TORONTO, Ont. - Canadian Interuniversity Sport and national business law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) announced Tuesday the eight finalists for the 17th annual BLG awards.

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The BLG awards were established in 1993 to recognize the top female and male athletes from universities affiliated with CIS. After 16 successful years in Calgary, the BLG awards are coming to Toronto for the first time ever.

On Mon., April 27, 2009, the eight national nominees will be honoured, with one female and one male winner receiving a $10,000 post-secondary grant in front of more than 1,000 BLG guests at the John Bassett Theatre, in the Toronto Metro Convention Centre.

The awards show will premier on TSN on Sat., May 16, at 2 p.m.

"It will be our great pleasure to recognize these outstanding student-athletes along with our clients and guests at the 17th annual BLG awards in Toronto," said Doug Mitchell, National Co-Chairman, BLG LLP. "Our goal in hosting these awards in Toronto is not only to focus attention on the importance of athletics at Canadian universities, but also to shine a spotlight on the exceptional athletes produced right here in Canada."

"The BLG awards recognize the best of the best of CIS student-athletes. To be selected as a BLG nominee is a prestigious honour that all top athletes aspire to," said Marg McGregor, CIS Chief Executive Officer. "It is truly impressive to see how this year's cohort of candidates have excelled as athletes without compromising their academic success as students. They are truly inspiring and they reflect and represent the many talented CIS student-athletes who train and go to school in Canada."

The 2009 nominees for the Jim Thompson trophy presented to the female BLG award recipient are St. Francis Xavier rugby player Ghislaine Landry of Toronto, McGill hockey goaltender Charline Labonté of Boisbriand, Que., Guelph cross country and track and field runner Lindsay Carson of Cambridge, Ont., as well as UBC swimmer Annamay Pierse of Edmonton.

Landry, a silver medalist with Team Canada at the 2008 world university rugby sevens championship, is the reigning two-time CIS women's rugby MVP; Labonté, an Olympic gold medalist in 2006 currently competing at the IIHF world women's hockey championship in Finland, is a three-time first-team all-Canadian and has guided the Martlets to back-to-back CIS titles; Carson is the CIS female track and field athlete of the year in track events and her bronze-medal finish at the CIS cross country championships helped the Gryphon women capture the team banner; Pierse, a two-time Olympic finalist in 2008 who set a short-course world record in the 200-metre breaststroke on March 14, is the reigning two-time CIS female swimmer of the year.

The male finalists for CIS athlete-of-the-year honours are Saint Mary's hockey player Marc Rancourt of Gloucester, Ont., Laval football player Étienne Légaré of St-Raymond, Que., York soccer player Francesco Bruno of Toronto, and Alberta volleyball player Joel Schmuland of Calgary.

Rancourt is the reigning CIS men's hockey MVP and scoring champion, and led the Huskies to their first University Cup championship appearance since 2002; Légaré is the CIS lineman of the year, guided the Rouge et Or to their second Vanier Cup victory in three years and is one of the top prospects going into the 2009 CFL Canadian college draft; Bruno is the CIS men's soccer MVP and led the Lions to their first national title since 1977; Schmuland is the CIS men's volleyball player of the year and was named CIS championship MVP as the Golden Bears claimed their third title in five seasons.

The BLG awards are based on athletic accomplishments, outstanding sportsmanship and leadership. Each of 52 CIS schools selects one female and one male athlete of the year. From these nominees, one female and one male athlete are chosen within each of the four regional associations: Atlantic University Sport, Quebec Student Sports Federation, Ontario University Athletics, and Canada West Universities Athletic Association. To be eligible, a student-athlete must have competed in a CIS sport for a minimum of two years and cannot be a previous recipient of a BLG award.

Nominees receive a commemorative gold ring, and winners are presented with a trophy and a $10,000 scholarship to attend a Canadian University graduate school. Winners are selected by the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not-for-profit Board established for the purpose of administering the BLG Awards and protecting the integrity of the selection process. The CAF Board of Trustees consists of 23 members from six Canadian cities representing 11 major corporations from across the country who are committed to ensuring that Canadian University athletes receive the recognition they deserve.

