Richmond Sports Awards winners announced

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Richmond athletes and volunteers recognized at the 15th annual Richmond Sports Awards and Recognition Banquet Thursday at R.A. McMath Secondary.

The winners include:

Sports Council Award of Merit:  Barb Norman

Being a longtime member and current vice-president of the Richmond Arenas Community Association is just one of the ways Barb Norman has contributed to sport in Richmond.

A tireless volunteer, Norman was also a member of the community stakeholders committee prior to the construction of the Richmond Olympic Oval. In 2009, she oversaw the memorable opening and closing ceremonies of the B.C. Seniors Games. She also played a key role in the evolution of the annual Richmond International Midget Hockey Tournament which has become a holiday tradition.

Official: Patti Caldwell, softball

Current District 6 umpire in chief, Caldwell organizes various clinics for new and returning umpires and was tasked with recommending officials for last year’s Canadian Open and Western Canadians held in Richmond. Under her mentorship, 10 officials were selected to the Westerns and two for the nationals. Another completed her Level 4 qualification.

Besides overseeing the crew, Caldwell continues to actively umpire herself.

Administrator: Erin Higishitani, softball

Erin Higashitani has been a coach and umpire for 18 years and served 12 years as a member of the executive of the Richmond Girls’ Softball Association, of which she is currently vice-president.

An example of those who do lead, she helps out at all tournaments and has been a mainstay at provincial and western championships for several years. She has also been tournament director for six tournaments and four provincials. Last year, she was tournament director for the combined Richmond Midget boys’ and girls’ Western Canadian championships held at Steveston-London Park.

•Igor Gantsevich, fencing, and David Weber, soccer, were also finalists for this award.

Don Fennell Award of Distinction: Don Taylor

Don Taylor is a core Richmondite.

Born and raised here, the recently retired principal has always had a passion for sports and grew up playing hockey, baseball and soccer.

An original member of the Richmond Sockeyes junior hockey club in 1972, he retains an association with the team as a school liason.

But Taylor, who also enjoys many outdoor activities including golfing and hiking, is also well known for his many  contributions to community sport as a coach and administrator. The Don Taylor Cup, awarded each year to the League Cup champion in the Richmond Adult Soccer League, reflects his dedication. Taylor was instrumental in building the league, formerly known as the Richmond Senior Soccer League, into one of the most popular and successful in the province, and was its president for more than two decades  from the 1980s through the 2000s.

Youth Female Team: U15 Richmond Synergy, girls’ soccer

The 2013 campaign was a stellar one for Ron Ng’s crew. Richmond Synergy’s efforts earned the U15 Metro Select girls’ soccer team three major titles: Metro league champions, Coastal Cup A champions, and provincial champions.

With a focus on performance rather than results, Synergy’s players continually improved as individuals throughout the course of the season and consequently collectively as well. The team moniker accurately reflected the team’s co-operative qualities, so much so that Ng was always hesitant to single out any single player as being a catalyst to the team’s success.

•Richmond Kajaks Midget Relay Team was also a finalist for this award.

Youth Male Team: Richmond Sockeyes, ice hockey

Richmond Sockeyes celebrated their 40th anniversary by winning just about every Junior B hockey title they played for, as the Pacific Junior Hockey League and provincial Cyclone Taylor Cup champions culminated the 2013 campaign by winning the Keystone Cup, symbolic of Western Canadian supremacy.

Then in a final salute to their remarkable season, two of the team’s owners Doug Paterson and Maurice Lambert, general manager Richard Petrowsky, community relations coordinator Mas Morimoto and graduating players Matt Wagner, Jeremy Hamaguchi and Rudi Thorsteinson were invited to visit city hall by Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

•U18 Metro Richmond United, soccer, and Richmond Blues Juvenile A1, ice hockey, were also finalists for this award.

Special Olympian: Matthew Lai

Hard work paid off for Matthew Lai, 22, who in 2013 represented Region 4 in the B.C. Special Olympics Summer Games in Langley at which he won silver medals in both the 100- and 200-metre sprints and a bronze medal in the shot put. He also placed fourth in the long jump.

The fine showing earned Lai a spot on Special Olympics Team B.C. which will participate in the nationals to be held this summer in Vancouver.

Lai also excels at skating and bowling and works hard to improve his personal bests each time he participates.

A true sportsman and role model, gracious in victory and defeat, Lai is also always willing to assist his fellow competitors whenever possible.

Athlete with a Disability: Vince Miele

Board chair of the Richmond Centre for Disability, Vince Miele is well known as an active member and community volunteer for many years. He’s also an ardent curler, who in 2013 competed in the final of the Canadian wheelchair championship in Ottawa playing second for skip Darryl Neighbour’s B.C. rink, which won the provincial title.

