Female athletes recognized by annual WLU award

(Photo by Kate Turner)

(Photo by Kate Turner)

All three athletes couldn’t believe it when they got the call last week saying that they were finalists for the Outstanding Women of Laurier (OWL) Award.

Carmen Baker from the women’s rugby team, Doreen Bonsu from women’s basketball and Fiona Lester from women’s hockey were announced finalists for OWL, with the winner to be announced March 21 at a luncheon at the Waterloo Inn Conference Hotel, which will feature keynote speaker Kelly Vanderbeek, a three-time World Cup downhill skiing medalist.

“It’s really an honour because I’m aware of all of the outstanding female athletes we have here at Laurier,” said third-year Bonsu. “And to be one of the finalists among them, it’s a mind-blowing, humbling experience.”

“The word that keeps coming up is surreal,” fourth-year Baker said. “I look at the other two finalists and I say, ‘am I really in a league with these girls?’ And I guess I can say ‘yeah, I am.’”

“It’s exciting and a great honour to be in a pool with the other nominees as well as all of the other people who have won or have been nominated in the past,” fourth-year Lester said. “I remember when I was in first year and my goalie at the time, Liz Knox was nominated and ended up winning and I was like, ‘oh, that’s so cool.’ It’s really awesome to be nominated for something like that now.”

The OWL Award recognizes a female Laurier student who combines athletic achievement with active leadership and commitment to the development of young athletes in the community.

Baker, a kinesiology student, is the captain of the women’s rugby team and has played every year except her first, where she sat out due to injury. She was a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Academic All-Canadian in 2011 and is a student coordinator in the aquatics department. Baker also participated in PowderPuff and intramurals and currently is a Special Olympics swim coach in Kitchener-Waterloo.

“[What it means] is a scary question that people keep asking me,” Baker said. “It obviously means a lot coming from rugby, and being captain and everything. It’s crazy.”

Bonsu, a history and English major, is a forward on the women’s basketball team and has earned Laurier’s Female Athlete of the Week twice. She has finished in the top ten in the country for offensive rebounding in the last two seasons. She is involved with numerous basketball camps while being a part of Laurier’s Students for Learning, focusing on children’s literacy throughout K-W.

“It helps with self-esteem and confidence as well,” Bonsu said. “Giving back makes me happy and you can see it in the kids’ smiles. All of that, outside of basketball, that builds my self-esteem as well. It’s so cool to see how it all comes together.”

Lester served as the captain of the women’s hockey team the past year. She has been named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) first-team all-star twice during her tenure and a CIS Academic All-Canadian three times, while also being one of two Canadian athletes named to the Capital One Academic All-America College Division first team and winning the Luke Fusco Academic Athletic Achievement Award in 2012. She works for the Laurier girls hockey camp as a counsellor and instructor in the summer and is a supervisor with the Ontario Ranger Program.

“I think OWL is just a great thing we have at Laurier, that it’s able to recognize female athletes as well as give back to female athletes,” Lester said. “We as student athletes at Laurier still love to play hockey and it’s still a huge part of our lives and makes our university experience so great.”

While all three athletes have excelled during their tenure at WLU, they emphasized how much of an honour it would be to win the award. All three said they couldn’t picture winning the award.

“It’s hard to say because I can’t even picture it,” Baker said. “I think just being a finalist has done amazing things for me. I can’t even imagine being elite with the other two finalists. These are awesome, amazing women that I’m now comparable to.”

“I’d be speechless,” Bonsu said, laughing. “I don’t even know what to say, I’d be like this. Just being nominated in itself is insane. I don’t know. I don’t know. The girls I’m going up against are top calibre. So if I win, we all win. If I win, I represent all of them.”

“I never really thought of that,” Lester said. “It would be really exciting and obviously be a big honour and further back up my continued goal to promote women in athletes and promote what a great experience it has been in my life and it’d be another reason to be a role model to younger athletes, which would be awesome to continue.”

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