Past BLG Award Winners:

2007-08: Laetitia Tchoualack (Montreal - volleyball), Rob Hennigar (UNB - hockey)
2006-07: Jessica Zelinka (Calgary - track & field), Josh Howatson (Trinity Western - volleyball)
2005-06: Marylène Laplante (Laval - volleyball), Osvaldo Jeanty (Carleton - basketball)
2004-05: Adrienne Power (Dalhousie - track & field), Jesse Lumsden (McMaster - football)
2003-04: Joanna Niemczewska (Calgary - volleyball), Adam Ens (Saskatchewan - volleyball)
2002-03: Kim St-Pierre (McGill - hockey), Ryan McKenzie (Windsor - cross country & track)
2001-02: Elizabeth Warden (Toronto - swimming), Brian Johns (UBC - swimming)
2000-01: Leighann Doan (Calgary - basketball), Kojo Aidoo (McMaster - football)
1999-00: Jenny Cartmell (Alberta - volleyball), Michael Potts (Western Ontario - soccer)
1998-99: Corinne Swirsky (Concordia - hockey), Alexandre Marchand (Sherbrooke - track)
1997-98: Foy Williams (Toronto - track & field), Titus Channer (McMaster - basketball)
1996-97: Terri-Lee Johannesson (Manitoba - basketball), Curtis Myden (Calgary - swimming)
1995-96: Justine Ellison (Toronto - basketball), Don Blair (Calgary - football)
1994-95: Linda Thyer (McGill - track & field), Bill Kubas (Wilfrid Laurier - football)
1993-94: Sandra Carroll (Winnipeg - basketball), Tim Tindale (Western Ontario - football)
1992-93: Diane Scott (Winnipeg - volleyball), Andy Cameron (Calgary - volleyball)

2008-09 FEMALE BLG AWARD NOMINEES (Jim Thompson trophy)

Atlantic University Sport (AUS)

Ghislaine Landry
St. Francis Xavier University
Sport: Rugby
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 3
Academic program: Human Kinetics
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

After only three seasons at StFX, Ghislaine Landry is already one of the most decorated players in the short history of CIS women's rugby. Last fall, the five-foot-four fullback was named CIS MVP for the second straight campaign, becoming only the second player to receive the honour twice since women's rugby was added to the CIS program in 1998. The CIS rookie of the year in 2006 and a two-time CIS championship all-star, Landry has been named AUS MVP and a CIS all-Canadian each of her three seasons at StFX. She has led the X-Women to three AUS titles in three years, to their first Monilex trophy as national champions in 2006, as well as CIS silver in 2008.

In 2008, Landry set AUS records for most points (35) and tries (7) scored in a single game and most tries in a single season with 22 in six matches, while finishing with the second best single-season point tally (112) in AUS history. She is the AUS career leader in points (272) and tries (54) and has scored at least one try in each of her 18 regular-season contests with the X-Women, including 15 multiple-try games.

Landry helped Canada claim the silver medal at the 2008 world university rugby sevens championship in Spain. A highly-touted prospect for the senior national team, she has represented Canada at five international competitions over the past few years as a member of the Under-19 team and the senior rugby 7s squad. Born and raised in Toronto, she is the younger of two girls and played numerous sports through high school including soccer, volleyball, basketball and rugby.

"Whether it is game time, practice time or gym time, Ghislaine's leadership, dedication and work ethic inspire her teammates to be better players," says StFX head coach Mike Cavanagh. "She is an invaluable contributor to our team on both offence and defence and has unbelievable natural ability and talent in the sport of rugby. She is small in stature but has the biggest heart."

Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF)

Charline Labonté
McGill University
Sport: Hockey
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 3
Academic program: Physical & Health Education
Hometown: Boisbriand, Que.

Charline Labonté has come as close to perfection as it gets in her first three seasons at McGill. After leading her team to the national final as a rookie in 2006-07, the five-foot-nine goaltender has guided the Martlets to back-to-back CIS titles, the first two in program history. At the 2008 CIS championship, she became the first netminder in history to play every minute of the tournament without allowing a single goal, and at this year's Nationals she was chosen the tourney's best goalie after giving up only three goals in three outings. Named the top goaltender in CIS (first-team all-Canadian) each of her three campaigns at McGill, Labonté finished the 2008-09 regular schedule with a perfect 15-0 mark, including nine shutouts, and led the country with a 0.60 goals against average and a .966 save percentage. She holds the QSSF single-season records for most wins (17), shutouts (11), lowest goals against average (0.47) and best save percentage (.971), and the career marks for most wins (49), shutouts (30), lowest goals against average (0.62) and best save percentage (.963).

