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Track and field stars sweep top Gryphon awards

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Just like old times.

It was like stepping into the past Thursday night at the University of Guelph’s athletic department’s annual banquet as track and field athletes took both athlete-of-the-year awards.

Runner Tommy Land was named the male athlete of the year for the 2016-17 school year and thrower Ashley Connell was honoured as the female athlete of the year.

It was the 11th time a male track and field athlete and 15th time a female track and field athlete either won their gender’s award or was a co-winner of it.

“I worked very hard this season, but it takes an incredible support staff to get to this level,” Land said. “It was a small army getting me here and I just want to thank my coaches, my teammates, my family – my family the most. It’s an honour receiving an award like this and honestly it’s been a lot of hard work. There were a lot of minutes on the bike. That stationary bike, man it was killing me this season. Taking care of details is what gets you here and I’m really appreciative of the award.”

“It’s a great way to go out,” Connell said. “Never, ever coming in first year I thought I would win this. I had a lot of people behind me this year and I came out and really performed — thanks to them.”

It was the seventh time track and field athletes either won or co-won both awards.

In 2001-02, Reid Coolsaet was co-winner of the men’s award and Michaela McClure was co-winner of the women’s award.

Patrick Szpak was the male athlete of the year in 2007-08 and Lindsay Carson was the female athlete of the year.

Carson won the women’s award again in 2008-09 when Kyle Boorsma won the men’s award.

Boorsma took the men’s award again in 2009-10 and Rachel Cliff won the women’s award.

In 2012-13, Anthony Romaniw was the male athlete of the year and Andrea Seccafien was a co-winner of the women’s award.

Ross Proudfoot won the men’s award in 2014-15 and Carise Thompson was the female athlete of the year.

Both Land and Connell were fourth-year Gryphs and are likely done their university track and field careers

“This was definitely my best season,” Land said. “It’s been a hell of a ride. It was great to win a team title, I hadn’t done it yet. This is my fourth year here and we finally got it done. We were second place three years in a row and finally in my last year, it’s great to end it off in a first.”

The Gryphon men won the U Sports men’s track and field championship title in the national meet at Edmonton early in March for the first time since 2013 and fourth time overall, all since 2008.

“Leading my team to a gold medal was awesome,” Land said. “I helped put gold medals around everyone’s neck. It was great to celebrate and see everyone as happy as I was at the championship meet. It was a hell of an experience.”

Land won the 600 metres and was second in the 1,000m at the national meet.

Throughout the season he kept the thought of winning the national title in his mind.

“One of my biggest role models in life is Connor McGregor. He’s got a big thing on visualization and right from the beginning of the season I saw it,” Land said. “Every day I woke up in the morning and I visualized winning and that’s what eventually ended up happening. So Connor McGregor, toast to him.”

Land plans on staying around Guelph this summer to train for either FISU (world university championship meet) or World Games.

“I’d love to make one of the two Canadian teams and I’ll try my best to achieve that goal,” he said.

He’s also planning on competing in the New Balance Speed River Track and Field Club’s annual Inferno meet, a stop on the National Track League schedule in June.

“Last year was supposed to be my first year, but I got injured so hopefully this year I’ll be in it,” he said. “I hope to win the Inferno.”

He’ll run the 800 metres there.

Connell will finish her university career with school records in both the women’s shot put and weight throw. She won gold in both at the U Sports meet in Edmonton.

“This year was definitely my best (season) – double gold, school records,” she said. “I think I pretty well topped out my career. Maybe there’s more in there, but I’ve got to move on now.”

Connell went into the national meet ranked in the top two in both events so podium finishes weren’t going to be a surprise.

“I pretty well knew I would have two podium finishes,” she said. “Coming into Nationals, I was first and second. Getting two firsts was going to be tough because the girl ahead of me, she’s thrown far for the last couple of years. But at Nationals she just somehow freezes a little bit and I perform at the high meets which really helped me out for getting on the podium at the top.”

She also had a little extra incentive at the meet.

“I had five of my family members come out to Edmonton and you always have to perform well when your parents show up and your grandparents show up.”

While the university track and season has been over for about three weeks now, Connell already misses it.

“Hanging out with my teammates day in and day out, that’s what I’m going to miss the most,” she said. “We hang out 20-plus hours a week and even more on top of that because we’re just so close. Laughing with them and stuff like that, that’s what I missed the last three weeks. I really miss that.”

