Laurier athletes honoured at annual banquet

For one night they traded their jerseys for suits, and cleats for high heels.

The red carpet was rolled out for Wilfrid Laurier’s varsity athletes last night at the annual athletic banquet held in the athletic complex.

Whether they hailed from the swimming pool, cross country track, or football field, athletes from all across the school converged to celebrate the best of the best from the 2010-2011 Golden Hawks.

Athletics director Peter Baxter kicked off the festivities with a speech recognizing the sacrifices and time commitment that Laurier’s athletes make year after year to help make one of the smaller universities in Canada the largest on the sports stage.

It had all the makings of a Hollywood Kodak Theater Oscars celebration.

Laurier’s finest were ushered under an arch of purple and gold balloons into a gymnasium-turned-theatre, featuring a video display board and a stage to harbour the award winners while flash bulbs went off to capture their moment in the spotlight.

Glitz and glam reigned in place of sweaty and war-torn battle gear usually donned by the players.

The ladies’ hair and dresses were prepared in prom-like fashion, and the men of Laurier showed they can clean up just as nice when they need to.

It was a breakout year for men’s basketball and women’s soccer.

Kale Harrison, who became the all-time leading scorer for the men’s basketball squad took home top male athlete of the year, while Tania Pedron, a fourth-year midfielder from Maple, Ont. took home female athlete of the year for her tireless work on the soccer pitch.

Women’s curling was awarded team of the year honours after winning both the Ontario University Athletics title and the national crown, Laurier’s only team to win the latter in 2011.

Rookie of the year awards were given to Kelsey Tikka of women’s soccer and Patrick Donnelly of men’s basketball.

Dillon Heap of men’s football and Outstanding Women of Laurier recipient, Brittany Shaw, fourth-year swimmer, took home Laurier’s academic performer of the year.

Accepting the awards, the rookies showed they excelled in modesty as well as athletic talent.

“It’s great. It was not expected at all, but I couldn’t have done it without my team,” said Tikka.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Donnelly. “We worked hard for it as a team, and I just reaped the benefits as best rookie.”

You’d be hard pressed to find an athlete who talked too much about themselves.

“I wouldn’t have got all the recognition without my amazing team I have behind me,” said Pedron. “You could pull anyone off the (women’s soccer) bench, and it could be our starting 11… I’ve never played with such talent so it was easier for me.”

While balancing a coaching job, carrying a swim team, and keeping up with classes, Shaw wears many masks, and wears them well.

When it comes to sacrifice and balance, she could teach her own course.

“It’s really exciting that people can strive to be academic at the same time as athletic,” said Shaw. “It was really hard to manage all your time, but you learn a lot (over four years), and being able to manage your time can definitely get you further in life. I think it’s important to challenge yourself even at a young age.”

While Laurier isn’t traditionally known for its basketball program, Harrison’s record-setting performance made sure his team was in future discussions for potential up-and-coming basketball Hawks making their university choice.

“Laurier’s always been a football school. I think for us [Harrison and Donnelly] to get those awards, it’s good for our program and hopefully [that success] carries on,” said the all-time points leader.