A member of Canada's senior national team since 2000-01, Labonté started and won three games at the 2006 Turin Olympics, including a 4-1 gold-medal victory over Sweden. Her other Olympic wins were both shutouts, 12-0 over Russia and 6-0 over Finland. She is currently competing at her fourth IIHF world championship (April 4-12) in Hameenlinna, Finland, after helping Canada claim silver in 2005, gold in 2007 and silver in 2008. She was the alternate goaltender for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the 2003 and 2004 world championships. Two of her teammates with Team Canada 2009 are current Martlet Catherine Ward and former McGill great and BLG award winner Kim St-Pierre - also a goalie -, while McGill head coach Peter Smith is an assistant coach with the team.

Back in 1999-2000, Labonté became only the second female (after Manon Rhéaume) to compete in a men's major junior hockey league in Canada when she played 26 games for the Acadie-Bathurst Titans of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. She also played two games for Acadie-Bathurst in 2000-01.

"Charlie is a big intimidating goaltender who is technically very strong on her angles. She gives our team a huge dose of confidence as they know that they can take some risks because she will be there to make the big saves," says McGill head coach Peter Smith. "She also serves as an offensive weapon to our transition game as she is very good a handling the puck and moving it up the ice quickly."

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

Lindsay Carson
University of Guelph
Sports: Cross country & track
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 2
Academic program: Engineering
Hometown: Cambridge, Ont.

Lindsay Carson burst onto the university scene as an 18-year-old freshman in 2007-08 when she was named CIS athlete of the year and rookie of the year in cross country after she claimed individual gold at the national championships and guided the Guelph women to the team title, and then earned CIS top-rookie honours in track and field after she collected three individual medals - including one gold - and led the Gryphon women to the first banner in team history.

Carson followed up with an exceptional sophomore season in both sports in 2008-09. In cross country, she once again led the Guelph women to the team titles at both the OUA and CIS championships, while in tack and field she guided the Gryphons to OUA gold for the first time ever and to CIS silver, only one point behind Windsor. Individually, she took OUA silver and CIS bronze in cross country, was named MVP of the OUA track and field championships following wins in the 1,500 and 3,000-metre races and a second-place finish in the 1,000m, was named CIS track and field athlete of the year in track events, and won three gold medals at the CIS meet (1,500, 3,000, 4x800 relay). Carson was undefeated all season on 1,500 and 3,000 and posted a time of 9:10.04 on 3,000 at the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational, the second fastest time in CIS history and the 11th fastest in Canadian history on the distance.

Her international experience includes competing at the 2005 world youth track and field championships in 2005, the world junior cross country championships in 2006 and 2007, and the 2008 IAAF world cross country championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. A multi-sport athlete, Carson was a competitive speed skater for seven years. Her mother Leslie was also an all-Canadian runner at Guelph and competed at the Francophone Games.

"Lindsay has had a phenomenal year and we've only seen a fraction of what she's capable of doing yet. Her work ethic and drive are incredible and she is fearless in competition - combine those elements with her great ability and you have a true international class athlete emerging," says Guelph head coach Dave Scott Thomas. "She is a excellent team player and a great ambassador for the University if Guelph and the CIS."

Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA)

Annamay Pierse
University of British Columbia
Sport: Swimming
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 5
Academic program: Psychology
Hometown: Edmonton, Alta.

Breaststroke specialist Annamay Pierse has been the class of CIS women's swimming for two seasons earning back-to-back CIS swimmer-of-the-year nods. One year after she set new meet records in all three breaststroke events and led the Thunderbird women to the team banner at the CIS championships, the Edmonton native was at it again at the 2009 CIS Nationals, shattering the meet marks in each breast races - including Canadian short-course records in the 100 and 200-metre - and adding silver medals in the 200 individual medley and the 4x100 medley relay as the UBC women finished second in the team standings. At the Canada West championships, she was named female swimmer of the meet after she swept the breast events - all in conference-record times.

Pierse's 2009 campaign only got better after the university season. After missing a short-course world record by only 0.84 seconds in the 200 breaststroke at the CIS championships, she eclipsed the world mark at the Canadian Spring Nationals in Toronto on March 14 with a time of 2:17.50. She became the first Canadian swimmer to break a world record since former BLG award winner Brian Johns, also of UBC, set a world standard in the 400 individual medley at the 2003 CIS meet. In addition to her new record in the 200 breast, her short-course time of 1:04.67 in the 100 is also ranked first in the world this year.

An Olympian in 2008, Pierse reached two finals at the Beijing Games finishing sixth in the 200 breaststroke (long course) and seventh with the 4x100 Canadian medley relay team, while also placing 10th in the 100 breast. She holds Canadian records in both long and short course versions of the 100 and 200 breast and is part of three relay teams that hold Canadian marks. A winner of three silver medals at the 2007 Pan Am Games and a pair of bronze medals at the 2007 Summer Universiade, she is the eldest of five sisters (she also has two brothers), all of whom are competitive swimmers including Hanna and Grainne, both members of the Thunderbirds.