At university, track and field is a team sport. While there are individual medals, most of the focus is getting the team to finish as high as it can. The Gryphon women were second in the U Sports championship meet.

That team focus means that athletes are often at the track on days they don’t compete.

“You’re there for your teammates and you’re cheering them on,” Connell said. “My first events were the first two days and the third day, I screamed at my teammates all day long. My voice was gone by the end of the day. Having teammates, you want them to do as well as they can. They were there for me the first day and the second day and I just want to be there for them.”

A Bachelor of Arts in Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics student, Connell returns home to the family farm in Brockville every summer and that means little time or energy left to compete in outdoor track and field meets. Track and field is an indoor sport at the university level.

“I have (competed outdoors) but I haven’t done very well mostly because I go home for summer and I live on a dairy farm so it’s work, work, work,” she said. “There’s not a lot of time to throw. I did throw, especially last year, but I didn’t throw very well. When I come to school I focus on track and school and a little bit of a social life. When I go home it’s pretty well work and then it’s track if you’ve got some time, but by the end of the day I’m exhausted.”

She also figures the recently-completed university season was likely the end of her track and field career. After graduating this spring the plan is that she joins her older brother, father and uncle in running the family farm.

“I’m wearing black because it’s a funeral for my career,” she said. “Double gold and top it off with this award, you can’t beat that.”


University of Guelph Athletics

Major Awards

Male athlete of the year: Tommy Land, track and field.
Female athlete of the year: Ashley Connell, track and field.
W.F. Mitchell sportsman: Justin Springer, men’s soccer.
W.F. Mitchell sportswoman: Cierra Carere, women’s wrestling.
President’s Trophy male student/athlete: Ethan Danielli, men’s soccer.
President’s Trophy female student/athlete: Devon Stober, women’s rugby.
Fred Ramprashad biological science scholarship: Devon Stober, women’s rugby.
Don Cameron most improved male athlete: Kendrick Kerr, men’s volleyball.
Shirley Peterson most improved female athlete: Olivia Lane, field hockey.
Scott Yanchus male rookie of the year: Keysean Powell, football and track and field.
Dr. Mary Beverley-Burton female rookie of the year: Shyvonne Roxborough, track and field.
Gunner Obrascovs trainer of the year: Jessica Johnston, men’s soccer.
Cathy Rowe manager of the year: Brittany Thalen, women’s basketball.
Gryphon sports moment of the year: Mark Perrin kicking winning goal in overtime kickoff in OUA men’s rugby final.
Student-athlete mentor: Libbie Pritchard, field hockey.

Team Awards

Baseball – MVP: Nicholas Interisano.
Basketball, men – MVP: Ahmed Haroon; MIP: Tommy Yanchus.
Basketball, women – MVP: Sarah Holmes; MIP: Haley Belyk.
Cross country, men – MVP: Brayden Seneca; rookie: Mitchell Ubene.
Cross country, women – MVP: Katelyn Ayers; rookie: Hannah Woodhouse.
Field hockey – MVP: Olivia Lane; MIP: Katherine MacMillan.
Figure skating – MVP: Leeann Duncan; MIP.
Football – MVP: Lukas Korol; rookie: Kian Schaffer-Baker; Wildman: Rob Carnegie.
Golf, men – MVP: Marc-Anthony Manion.
Golf, women – MVP: Madeline DeCorso.
Hockey, men – MVP: Rob Lepine; rookie: Marc Stevens.
Hockey, women – MVP: Katherine Bailey; rookie: Sydney Davison.
Lacrosse, men – MVP: Brett Ulbikas.
Lacrosse, women – MVP: Taylor Kidd.
Nordic skiing, men – MVP: David Laurie.
Nordic skiing, women – MVP: Laryssa Kemp.
Rowing, men – MVP: Mykael Hughes-Mussio.
Rowing, women – MVP: Carly Zanatta.
Rugby, men – MVP: Eric Charest-Pekeski; rookie: MacLain Wakefield.
Rugby, women – MVP: Alexandra King; rookie: Amara Hill.
Soccer, men – MVP: Tomasz Skublak; MIP: Mitchell Lefebvre.
Soccer, women – MVP: Allison Clouse; MIP: Alyssa Hodgson.
Swimming, men – MVP: Evan van Moerkerke; MIP: Rodrigo Rozo.
Swimming, women – MVP: Emily Anzai; MIP: Katherine Scheuermann.
Track and field, men – MVP: Tommy Land; rookie: Keysean Powell.
Track and field, women – MVP: Ashley Connell; rookie: Shyvonne Roxborough.
Volleyball, men – MVP: Kendrick Kerr; MIP: Matthew Baxter.
Volleyball, women – MVP: Maddie DeDecker; MIP: Kayla McMullen.
Wrestling, men – MVP: Elvir Uzunovic; MIP: Kyle Robinson.
Wrestling, women – MVP: Gracelynn Doogan; MIP: Chelsey Sicard.

