Yukon sports diversity highlighted at awards night

There was a real mixed bag of award recipients at the Sport Yukon Awards Night on Thursday.

There was a real mixed bag of award recipients at the Sport Yukon Awards Night on Thursday.

For the first time in years, every major award winner was from a different sport at the 40th annual event at the Yukon Convention Centre.

Major award winners came from track running, cross-country skiing, figure skating, curling, hockey, biathlon, equestrian sports and the Hall of Fame inductees from table tennis and archery.

Whitehorse’s Darby McIntyre was on the stage almost as much as the event’s emcee.

The 16-year-old track runner received an Award of Excellence, Male Athlete of the Year for Special Olympics Yukon and Most Inspiring Runner of the Year by Athletics Yukon.

However, before those McIntyre (a.k.a. “The Yukon Flash”) won International Male Athlete of the Year.

“(I am) shocked and excited at the same time,” said McIntyre. His season’s highlights included, “All the athletes I got to be with. There were some gorgeous ones.”

McIntyre captured two medals in athletics at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games last July and early August in California. He won gold in the 5,000-metre and bronze in the 1,500-metre.

McIntyre also raced for Yukon at the Western Canada Summer Games where he placed 12th in the 1,500-metre. He will next represent Yukon at the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in cross-country skiing next month.

The category’s other nominee was cross-country skier Knute Johnsgaard.

Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa kept a win streak going in the International Female Athlete of the Year. The 26-year-old cross-country skier won the category a fourth year in a row last week.

The Sochi Olympian produced three top-30 results on the FIS World Cup tour in Europe last season and raced at her second world championships last March. She then flew back to Canada just in time to claim gold in the women’s 10-kilometre classic at the Haywood Nationals.

“It really is a great honour to win this award, and it is really meaningful to me,” said Nishikawa in an email to the News. “It is inspiring to see so many Yukon athletes doing great things at a national and international level. 

“My highlight of 2015 was making a big break through on the World Cup, as well as the world championships in Falun.”

This past weekend Nishikawa placed 39th in women’s 30-kilometre classic at an FIS World Cup in Oslo, Norway.

The category’s other nominees were fellow cross-country skiers Dahria Beatty and Annah Hanthorn, and swimmer Bronwyn Pasloski.

With two historic gold medal wins on the national stage last season, Whitehorse figure skater Rachel Pettitt was named National Female Athlete of the Year on Thursday.

Pettitt won Yukon’s first-ever gold at the 2015 National Skating Championships in January 2015. She then won Yukon’s first-ever gold in figure skating at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

“I’m so honoured. It’s so exciting to be here,” said Pettitt, 16.

So which of the two gold medals means more to you?

“Canada Winter Games because I was representing Team Yukon and I had so many supporters there with me,” said Pettitt. “That one stood out the most for me and I got a personal best there.”

Pettitt beat out biathlete Nadia Moser and cross-country skier Kendra Murray for the award.

Whitehorse curler Thomas Scoffin swept up some major accomplishments in 2015 and was named National Male Athlete of the Year.

Scoffin, who is skip of the University of Alberta’s senior curling team, led his rink to the school’s second-ever Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s curling title last March, going 9-0 at the championships.

Already this season Scoffin and his team have twice reached the final of World Curling Tour bonspiels. He also played second for Edmonton’s Team Bottcher at the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, The

National, this past November. The Botcher rink, led by skip Brendan Bottcher, produced a win over Calgary’s Pat Simmons, the two-time defending Brier champ and 2015 world championship bronze medalist.

“I would like to thank Sport Yukon for their support of aspiring athletes in the North. The support that I’ve received from the community has been unparalleled and has given me the opportunity to pursue an athletic career at the highest level,” said Scoffin in a statement read by his father Wade.

“Thank you to the Yukon Curling Association, the Whitehorse Curling Club, and all members of the curling community for their continued encouragement and support. We are so lucky to have such a fantastic facility here in Whitehorse and it’s always a treat to come back for some home-ice practice during the holidays.”

The Whitehorse Bantam Mustangs won so often last season that they also won Team of the Year on Thursday. The rep hockey team became the first ever from Yukon to win gold at the B.C. Hockey Championships, where the team went undefeated, last March.

“Everybody is pretty excited,” said goalie Ethan Vanderkley. “That’s what we were all working towards since we all started playing together, which has been a few years.

“We’ve been playing together most of our hockey careers and we have a great coach, Martin Lawrie. We were a fast, skilled team.”

The Tier 3 hockey team won three tournaments during the season leading up to the B.C. championship and finished with an incredible 34-5-6 season record.

“As head coach of the association I did work with the players on and off the ice on a weekly basis and I can tell you firsthand that this young group of men epitomizes what it means to be a team,” said Whitehorse

Minor Hockey head coach Derek Klassen. “They played the game with passion, discipline and integrity.

“These boys should be forever proud of what they achieved last season.”

With huge growth in the club and successes on the national stage last season, Biathlon Yukon’s Laurie Jacobsen and Dennis Peters shared the honour of being the Coach of the Year recipients. Jacobsen and Peters have been coaches with Biathlon Yukon since the 2010 Arctic Winter Games at which they didn’t have a full team. Biathlon Yukon now has about 30 competitive biathletes in that age group.

They also coached two biathletes at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, including Nadia Moser who won Yukon its first-ever medal in biathlon at the Games, eventually leaving with a silver and two bronze. A week ago Moser reached the top-25 at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships in Romania.

“It’s an honour,” said Peters. “It feels good to be acknowledged for some of the things that have happened in Biathlon Yukon. It’s not us alone, it’s a huge effort from a lot of people … We’re not the only coaches, there’s about 10 of us up there now working with 50 youth a 30 adults.”

“It’s not just recognizing us, it’s recognizing the whole team … the whole club,” added Jacobsen, who was also named Female Coach of the Year by Biathlon Canada at the end of last season.

“I just want to thank the parents who allow their children to try out for a sport that uses guns,” she added.

After losing its showground two years ago, the Yukon Horse and Rider Association has faced numerous challenges in keeping its annual horse show going. But thanks to the efforts of people like Whitehorse’s

Sherillynne Himmelsbach, who was named Administrator of the Year, the show reached its 36th year last summer.

“I’m really proud that we’ve been able to keep it going,” said Himmelsbach. “It’s no secret that we’ve been struggling since we lost our showgrounds, and we’re trying to find a new showground for the future. But

in the mean time, just securing a place to have it year by year is an accomplishment, I think.”

For the first time since 2004, the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame had two inductees added in the same year. Table tennis coach Kevin Murphy and archery coach Les Johns were inducted at Thursday’s ceremony.

“I was pleased that there is this recognition,” said Murphy. “Sometimes you feel like you toil in obscurity for a number of years and along come something like this and puts a stamp of validation to all the hard work you put into your sport. It’s very gratifying to be recognized that way.”

“It was a surprise to me,” said Johns. “It’s an honour to be up there with all the other people who have been honoured in the sport Hall of Fame. I feel very humbled about it because I haven’t been doing it as long as some of the other ones.”

Murphy started playing table tennis in the early 1970s and captured his 20th men’s singles title at the Yukon Table Tennis Championships last April. He has coached Yukon table tennis players at 11 Arctic

Winter Games going back to 1974 and will attend his 12th next month in Greenland. He has also coached at seven Canada Winter Games spanning 40 years, beginning with the 1975 Games and his most recent last year.

Johns has been coaching with the Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle since about 2002, he said. He has coached at the last three Canada Winter Games and also at three North American Indigenous Games since 2006.

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