"Annamay's continued success is a testament of her passion, commitment and dedication to her sport. She has proven to herself and the world that she is truly a world-class athlete," says UBC head coach Derrick Schoof. "Her rise to stardom over the past two years is a product of her work ethic and her desire to win. We are very proud of Annamay's achievements and are all very excited for Annamay as she continues her quest to win at the highest level possible. This summer her main objective will be to win at the world championships and her long-term goal is to win Olympic gold."


Atlantic University Sport (AUS)

Marc Rancourt
Saint Mary's University
Sport: Hockey
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 4
Academic program: Commerce
Hometown: Gloucester, Ont.

One year after being denied a CIS scoring title by BLG award winner Rob Hennigar of UNB, Marc Rancourt made sure he put his stamp on the 2008-09 men's hockey season. In his fourth university campaign, the six-foot-one, 200-pound left-winger finished first in the country in both assists (41) and points (57) en route to becoming only the second Saint Mary's player in history and the first since 1982-83 to claim the Senator Joseph A. Sullivan trophy as CIS MVP. The Huskies' captain recorded at least one point in 26 of 28 conference outings, including 16 multiple-point matches and a 19-game point-streak to open the schedule, ending the year with the best tally by a SMU skater since Craig Teeple amassed 60 points in 1991-92.

A first-team AUS all-star each of the past three campaigns, Rancourt was named to the first CIS squad for the first time this season, following a second-team all-Canadian nod in 2007-08. After guiding the Huskies to second place in the Atlantic conference standings with a 20-7-1 mark, the 24-year-old led all scorers in the AUS playoffs with 10 points in seven games as Saint Mary's captured its first conference title since 2001-02 and a first berth in the CIS University Cup championship in seven years.

A gold-medal winner with Team Canada at the 2007 Winter Universiade in Italy under SMU head coach Trevor Stienburg, Rancourt ranks fifth on the Saint Mary's all-time scoring list with 175 points (52-123-175) in 109 conference games. He moved to Halifax following a solid major junior career with the OHL's Belleville Bulls, for whom he played from 2001-02 to 2004-05, tallying 78 points in 68 outings in his final season. The commerce student also excels in the classroom and was the AUS nominee for 2008-09 Dr. Randy Gregg award that recognizes excellence in hockey, academics and community involvement.

"After 12 years behind the Huskies' bench, I feel comfortable saying that Marc could be one of the most skilled players to have played in the CIS," says Saint Mary's head coach Trevor Stienburg. "He was part of the team that won gold at the 2007 FISU games, this season led the country in scoring, captured both the AUS and CIS player of the year, was the captain of our AUS championship team, a Dean's list student three consecutive years, and this year is both the President's Award Winner and Male Athlete of the Year at our university. Any one of these is incredible? to accomplish them all is exceptional and begs for recognition."

Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF)

Étienne Légaré
Laval University
Sport: Football
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 4
Academic program: Education
Hometown: St-Raymond, Que.

Simply put, Étienne Légaré was the best defensive player on the best defensive team in the country this past football season. Despite missing one game due to an injury, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior was second in the Quebec conference and sixth in the nation during the regular schedule with 6.5 quarterback sacks, while also tallying 23 tackles and forcing one fumble. His exploits helped Laval set a team record with only 60 points allowed in conference play and put together one of the most dominating defensive seasons in recent history as the Rouge et Or led the nation in least points against, total yards (255) and rushing yards (69) allowed per game, and finished second in pass defence (185 yards per game).

Légaré and his teammates kept rolling in the playoffs. After opening the post-season with a 32-7 win over Montreal and surviving a close call to prevail 28-17 over Concordia in the QUFL final, the Rouge et Or dominated Calgary in the Uteck Bowl, 59-10, and Western Ontario in the Vanier Cup final, 44-21, to capture their second CIS title in three years, and the second of Légaré's career. Laval finished the campaign with an unblemished 12-0 overall record, marking the first perfect season in the program's history.

