz, and his battle to return from a devastating back injury was one of the highlights of his written portfolio during the 2019-20 campaign and a finalist for the Story of the Year.
“I just kept grinding all year. I kept my head down and tried to do as much writing as possible,” said Kozelj.
Somehow, with a heavy course and workload, Kozelj still found a way to post blistering times during both cross country and track seasons.
He reached the U SPORTS national cross country championship for the third time last fall and set a new personal best in the track season last January at the University of Washington, where he crossed the finish line in 8:29 in the 3,000-metre race.
With one more year remaining to finish his degree and career with the Vikes, Kozelj still isn’t sure what his future holds, but graduate school has an early lead in his mind.
Winning this national honour also comes with the opportunity to network with some of the countries’ finest, as Kozelj will be on a Zoom call with a few editors from The Globe and Mail later this summer.
“Just getting a chance to speak with some of the best people in our industry is a great enough prize,” said Kozelj.
While Kozelj might be looking up to those editors and picking their brains now, it might not be too long before he is working alongside them in the future.