Pair of Lions roar loudest at track and field finale en route to major award recognition

Photo by York Lions
Photo by York Lions

Burlington, Ont. – When it came to the final banners being doled out, the Guelph Gryphons once again found themselves taking home the pair; a feat they have no accomplished for three straight seasons. But they weren’t the only team to post a winning formula at the OUA Track and Field Championships, as several schools saw their student-athletes step up throughout the event and have earned some major recognition for their contributions as a result. Highlighted by a pair of York Lions standouts, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) is pleased to announce the 2019 Track and Field major award winners.

On the women’s side, the Wendy Jerome Trophy recipient, recognizing the most outstanding performer of the meet, goes to a York talent who returned to the fold after taking a couple years off for international competition. Brittany Crew (East York, Ont.), who also garners Most Valuable Performer (Field) recognition, entered the event as the No. 1 thrower in Canada and she proved why with her championship performance. The 2016 Olympian turned in an OUA meet record throw of 17.77m in the shot put on Day 1 to claim the gold medal in her first event, before turning in a very similar result in her encore. The fifth-year Lion kicked off Day 2 with her second gold medal, this time in the weight throw, where she topped the pack with another OUA meet record of 18.86m.

Fellow Lion Pierce Lepage (Toronto, Ont.) was yet another school standout to excel in front of the home crowd, and for his efforts, he earns the Hec Phillips Trophy as the most outstanding male performer of the meet. To kick off his impressive medal haul, the 2018 Commonwealth Games Decathlon gold medalist made quick work of the 60m hurdles, crossing the line first in a time of 7.96s. His day didn’t end there; however, as he continued to show off his diverse skill set later in the day with a gold-medal jump of 7.51m in the long jump. To continue his impressive banner season debut, Lepage picked up a third gold medal in the high jump, with a top height of 2.01m. The Toronto native’s busy weekend also included performances in a pair of relays and the shot put, finishing sixth in the latter.

While Lepage was taking part in his first OUA championship, Western’s Jack Sheffar (London, Ont.) continued to showcase his experience and talent in his fourth provincial finale, and he added to his impressive resume with another memorable weekend. The reigning two-time champion in both the 1500m and 3000m distances was at it again in Toronto, posting a time of 3:50.97 in the former and 8:17.31 in the latter to pick up the three-peat and come away with the Most Valuable Performer (Track) nod in the process.

Another member of the Mustangs squad that stood out both on and off the field is Shaelyn Laurie (Toronto, Ont.). She turned in a 1.61m high jump effort at the championship, good for a fourth-place finish therein, and while she has jumped to the tune of a No. 5 rank across the country, she has shone even brighter with what she has done in the community.

The fourth-year student-athlete, who has earned Academic All-Canadian and Dean’s Honour List recognition each year, has been part of the United Way Young Leaders program, serving as a youth board member for the Learning Disabilities Association of London; has been a campus ambassador at her high school; raises funds and awareness for Autism Ontario as a volunteer; and contributes annually to the school’s Indigenous track and field days. She is viewed as a leader in all that she does, offers support to those on and off the team, and continues to provide her time and effort to a wide range of initiatives, which makes her a deserving recipient of this year’s Community Service Award.

Another senior student-athlete has made his mark on the community to earn the same accolades on the men’s side, and that individual is Craig Klomp (Stratford, Ont.) from the Toronto Varsity Blues. The team captain, who successfully competes in two sports, is a two-time OUA all-star in both track and cross country, and recently earned two silver medals in the 1000m and 1500m races to lead the Blues to their best finish at the provincial championships since 1993-94.

Beyond the track, Klomp has been able to find great balance as a student-athlete, mentoring the team’s younger athletes both in the sport and in the faculty of architecture; his area of study. The Stratford native was also a key contributor and volunteer with the 2017 Varsity Blues Bell Let’s Talk campaign, focusing on raising awareness for mental health. He is the co-founder of the team’s outreach committee and helped organize service-based activities such as Night the Light, Trick or Eat, and visits to Ronald MacDonald House. In his spare moments, Klomp finds time to volunteer at the local food bank, Toys for Tots at Sick Kids Hospital, as well as at retirement homes during the holiday season.

