Athletes score community awards
There was the gold medal performance on her home ice at the B.C. Winter Games in February.
Then she followed that up with five gold medals at the Western Canadian speed skating championships in Winnipeg.
On Monday, the accolades kept coming for Vernon’s Connie Kapak, as the soon-to-be Grade 7 Harwood Elementary graduate was named Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athlete of the Year.
“The gold at the B.C. Games was one of the best moments of my life, and winning five gold medals in Winnipeg came at one of the best competitions I’ve been at,” said Kapak, who will attend Vernon Secondary in the fall.
“This award is a really big honour and it’s really appreciated.”
Kapak, accompanied at Monday’s ceremony at the Okanagan Landing Tim Hortons by her dad and driver, Pete, and coach Peter Blokker, beat out basketball stars Diane Schuetze (Thompson Rivers University), Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (Simon Fraser University) and Cassandra Brown (University of Portland Pilots), ultra runner Tracy Garneau, lacrosse goalie Brodie MacDonald (Langley Thunder/Edmonton Rush), track and field sensation Tessni Carruthers (Nicholls State, Louisiana), cyclist Leah Goldstein and curlers Sonja Gaudet and Jim Cotter for the honour.
“It’s a really big competition just to get nominated,” said Kapak, who praised her father for being her support crew, chauffeur and for making things easy for her so she can compete. “There are more amazing athletes around here than were nominated.”
Cotter was recognized for his prowess on the curling ice.
His quartet from the Vernon and Kelowna curling clubs, which includes third Kevin Folk, second Ty Griffith, lead Rick Sawatzky and coach Rick Folk, was named North Okanagan Team of the Year.
Cotter skipped his team to a second consecutive men’s provincial title and a second straight appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier. His squad is rated 11th in the overall World Curling rankings.
“Anytime you get recognized in the community, it’s definitely an honour,” said Cotter, who was the only member of the squad on hand for the award presentation. “It means a lot to our team and hopefully it shows that hard work pays off.”
The Cotter rink beat out the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club for the award.
Mel Briggeman, who serves with Ken Richardson as co-chairs of the award selection committee, was startled to hear his own name called by Richardson, the emcee for Monday’s ceremonies.
Briggeman, known for his prowess as an award-winning basketball official, and for his dedication of over 50 years to many sports-related organizations in the community, was named the Leadership in Sport winner.
“I think for the leadership trophy, they should put all the names in a hat and draw one name out, they can’t go wrong,” said Briggeman, while calling for more nominations for all three awards. “I think that’s what they did this year. It’s an honour. I have enjoyed every minute of my community service.”
Briggeman is a former member of Funtastic, helped build six tennis courts at W.L. Seaton Secondary, volunteered with the B.C. Winter and Summer Games in Vernon, and still helps with wheelchair sports and Special Olympics.
He has won four previous community service honours.
Dan Currie, owner of the Tim Hortons franchises in Vernon, is happy to sponsor the awards.
“It recognizes a lot of the young athletes in our community who might not get recognized outside of our area,” said Currie, who also sits on the selection committee. “It’s always nice to see our local athletes have success wherever they go, because they help put Vernon on the map.”
Award selection committee members also include Funtastic co-founder John Topping and media members Kevin Mitchell (Morning Star), Pete McIntyre (Kiss-FM) and Betty Selin (Sun-FM).