OUA announces 2017-18 track and field major awards

Photos by Gerry Marentette
Photos by Gerry Marentette

BURLINGTON, Ont. - Ontario University Athletics (OUA) is excited to announce the 2017-18 track and field major award winners coming after last weekend’s provincial championships took place at the University of Windsor.

After capturing three gold medals at the OUA Championships last weekend, the Hec Phillips Trophy, which is given to the overall most valuable performer in men’s track and field, has been awarded to Tommy Land (Normandale, Ont.) of the Guelph Gryphons.

The fifth year mechanical engineering major had a meet to remember, as he crossed the finish line first in the 1000m on Friday in a time of 2:26.48. He followed that up with a 600m win the next day, running a time of 1:19.32. Land, who was the OUA Rookie of the Year in 2014, was also a member of the gold medal winning 4x400 relay that ran a time of 3:19.68. Running on the third leg, he split the fastest time among all leg runners with a mark of 48.68 seconds.

Land is the first Gryphon to receive the Hec Phillips Trophy since Anthony Romaniw took home the honour back in 2013.

For the third time in four years, the Dr. Wendy Jerome Trophy award goes to a member of the Varsity Blues, as Lucia Stafford (Toronto, Ont.) is recognized as the Overall Most Valuable Performer in women’s track and field.

Not to be outdone by her sister, Gabriela Stafford, who also received the honour in 2016, Lucia was nothing short of golden over the course of the two days. On Day 1, Stafford took home the 1000m title, leading the race right from the gun en route to running an impressive 2:45.48. Later that evening, she anchored her team to a 4x800m gold medal, where her relay ran a nation’s best time of 8:52.23. Stafford then came back the next day to finish the job in the 1500m, where she crossed the line first in a time of 4:28.73.

Land and Stafford, who each leave the OUA Championships with three first place finishes, were also honoured as First-Team OUA All-Stars for their golden performances. They will go forward as the OUA nominees for the U SPORTS Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

No stranger to major awards, the Western Mustangs Jack Sheffar (London, Ont.) has been named the Most Valuable Performer on the track. Sheffar, who was named the Overall Most Valuable Performer a year ago, was able to retain his OUA titles at last weekend’s festivities in both the 1500m and 3000m races.

The distance races were electrifying in Windsor, as Sheffar was able to drop the field in the last lap of the 3000m event, crossing the finish line first in a time of 8:23.94. Looking to double down on his gold medal from Day 1, meanwhile, Sheffar tested his wheels in the 1500m the next day, beating out the competition by less than a second with a time of 3:49.42.

Switching from the track to the field, it was another dominant provincial championship for York Lions jumper Nick Fyffe (Vancouver, B.C), who is being recognized as the Most Valuable Performer in the field for 2018.

Entering his final year with the Lions, Fyffe was able to capture his first medal in the long jump event on Friday night, as he placed third overall with a jump of 7.04m. Saving his best for last, however, Fyffe entered the triple jump competition on Day 2 as the clear favourite and he did not disappoint. Fyffe took home the crown with a personal best jump of 15.17m. The mark was not only good enough to clinch his fourth straight gold medal in the event, but it also broke the 11 year-old OUA record of 15.13m held by fellow Lion Marlon Nangle from 2007.

The Windsor Lancers women’s track and field team finished second overall at the OUA Championships, and as a result, three athletes have been recognized for their performances on the track, in the field and within the community.

Putting the entire conference on notice this season, the award for Most Valuable Performer on the track goes to Kelsey Balkwill (Woodslee, Ont.) of the Windsor Lancers.

In only her first year with her new team, Balkwill has had one of the most impactful seasons of any Lancer to don the blue and gold. Coming into the 300m sprint as the No. 1 nationally ranked athlete in that event, Balkwill had her sights set on gold, and she accomplished just that by crossing the line in a blistering 38.13 mark. Doubling up the distance on Day 2, she featured in the 600m final as well and led from start to finish therein, coming through in a time of 1:30.62.

After finally capturing that elusive double gold medal performance, Sarah Mitton (Brooklyn, N.S) of the Windsor Lancers is being recognized as the Most Valuable Performer in the field.

Entering the competition as the defending champ and No. 1 nationally ranked thrower in the shot-put event, Mitton beat out the competition on Day 1 by almost three meters, throwing an impressive 16.82m for her efforts. She followed that up with a throw of 16.47m in the weight throw competition the next morning, which was also helped her capture gold in that event.

