The stars were out as Vernon’s best in athletics were recognized at the second annual Rotary North Okanagan Athletic Awards at the Best Western Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre Wednesday night.
You know it’s an important night when Vernon hockey product and Ottawa Senator Curtis Lazar and two-time Paralympic curling champion Ina Forrest are hosting the party. Fulton alumni Cassandra Brown also made a guest apperance as the gold-medalist W.L. Seaton Jazz ensemble cranked out harmonic tunes.
But this night was about the athletes and the schools they competed for.
Vernon Secondary and Fulton hauled in the most trophies. The Panthers walked away with nine awards and the Maroons with seven.
Fulton’s Tye Kitzman brought home the Most Outstanding Male Athlete for his dominance on the basketball court and his quarterback play.
“This feels great, to work so hard for so long all through the years and it’s finally paying off,” said Kitzman, who will play for the Okanagan Sun this summer.
Kitzman was named a first team all-star in six basketball tournaments and was named player of the game 11 times in tournaments and provincials. He was voted the all-star quarterback by the Interior Conference Football coaches and was the fifth-ranked passer in B.C. AA football.
Jordan Korol was rewarded for her hard work on the VSS volleyball and basketball teams. Despite contracting mono right before her basketball provincials, she was still named Most Outstanding Female Athlete.
“I was surprised when I won, I missed a lot of time becuase I was sick,” said Korol. “It felt very good to win and I was very excited.”
Korol will spend the summer training for next season when she suits up with the UBCO Heat women’s basketball team. Unsure of what she wants to do, she plans to start in the arts program and figure the rest out as it happens.
Halfway through the awards, Forrest gave a moving speech about sports in her life. She was struck by an impaired driver when she was 21, paralyzing her from the waist down. For a while she could only see the negative impacts of her injury, but then she found curling and turned all of her challenges into new opportunities: “Today is the beginning of the rest of my life.”
And Brad Pitt could have walked in the room and no one would have noticed – everyone was fixated on Lazar and his magnetic smile.
Whenever Lazar presented an award, he had everyone’s attention.
The latest NHL star to come from Vernon took time to meet and greet plenty of athletes and gave a speech about how important hard work is.
Lazar drove home facts about how to carry yourself and to remember your teammates and where you came from.
Fulton boys volleyball coach Richard Bedard was named Coach of the Year, Panthers football was named Most Outstanding Team and Jamie Pruckl of VSS won the Patrick Nicol Award for being the most outstanding booster to a team.
Pruckl was ineligible for his senior basketball season after transferring from Kalamalka. He attended every practice, worked his tail off and acted as an assistant coach during games.
Zac Kronbauer won Best All-Round Male Athlete for his work on the gridiron with the Panthers. He was named Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season and the Provinical Offensive Player of the Year.
Victoria Grahn of Charles Bloom Secondary won Best All-Round Female Athlete.
The straight-A student plays volleyball, basketball, soccer and ultimate frisbee.