Alumni inducted into Laurier Hall of Fame

(Photo by Kate Turner)

Once a Hawk, always a Hawk.

Friday evening, five athletes, two teams and one builder were inducted into the Wilfrid Laurier University’s athletic Hall of Fame in one of the largest classes in the Hall’s history.

Men’s football’s Mike Choma, Art Lestins and Justin Phillips, women’s basketball’s Sarah Zagorski and women’s hockey’s Laurissa Kenworthy were all inducted for their respective sports. John Webster joined the class as the lone builder in the category, while the 1989-90 men’s hockey and 1968-69 men’s basketball teams also were also honoured.

The inductions were the opening to an annual celebration on the weekend of Homecoming, which continued until the Laurier Loop Sunday afternoon.

“It feels very good,” Choma said after the ceremony ended. “It’s a big accomplishment especially to go in with such great athletes here at Laurier. I was lucky enough to play with great teams and now to be inducted with other great athletes, it’s quite the honour.”

Choma was part of the football program between 1985-89, and played an integral part in the success of the 1987 Yates Cup team. He helped lead the Hawks to a 6-1 record and earned first team all-star honours multiple times.

He was drafted 23rd overall by the B.C Lions.

“Playing on such a talented team and putting it all together to go to a championship was by the far the greatest experience I had,” Choma said.

Lestins followed, as the former offensive lineman suited up for the Hawks from 1969-72. He was named an all-star for two consecutive seasons and also earned Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours.

In his final season, he helped lead the Hawks to their first Yates Cup title and second Atlantic Bowl championship.

Being inducted posthumously, Lestins’ wife Teri received Lestins’ plaque and honours.

“We lived it, we owned it and we ate a lot of pizza,” Lestins said in front of the alumni group.

As the first of two women to be inducted, Kenworthy spoke of her four seasons with the hockey program, highlighting the four consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships she won in her tenure between 2003-07. She also was a pivotal part in the first ever Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship in women’s hockey history.

“It was an incredible experience to play as Golden Hawk,” Kenworthy said. “We had a lot of challenges but a lot of successes together as well. Our team practiced a lot, we had a great coach, [head coach] Rick Osborne, was always prepared for every practice and every game, and he really was the catalyst for our success.”

The 1989-90 men’s hockey team was inducted as the first of two teams, and loudly proclaimed their success. In attendance was current men’s hockey head coach Greg Puhalski, who is the Golden Hawks’ all-time leading scorer.

The 1968-69 basketball team eight first-year players and only four returning veterans, the Hawks overcame a slow start to qualify for the final and achieve a comeback win in the final minute. Among them was the school’s first ever All-Canadian Sandy Nixon.

“Everything from the players I played with to the coaches that I’ve had have been an integral part of who I am today,” Choma said. “The way I am, the way I played and in turn the way I coach today.”

Kenworthy expressed similar feelings toward her induction.

“I think I learned a lot as a student athlete in terms of time management and balancing different commitments you have in life,” she said. “It’s really helped me develop into the person I am now.”

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