Four-Year Honours

Baseball: Denver Carter, Joseph Ciccia, Mitchell Ewing, Matthew Forer, Gordon Walmsley.
Basketball: Taylor Boers, Colin Corrigan, Daniel Dooley, Andrew Grant, Ahmen Haroon, Drew Walford, Jonathan Wallace.
Cross country/Track and field: Tommy Land, Liam Stiles, Katelyn Ayers, Cheryse Mitton, Heather Petrick, Olivia Romaniw, Sophia Watts, Madeline Yungblut.
Field hockey: Morgan Kelley, Nicole Paola, Libbie Pritchard, Melissa Vogl.
Figure skating: Erin Campbell, Madeleine Commisso, Leann Duncan, Kelsey Sobkowich, MacKenzie Wilson.
Football: Johnny Augustine, Riley Baines, Jailon Bell, John Birnie, Justis Croasdale, Derek Drouillard, Orion Edwards, Brandon Gordon, Shaquille Munroe, Jacob Scarfone.
Golf: Marc-Anthony Manion, Breanna Shannon.
Hockey: Keith Hamilton, Thomas Kohler, Kelly Gribbons.
Lacrosse: Olivia Kaminski, Taylor Kidd, Jaimie Rodriguez.
Nordic skiing: Lucas Parsons, Michael Solomon, Elise Huet.
Rowing: Olivia Shotyk.
Rugby: Antoine Alblas, Blake Aram, Riley Bruce, Samuel Evans, Eric Howard, Michael Little, Zachariah Lockhart, Mark Perrin, Andrew Sicilia, Scott Sopel, Kendra Blackbourn, Rita Charest-Pekseki, Cara Humeniuek, Stephanie Lapointe, Alyssa McDonald, Chloe Runge, Emily Samek, Amy Sweet, Riley Taylor.
Soccer: Benjamin Caranci, Zachary Rushe, Danielle Canhoto, Meredith Langston, Sarah Magalhaes, Holly Miller.
Swimming: Myles Zagar, Emily Anzai, Tara Mallory.
Track and field: Shawn Beaudoin, Kristian Benjamin, Sean Cate, Nicholas Earle, Mark Emode, Austin Marchese, Kyle Thompson, Connor Young, Ashley Connell, Vanessa Oliver.
Volleyball: Joshua Green, Conan Mickey, Maddie DeDecker, Kayla McMullen, Cayte Wilson.
Wrestling: Colin Dempsey, Oren Furmanov, Elvir Uzanovic, Alison Carrow, Natassya Lu.

U Sports Major Awards

Women’s cross country coach of the year: Dave Scott-Thomas.
Field hockey player of the year: Olivia Lane.
Field hockey R.W. Pugh fair play award: Guelph Gryphons.
Canadian University Rowing Association president’s award: Dave Leger.
Men’s track and field rookie of the year: Keysean Powell.
Men’s track and field outstanding athlete of championship meet: Tommy Land.
Men’s track and field coach of the year: Dave Scott-Thomas.
Wrestling women’s R.W. Pugh fair play award: Natassya Lu.

U Sports First Team All-Canadians

Cross county: Katelyn Ayers.
Hockey: Katherine Bailey, Valerie Lamenta.
Rugby: Alexandra King, Devon Stober.
Track and field: Tommy Land, Gregory MacNeill, Jared Skeath, Kyle Thompson, Ashley Connell (two events).
Wrestling: Gracelynn Doogan.

U Sports Second Team All-Canadians

Rugby: Julia Schell.
Soccer: Justin Springer.
Track and field: Sean Cate, Jackson Cheung, Tommy Land, Keysean Powell, Jordan Bates, Shyvonne Roxborough.
Volleyball: Kendrick Kerr.
Wrestling: Elvir Uzunovic, Cierra Carere.

