Lakehead fetes tops athletes
Dave Dawson/ The Packet & Times Chris Glover, director of student affairs at the Orillia campus of Lakehead University, centre, is flanked by male athlete of the year award winner Kareem Poonah and female athlete of the year Shai Kemp. The top prizes capped off the university’s annual athletic banquet Saturday night at Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club.
Later this month, Shai Kemp will graduate from the Orillia campus of Lakehead University with an Honours Bachelor of Criminology degree, but the Prescott native will leave with much more than a piece of paper.
Over her four years at Lakehead, Kemp helped transform a fledgling co-ed extracurricular women's soccer team into a varsity program that came of age this year, making history by winning its first game at the regional level to earn a berth at the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association championship.
For four years, Kemp has been a driving force behind the team's ascent and has also been a valued member of Lakehead's women's basketball team - the two-sport star was named Lakehead's female athlete of the year at the school's annual athletic banquet Saturday night at Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club.
"I couldn't have asked for a better experience or to meet better people than I've met here at Lakehead," Kemp said after accepting her award. "From the start, I was involved in both sports. That helped me make a lot of friends, get a lot of experiences - it teaches you a lot about hard work, time management and patience."
Kemp, who also picked up leadership awards for her work with both teams, said winning the athlete of the year award in her final year means a lot. "I think it shows they appreciate all the hard work that athletes put in. It's an honour to get the award," said Kemp, who hopes to work for the RCMP upon graduation. "Being a team captain meant a lot to me as well. I have great memories of my time at Lakehead."
Kareem Poonah, who helped start the men's soccer program when he began his studies at Lakehead three years ago, was named the school's male athlete of the year.
"Since I was a kid growing up (in Milton), I played soccer," said Poonah. "For me, soccer is a passion. It's a lifestyle - something I need in my life. I know my school experience would be horrible without soccer."
Poonah and others laid the foundation for a varsity program by starting a co-ed team three years ago. "Now we have men's and women's varsity teams ... we've come a long way," he said with pride. "We competed at regionals this year and I think we improved tremendously. We didn't make it to provincials this year, but we hope to follow the girls' success and go next year."
The third-year continuing education student said he was surprised to win the athlete of the year award. "It's a wonderful accomplishment that I was not expecting," he said. "It's nice to be recognized for the work I've put into the soccer program. I love the competition of soccer. It builds character and being on a team builds the skills of individuals "¦ I can definitely see myself coaching soccer when I become a teacher."
Chris Glover, director of student affairs, said it was a "great year" for Lakehead that started its extra-curricular menu seven years ago with eight athletes involved in curling and rowing programs. This year, almost 100 athletes competed in eight different sports.
"We are a small but mighty program," Glover told the athletes. "I am very impressed that you do what you do because you love it and you have a passion for the sport, a passion for wellness and a passion for Lakehead. You make the campus and this program better."
Highlights of the past year, as chronicled by Glover, included the return of an equestrian team, the birth of a women's varsity golf program, the "impressive hardware" won by the dance club, the Frost Cup won by the women's hockey team, the renaissance of the men's hockey team, the second-straight "fair play" banner won by the women's basketball team, the resurgence of the men's soccer team and the history-making performance of the women's soccer team. "I couldn't be more proud of what our athletes have accomplished," said Glover.
While the athletic banquet culminates the year for athletes, each month during the school year, a deserving competitor is chosen as the winner of the Plastics Protect & HollisWealth Athletic Achievement Award, which also includes a donation to that athlete's team. The award is spearheaded by highly-decorated provincial and national triple jumper, Michelle Cowell, a York University graduate who competed for Canada at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
"I absolutely feel honoured that I can do this for the athletes here," said Cowell, who was recognized at Saturday's event. "As much as I belong to York as a graduate, my heart has always been here at Lakehead. I love the underdog."
Cowell was always one of the smallest competitors in her field. It helped drive her. "One of my favourite quotes is from (NFL legend) Jerry Rice: 'Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't.'"
She then reminded the students that success doesn't happen by chance. "Remember one key thing: preparation, preparation, preparation. Your coaches are here because they believe in you and they want to prepare you for anything - any obstacle life puts in front of you. Those are the words of wisdom I want to pass on to you."
Other 2017 winners
Lakehead basketball player Sidney Howlett was recognized with an Ontario Colleges Committee on Campus Recreation leadership award. It's the first time a Lakehead student has won the provincial honour. At Saturday's banquet, each team honoured its most improved player (MIP), most valuable player (MVP) and presented a leadership award (LA) to deserving athletes. The winners are as follows: Varsity golf: Brendan Lancaster (MVP), Renee Williams (MIP), and Corey Pellerin (LA); women's hockey: MiKayla Rae (MVP), Kylee Vachon (MIP), and Renee Williams (LA); men's hockey: Andrew Dobson (MVP), Lucas Chiarot (MIP), Andreas Alexiou (LA), and (LA); men's indoor soccer: Chris Bettencourt (MVP), Mohamed Rashid (MIP) and Kareem Poonah (LA); women's indoor soccer: Jess Langille (MVP), Alyssa Bernardi (MIP) and Shai Kemp (LA); women's basketball: Rachel Carter (MVP), Adele Jackson (MIP) and Shai Kemp (LA); Dance: Rachelle MacLachlan (MVP), Lauren Oake (MIP), Jaclyn Boyd (LA). Equestrian Team: Mallory Harris (MIP) Erin Chiarot (LA).