For her contributions on and off the track, Windsor Lancers distance phenom Stefanie Smith (London, Ont.) is this year’s winner of the female Student-Athlete Community Service Award.

Smith currently volunteers her time with the university’s Adapted Physical Exercise Research Group, where she works with participants with autism spectrum disorder and an intellectual disability, training them twice a week in a specific fit program. Volunteering with Learn to Run clinics, working with UWorkItOutUWin, and coaching with the University of Windsor Athletic Club Youth Cross Country program, Smith has combined her passion for physical activity with her drive to support others during her time as a varsity athlete.

The fifth year distance specialist also placed fourth in the 1500m (4:36.26), fourth in the 4x800m relay (9:10.57), and fifth in the 3000m (9:39.66), qualifying for the U SPORTS championships in all three events.

Fifth year heptathlete and school record holder Mark Emode (Windsor, Ont.) of the Guelph Gryphons is the recipient of the male Student-Athlete Community Service Award.

Showing his versatility as a multi-event athlete, Emode is used to excelling in numerous disciplines, including off the track. Serving as a Dietary Aide, providing therapeutic meal service to patients at the Guelph General Hospital, as well coaching high school aged athletes as a track and field instructor, Emode divides his time well between athletics, academics, and community. Along with being a team captain, he shines in the field of nutrition as a volunteer with the Food Bank annual for events like World Hunger on campus, as well as being a member of the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals where Mark is engaged in industry-related seminars and fundraisers.

Emode is the two-time gold medallist in the newly upgraded heptathlon event, placing first at this year’s championship, and is ranked No. 2 nationally in that event.

Staying with the Guelph Gryphons, they couldn’t have asked for a better debut at the OUA championship, as those from Morgan Byng (Alliston, Ont.) and Mark Bujnowski (Mount Brydges, Ont.) have earned them recognition as the Female and Male Rookie of the Year award recipients.

Looking like she’s done this all before, Byng came away from the OUA Championships with three medals around her neck, helping her team lift an OUA banner once again. On Day 1, she featured in the women’s 300m, shocking the field and sneaking on to the podium with a time of 39.12 seconds. Day 2 was strictly relays for Byng, as she was the lead-off leg for her 4x200m team that not only captured gold, but took down the 25 year-old OUA record (1:38.75), running a time of 1:38.38. She capped off the weekend with more gold, running the second leg on the 4x400m relay that cruised to a time of 3:46.16.

Bujnowski narrowly missed out on the podium on Day 1 of the men’s weight throw competition, placing fourth with a best throw of 14.90m. He turned that around quickly the same day; however, entering the shot put competition as the No. 1 ranked thrower in the nation. Bujnowski delivered therein and captured gold with a huge mark of 16.35m, giving his team a vital 10 points in the process.

With another sweep of the male and female OUA track and field banners, Gryphons head coach Dave Scott-Thomas is being honoured with both the Bob Vigars Award (Men) and Sue Wise Award (Women) as OUA Coach of the Year. Now in his 20th season as head coach, Scott-Thomas receives both awards for the second year in a row, making it his third straight and sixth overall on the women’s side, while on the men’s side it will be his fourth Coach of the Year award overall.

The complete list of major awards winners can be found below:

Men’s Major Awards

Hec Phillips Trophy – Overall Most Valuable Performer
Tommy Land – Guelph Gryphons

Most Valuable Performer – Field
Nick Fyffe – York Lions

Most Valuable Performer – Track
Jack Sheffar – Western Mustangs

Student-Athlete Community Service Award
Mark Emode – Guelph Gryphons

Rookie of the Year
Mark Bujnowski – Guelph Gryphons

Bob Vigars Coach of the Year
Dave Scott-Thomas – Guelph Gryphons

Women’s Major Awards

Dr. Wendy Jerome Trophy – Overall Most Valuable Performer
Lucia Stafford – Toronto Varsity Blues

Most Valuable Performer – Field
Sarah Mitton – Windsor Lancers

Most Valuable Performer – Track
Kelsey Balkwill - Windsor Lancers

Student-Athlete Community Service Award
Stefanie Smith – Windsor Lancers

Rookie of the Year
Morgan Byng – Guelph Gryphons

Sue Wise Coach of the Year
Dave Scott-Thomas – Guelph Gryphons