The third Laval player to claim the J.P. Metras trophy as CIS lineman of the year - after current Toronto Argonaut Dominic Picard, in 2005, and former B.C. Lion Carl Gourgues, in 2001 - Légaré is one of the top prospects going into the 2009 CFL Canadian Draft, set for May 2. He was ranked fifth on the first list of CIS prospects published by the CFL's Amateur Scouting Bureau on September 28, and moved up to fourth on the second list that came out on November 10. The native of St-Raymond, Que., had a golden opportunity to impress pro scouts on January 17 when he was one of two CIS players invited to suit up in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game in Texas. His coach for the day was Bobby Ross, who, over his distinguished career, led San Diego to a Super Bowl appearance in 1995 and guided Georgia Tech to the NCAA title in 1990.

"Étienne was without a doubt our most dominant defensive player last season. He is a very versatile and explosive player," says Laval head coach Glen Constantin. "He is a model student-athlete who perfectly exemplifies the overall mission of the Rouge et Or football team, he has developed both has a student and a football player. He displays strong leadership and his nomination as a BLG award finalist crowns a fantastic season for him. It is a well-deserved honour."

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

Francesco Bruno
York University
Sport: Soccer
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 3
Academic program: Business and Society
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

It is safe to say Francesco Bruno probably doesn't have any regrets about transferring from Syracuse University to York in 2007. After being named to the first all-Canadian team and leading the Lions to their first appearance at the national championship in 10 years in his CIS debut, the five-foot-10, 165-pound midfielder and his new teammates had a season to remember in 2008. After tying for second in the country with 10 goals in 14 conference outings - including three game-winners, the Toronto native became the first Lion to receive the Joe Johnson Memorial trophy as CIS MVP since the inception of the award in 1991. He resumed his domination during the OUA playoffs, scoring twice in a quarterfinal victory over Brock and guiding his team to the conference final, before helping York capture a first CIS men's soccer title since 1977 thanks to three straight shutout wins at Nationals, where he was selected as a tournament all-star. The triumph also marked the school's first CIS banner in any sports since 1989-90.

Growing up in an Italian family, the 24-year-old Bruno picked up soccer at a very early age. He realized a dream when he was chosen to represent Canada at the 2003 FIFA Under-20 world championship in the United Arab Emirates, where the team reached the quarterfinals, marking the furthest a Canadian men's squad had ever advanced at a major international competition.

"Francesco is one of the most complete players we have in this country. He can defend, he can pass, he can dribble and he can score," says York head coach Carmine Isacco. "Through his work on and off the field, I think Francesco exemplifies himself as to what a truly elite student-athlete should be."

Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA)

Joel Schmuland
University of Alberta
Sport: Volleyball
Year of eligibility in 2008-09: 5
Academic program: Physical Education & Recreation
Hometown: Calgary, Alta.

It was the perfect ending to an almost perfect university career. After reaching four national finals in his first four campaigns at Alberta and winning two of them, the first one as a freshman in 2004-05 and the second a year ago, six-foot-seven right side Joel Schmuland not only became the first Golden Bear in history to capture three Tantramar trophies as CIS champion, this time he was chosen tournament MVP in front of his home fans in Edmonton. It was a fitting ending to a dream campaign that saw the U of A co-captain be named CIS MVP and selected to the first all-Canadian team for the second time in three years, and the Bears - ranked No.1 in the nation all season - win 69 of 75 sets to finish 23-0 in conference, Canada West playoff and CIS championship play.

The 22-year-old Calgary native was ranked among the Canada West and CIS leaders in most statistical categories in his senior season finishing third in the conference and fourth in the nation with an average of 4.79 points per set, placing sixth in Canada West and seventh in the country in kills (3.93 per set), third out West and 10th nationally in service aces (0.38 per set), and 10th in the conference with a .335 hitting percentage.

Schmuland considers his U of A head coach Terry Danyluk, a former CIS MVP and a 1984 Olympian, as a hero and mentor. He hopes to follow in his coach's footsteps with a selection to the 2009 Summer Universiade squad, 26 years after Danyluk led Canada to a silver medal at the 1983 World University Games in Edmonton. Schmuland, whose short-term objectives include playing for the senior national team and land a professional contract in Europe, has represented Canada once in the past, at the 2004 junior NORCECA continental championship. In addition to volleyball, he was a javelin thrower in high school.

"Joel has developed in so many ways since joining us directly from high school five short years ago. He has always been a leader by example and has added the ability to be a vocal leader as well," says Alberta head coach Terry Danyluk. "As an athlete, Joel may very well be the most consistent performer I have worked with in my time as a coach. He has been able to improve every year and sustain a very high performance level every year, even this season with all the added pressures of being a captain, a senior and playing at home while maintaining a No.1 ranking the entire season. Joel's skills have not gone un-noticed as he has been invited to the Team Canada / FISU team try-outs at the end of April."

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