The annual varsity athletic banquet took place on Friday night at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Ottawa, recognizing the highlights and achievements from the 2015-16 season of Gee-Gees varsity athletics. CIS gold medalist Devyani Biswal and CIS Men’s Basketball Player of the Year Mike L’Africain were named the uOttawa Athletes of the Year to cap off the evening which also included the presentation of team MVP awards and seven other major award categories.
Devyani Biswal became uOttawa’s first ever CIS champion in women’s hurdles when she ran a personal best and Gee-Gees record time of 8.40 in the national final. The Ottawa native was also the OUA champion with a time of 8:45 which was the third medal of her career at the conference meet. The fourth-year competitor won OUA bronze in both 2013 and 2015. Biswal moved up from a fifth-place finish at the 2015 CIS national championships to claim the gold this season.
Point guard Mike L’Africain has been a key part of the men’s basketball team’s successes over his five years and was this year recognized as the OUA and CIS Player of the Year. This season the Oakville, Ont., native led Ottawa in points (20.4 per game), and assists (101) which were both career highs over the course of a 17-2 regular season. He leaves uOttawa as the team’s all-time leader in assists (406) and fourth in career points at 1272.
Krista Van Slingerland and Graeme McConnell were recognized for their commitment to academics and community involvement in addition to athletics with the President’s Awards.
Van Slingerland, a member of the women’s basketball team, is a co-founder of the non-profit organization SAMHI (The Student Athlete-Mental Health Initiative), which over the past two years has grown a network of ambassadors across the country focused on improving the services offered to student-athletes dealing with mental health issues. SAMHI strives to reduce the stigma of mental illness, improve access to resources, and advocate for the mental well-being of student athletes. Currently completing her Master’s in Human Kinetics, Krista be will entering a PHD program next year and will continue to make a great contribution to not only CIS athletes but to all those who suffer from mental illness, from club to Olympic level sport.
McConnell has progressed throughout his three seasons with the cross-country team to now being the #2 position on team and also represented Team Canada at the World Mountain Running Championships. Off the trails, he’s had a huge impact by working as an Academic Supervisor for the SFUO Peer Help Centre, a running and reading coach for the Start 2 Finish organization, and also working as a campus team co-leader for SAHMI. The fourth-year social sciences student from Calgary is an Academic All-Canadian.
The Rookie of the Year awards were presented to Mélodie Bouchard of the women’s hockey team and co-won by football first-years Cole Beacock and Cody Cranston. Bouchard ranked second in the nation for points per game this season, setting a Gee-Gees record with 22 assists along with her 10 goals in 19 games. Her production helped to lift the hockey team to its best season since 2006 with an 11-6-3 regular season record. Beacock was a consistent force at right tackle, earning a starting spot and impressing the coaching staff with his footwork and athleticism. Cody Cranston started every game for Ottawa, moving between corner and boundary half as needed. He also served as a returner, picking up 130 punt return yards and 85 yards on kickoffs.
Ling Lee became the second ever winner of the Sports Services Volunteer Recognition Award, recognizing his dedication to the women’s volleyball team since he started as an assistant coach in 1992. Bringing his knowledge and enthusiasm to the court for 24 seasons, Ling is responsible for coaching the setters, middles, and overall offensive strategy. There were eight extremely deserving nominees for this award: Bob Bowes of the women’s hockey team, Paul Neves from men’s basketball, Aaron Geisler and Scott Westlake from the football coaching staff, Jean-Yves Lemoine of women’s basketball, Stuart Barbour from women’s soccer, and Duncan McNaughton of the women’s rugby team.