Winter sport athletes win big at Sport Yukon awards

Wintertime athletes, coaches and administrators swept the awards at the 41st annual Sport Yukon Awards Night on Thursday at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

One only has to look out the window these days to see why winter sport athletes excel in Yukon.

Wintertime athletes, coaches and administrators swept the awards at the 41st annual Sport Yukon Awards Night on Thursday at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

Whitehorse cross-country skiers Knute Johnsgaard and Dahria Beatty, who are both members of the national team, were named the male and female international athletes of the year.

Beatty, 22, notched a career-best 15th place finish in a FIS World Cup sprint last March. Soon after she won two gold and a silver at the Haywood Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, placing second in the open women’s aggregate standings.

Beatty placed 25th in a sprint at a World Cup in Switzerland two weeks ago and this past weekend placed 26th in a 10-kilometre free race in La Clusaz, France for her best distance race result in a World Cup race. Both finishes earned her points on the World Cup circuit.

“I was very honoured when my mom texted me to tell me I had won. There are so many talented athletes in the Yukon it means a lot to be recognized among them,” said Beatty in an email to the News. “I had a really great weekend racing the Davos WC last weekend, finishing 25th in the sprint, then adding this award was wonderful.”

Johnsgaard, 24, claimed his first top-30 World Cup finish last March, securing his first FIS points of his career. He also won a bronze in the 10-kilometre classic at the nationals and placed fourth in the open men’s aggregate standings.

“It was a nice surprise to wake up to in France. Being so far away I had forgotten all about the awards night and that I was even nominated for the award,” said Johnsgaard in an email.

“My highlight from last season was racing my first European World Cups and scoring my first world cup points.

“I’d like to commend the other athletes nominated for all the hard work I’m sure they’ve put in to get to where they are.”

Whitehorse hockey player Dylan Cozens scored National/Territorial Male Athlete of the Year on Thursday.

This past May the 15-year-old became the first Yukon-born player ever to be selected first-round in the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft, going to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in Alberta. He went on to score a goal in his first WHL game last month.

Cozens was named team MVP for the Delta Hockey Academy bantam prep team in B.C. at the end of last season. The winger finished the season second on the team in scoring with 31 points in 25 games. Cozens led his team in scoring in two premier western Canadian tournaments with All-Star and MVP honours along the way.

The Yukon Mustangs rep team alumni currently leads his midget prep team at Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C.,

“We talked to Dylan and like most teenagers he had a lot of things to say, and what he’d like to pass along is thanks to Sport Yukon and all sports bodies represented here, his recognition of the other nominees who have also achieved a high level in their individual sports,” said father Mike, accepting the award on his son’s behalf.

“He knows that what he’s come to today in his hockey career is a result of a lot of other individuals who have supported him and worked hard for him.”

A season full of great results has landed Whitehorse figure skater Mikayla Kramer the National/Territorial Female Athlete of the Year award.

The Arctic Edge Skating Club member placed fourth in pre-novice women at last year’s B.C./Yukon Section Championships and went on to finish 21st out of 60 skaters at Skate Canada Challenge.

More recently, the 14-year-old placed 23rd out of 60 skaters in novice women 2017 Skate Canada Challenge in Quebec at the start of this month. Kramer, who represented Yukon at the 2015 Canada Winter Games and the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, qualified for Challenge with a fourth place finish at the section championships in November. She also placed third in novice women at SummerSkate in August and eighth at Autumn Leaves in October.

“I was not expecting to win the award at all,” said Kramer. “I didn’t even know I was nominated until a couple of weeks ago, but I’m happy I won it. I just want to thank all my family for supporting me for when I travel to Kelowna and stuff like that, and all my coaches who helped me achieve all my goals.”

Joan Stanton and Claude Chabot of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club are sharing the honour of Administrator of the Year.

The two were key organizers of the 2016 Haywood Ski Nationals last March in Whitehorse, an event put on with the help of over 2,000 volunteers with 500 skiers from across Canada competing. Chabot was Chief of Race and Stanton was Chief of Event.

“We’re a small part of a very big ski community. We’re a small cog in a very big wheel,” said Chabot. “(There’s a) phenomenal volunteer community here in Whitehorse, terrific support from government, both Whitehorse and territorial — I think probably the best in the country. When I talk compatriots across the country, nobody has support like we do.”

“Thank you for this, this is really lovely and quite a surprise,” said Stanton. “The whole event was a huge group effort and so many volunteers made it the most spectacular event for our athletes, coaches and officials, and all the parents who came from across the country. We couldn’t have done it without all the skiers, sponsors and support.”

The Yukon Peewee Mustangs now have an award to go up on the mantle next to their silver medals.

The U13 rep team was named Team of the Year at the award ceremony.

The team won silver at the B.C. Hockey Championships in Tier 3 last March in West Vancouver.

The Mustangs reached the gold medal game with a 4-1 semifinal win over the Dawson Creek Canucks before a 4-1 loss to the Merritt Junior Centennials in the final.

“It was a little unexpected to have a peewee hockey team recognized for a long year of a lot of struggle, a lot of boys who had to realize they aren’t super stars and if they were going to be successful they were going to have to play as a team,” said Mustangs coach Jake Jirousek. “They understood that it was more than skating around with a puck, it was believing in each other and being accountable to one another. I think they learned how to be young men together as well, and that was one of the greatest joys to see.”

Whitehorse’s Lisa-Marie Vowk is Sport Yukon’s Coach of the Year. Vowk, who is a strength and conditioning coach for Alpine Yukon, helped the territory’s downhill skiers win six medals and place second in the team event at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Greenland.

Though nominated for her work with Alpine Yukon, Vowk works as a strength coach for 10 Whitehorse sport teams throughout each year, including Athletics Yukon and Special Olympics Yukon.

“Coaching for me has been an evolution. Moving to the Yukon 22 years ago allowed me the opportunity to become fully immersed into the sport community, which I came through as an athlete in Alberta,” said Vowk. “Watching my daughter (Katie) grow up through the years through sport has been tremendous, but it has also allowed me to be more active in the community.

“One thing I see in Yukon that I don’t see anywhere else in Canada is support from the territorial government, the sport and rec branch, Sport Yukon, and the funding and the volunteers. It’s amazing.”

While all the major awards went to people in winter sports, one summer sport was highlighted in this year’s Yukon Sports Hall of Fame induction.

Whitehorse’s Paul Butra was inducted in the builder category for his 30-plus years as a basketball coach and official in Yukon.

Butra, who is a Level 3 official and Level 3 NCCP coach, has officiated at every Arctic Winter Games since 1988 and will be the head official at the 2018 Games.

Since moving to Yukon in 1983 he has coached high school and Yukon rep teams, served as president of Basketball Yukon from 1989 to 2003, was a member of Basketball Canada’s President’s Council from 1995 to 2003, and continues to work in the sports community as a member of Sport Yukon’s board of directors.

To this day it’s rare to attend a basketball game in Yukon without Butra in the black and white stripes with a whistle in his lips.

“I can’t believe I did that much. You just do things and when someone lists it all, it becomes amazing what it ends up you’re doing over that amount of time,” said Butra at the ceremony.

“I’m truly honoured yet humbled to be inducted into the Sport Hall of Fame as a builder. Honoured to have Basketball Yukon feel I have contributed that much to basketball in Yukon and humbled Sport Yukon feels I should be the newest member of the Hall of Fame.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com