From a veteran of the squad to one of the team’s newest faces, Varsity Blues Jasmine Lew (Coquitlam, B.C.) has claimed the Rookie of the Year award. Earlier in the season, the first-year long jumper made her mark as the first Varsity Blue to break the six-meter measurement in two decades, and in her first foyer into the OUA championships, Lew did so again. Her jump of 6.01m powered her to the gold medal in the long jump and is undoubtedly the first of many great accomplishments still to come for the Toronto standout.

While each of these individuals performed at a high level on the provincial stage, they were also joined by a number of aforementioned banner-winning Gryphons in this year’s major award allocation. Lew’s top rookie counterpart on the men’s side turned in his award-winning efforts while donning the red and yellow, as Matthew MacNeill (London, Ont.) rose to the top of the first-year phenoms this season. Like his teammate, Mark Bujnowski (Mount Brydges, Ont.) did a year ago, MacNeill burst onto the university scene in a big way this weekend.

MacNeill took part in two events over the two-day event, and while he turned in a solid fifth-place performance in the men’s long (6.97m), his result in the 60m hurdles put him over the top. The first-year Gryphon finished second in the event – behind only York’s Lepage – with a silver-medal winning time of 8.27 seconds. All in all, the rookie was a key piece to the Gryphons’ championship-winning puzzle and should be for years to come.

The 2017-18 Rookie of the Year, meanwhile, turned in another award-winning performance in his sophomore season, showing his class once again as the meet’s Most Valuable Performer (Field). Bujnowski, who was also the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year last season, exited the championship the same way he entered it - as the reigning shot-put gold medalist. He claimed top spot with a 17.66m throw, almost 1.5m beyond his closest competitor, while also picking up a silver medal in weight throw with a 17.28m mark.

Bujnowski may have shone on the field, but a fellow Gryphon made herself right at home on the track. The Most Valuable Performer (Track) on the women’s side was Olivia Romaniw (Hamilton, Ont.), who turned on the jets on multiple occasions to cross the line as the victor in both the 1000m and 600m events. In the former, the star Gryphon produced a gold-medal winning time of 2:46.86, and in the latter, she earned a 1.5-second spread for first after crossing the line in a time of 1:29.96. 

Helping to guide each of these Guelph winners, along with the rest of the top-ranked women’s and men’s teams, is Dave Scott-Thomas, and for the third year in a row, the Gryphons head coach has earned a pair of Coach of the Year honours. Under Scott-Thomas’ guidance, the Gryphons came away with 36 medals – including 16 gold – to set new standards for the powerhouse program. With the wins. not only has the 21-year veteran bench boss doubled down on the hardware once again, he also brought his illustrious totals to seven Sue Wise Coach of the Year honours as the women’s top coach and five Bob Vigars Coach of the Year awards on the men’s side.

The complete list of 2019 Track & Field major award winners is as follows:

Women’s Major Awards

Wendy Jerome Trophy (Outstanding Performer) – Brittany Crew, York
Most Valuable Performer (Track) – Olivia Romaniw, Guelph
Most Valuable Performer (Field) – Brittany Crew, York
Rookie of the Year – Jasmine Lew, Toronto
Sue Wise Coach of the Year – Dave Scott-Thomas, Guelph
Community Service Award – Shaelyn Laurie, Western

Men’s Major Awards

Hec Phillips Trophy (Outstanding Performer) – Pierce Lepage, York
Most Valuable Performer (Track) – Jack Sheffar, Western
Most Valuable Performer (Field) – Mark Bujnowski, Guelph
Rookie of the Year – Matthew MacNeill, Guelph
Bob Vigars Coach of the Year – Dave Scott-Thomas, Guelph
Community Service Award – Craig Klomp, Toronto