U Sports All-Canadians

Field hockey: Ciara Condon, Olivia Lane, Rebecca Plouffe.

OUA Major Awards

Women’s cross country coach of the year: Dave Scott-Thomas.
Field hockey player of the year: Olivia Lane.
Women’s hockey coach of the year: Rachel Flanagan.
Men’s lacrosse CUFLA outstanding graduating player: Brett Ulbikas.
Women’s rower of the year: Carly Zanatta.
Men’s rugby most valuable player: Eric Howard.
Men’s rugby coach of the year: Cory Hector.
Women’s rugby Shiels Division most valuable player: Julia Schell.
Women’s rugby Shiels Division community service award: Kendra Blackbourn.
Men’s soccer championship game most valuable player: Alex Zis.
Women’s soccer West Division rookie of the year: Victoria Hinchliffe.
Women’s soccer West Division coach of the year: Randy Ragan.
Women’s swimming graduating athletic award of distinction: Emily Anzai.
Men’s swimming graduating athletic award of distinction: Evan Van Moerkerke.
Men’s track and field rookie of the year: Keysean Powell.
Men’s track and field most valuable performer field events: Jared Skeath.
Men’s track and field coach of the year: Dave Scott-Thomas.
Women’s track and field coach of the year: Dave Scott-Thomas.
Women’s volleyball coach of the year: Paul Funk.
Women’s outstanding wrestler: Natassya Lu.

OUA First Team All-Stars

Baseball: Nick Interisano.
Cross-country: Brayden Seneca, Katelyn Ayers.
Figure skating: Andrew McDonald, Leeann Duncan, Claire Hughes, Laura Lourenco, Jade Morrow, Kelsey Sobkowich.
Football: Job Reinhart.
Hockey: Katherine Bailey, Valerie Lamenta.
Swimming: Evan van Morerkerke.
Track and field: Sean Cate, Mark Emode, Tommy Land, Gregory MacNeill, Jared Skeath, Kyle Thompson, Jordan Bates, Ashley Connell, Lauren DiAgnolo, Tessa Hamilton, Shyvonne Roxborough (two events), Jenna Smith.
Volleyball: Kendrick Kerr.
Wrestling: Gracelynn Doogan, Natassya Lu.

OUA Second Team All-Stars

Baseball: Troy Lacoste.
Cross county: Mark Patton, Benjamin Workman, Katrina Allison, Cheryse Mitton, Heather Petrick, Sophie Watts.
Football: Nick Parisotto, Andrew Pickett.
Golf: Marc-Anthony Manion, Josh Polisuk.
Hockey: Kelly Gribbons, Kaitlin Lowy.
Swimming: Emily Anzai.
Track and field: Tommy Land, Keysean Powell (two events), Brandon Shirk, Jared Skeath, Benjamin Workman, Emily Bowerman, Ashley Connell, Sarah Hammond, Jenna Smith.
Wrestling: Kyle Robinson, Elvir Uzunovic, Cierra Carere.

OUA All-Stars

Field hockey: Ciara Condon, Olivia Lane.
Rowing: Carly Zanatta.
Rugby: Ryan Brethour, Eric Charest-Pekeski, Jordan Hofstra, Eric Howard, Cody Weese-Burton, Jeremy Wright.

OUA West Division First Team All-Stars

Soccer: Justin Springer, Allison Clouse, Victoria Hinchliffe.
Volleyball: Kendrick Kerr, Maddie DeDecker.

OUA West Division Second Team All-Stars

Hockey: Rob Lepine, Mac Nichol.
Soccer: Ethan Danielli, Jace Kotsopoulos, Tomasz Skublak, Libby Brenneman, Andrea Cimino.
Volleyball: Samuel Kloke, Libby Donevan, Victoria Golebiowski.

OUA Shiels Division All-Stars

Rugby: Alexandra King, Alyssa McDonald, Julia Schell, Kylie Shaughnessy, Devon Stober.

OUA All-Rookie Team

Football: Kian Schaffer-Baker, Coulter Woodmansey.
Hockey: Sydney Davison.

OUA West Division All-Rookie Team

Volleyball: Alex Curran, Michaela Hellinga.

CUFLA West Division All-Canadians

Lacrosse: Nathan McKenzie, Brett Ulbikas.