Miele competed in three leagues at both the Richmond and Marpole curling clubs and at the Richmond Centre for Disability’s seventh annual bonspiel during the 2013 season.

Adult Female: Joanne Fox, triathlete

Local triathlete Joanne Fox enjoyed a successful 2013 season, finishing first in her age bracket at the Oliver Half Ironman competition and seventh overall among all female competitors. She bettered that at the Penticton Challenge Ironman by again winning her age group and placing seventh overall among female participants.

Fox is also a coach with the Steveston Athletic Association and has been involved in sport for many years, participating in high-level amateur sport and recreational leagues as a player and coach.

•Sara Hopwood, softball, and Kaelen Watson, field hockey, were also finalists for this award.

Adult Male: Toshi Uchiage, karate

Canada’s kata king stood tall again in 2013, winning his sixth consecutive national championship.

A graduate of R.A. McMath Secondary School, Uchiage, 28, learned the martial art from his parents. His father Kenzo, opened the Steveston Karate Club in 1973.

Toshi began competing at the Canadian championships at 15 years old and by 16 won the first of 12 Canadian titles. In 2002 he became the youngest Canadian to ever compete at the senior world championships. Two years later he won a bronze medal at the worlds in Monterrey, Mexico.

•Caleb Clarke, soccer, and Evan Dunfee, race walking, were also finalists for this award.

Junior Female: Jodi Gentile, ice hockey

One of B.C.’s top Midget female hockey players, Jodi Gentile is a model of consistency.

Committed to play for the University of Lethbridge next season, where she’ll be pursuing a degree in secondary education, she is a reliable defender whose play is always of a high standard. As the assistant captain and blueliner leader for the Fraser Valley Phantom during the 2013 season, Gentile scored 22 points in 38 games. Then at the 2013 Esso Cup national championship she was honoured as the tournament’s most sportsmanlike player.

•Amelia Crawford, soccer, and Leah Lum, ice hockey, were also finalists for this award.

Junior Male: Luke Reilly, swimming

Canada’s 2013 Junior Male Swimmer of the Year, Reilly placed fifth in the men’s 400-metre individual medley race at the world junior championships in Dubai, setting a national-age group record in the process. He is the nation’s third-ranked male swimmer in the 1500-metre freestyle and had the fourth-fastest time in the 400-metre freestyle and 200-metre breaststroke events.

Now attending the University of B.C. and competing as a member of the Thunderbirds, Reilly is coached by former Richmond swimming legend Brian Johns.

•Carter Popoff, ice hockey, and Joshua Stuart, gymnastics, were also finalists for this award.

Senior Male: Danny Miller, slo pitch

Danny Miller set the standard for his Richmond slo-pitch team in just about every conceivable way in 2013 and was an obvious choice as league MVP. He led his team in batting, on-base percentage and RBI in both league and tournament play and to second-place finishes in Wenatchee and Ferndale, Wash. invitationals and at the Utah Hunstman World Senior Games.

•Jason Jim, badminton, was also a finalist for this award.

Adult Team: Richmond All Blacks, soccer

After compiling a Richmond Adult Soccer Association-best 13-2-1 record and outscoring their opposition 45 to 12, the All Blacks also won just about every title possible in 2013 including the Don Taylor League Cup, Challenge Cup and Premier Division. They capped the year by winning their sixth provincial championship, blanking Sarjenvo FC 5-0 in the BC Soccer men’s final at Victoria last May.

High School Male: Antonio Jhuty, hoops

An explosive scorer who can put up big numbers in a hurry, Antonio Jhuty’s creativity makes him one of the most valuable players in his age group in the province.

A six-foot-two guard, Jhuty led the Richmond league in scoring this past season averaging more than 20 points per game.

A member of the B.C. U17 team as a Grade 11, Jhuty has quick slashing moves, a great pull-up jumper and can hit the deep three-point shot. Paul Eberhardt, his longtime coach at R.C. Palmer, says “he is very quick in the fast break and in picking up steals in the passing lanes.”

•Jamie Madewan, basketball, and Royce Sergeant, basketball, were also finalists for this award.

High School Female: Georgia Lam, track

The 2013 track and field season was a spectacular one for Matthew McNair Secondary School student Georgia Lam.

A member of the vaunted Richmond Kajaks Track and Field Club, Lam was recognized by her school with an athletic achievement award after winning several sprint races at various meets throughout the year. They included placing first in the 100- and 200-metre events at the Fraser Valley invitational and Richmond championships and at 100, 200 and 300 metres at the provincial high school finals.

Lam, who has also played soccer at the select level for the past 10 years, was equally accomplished at the community level. Competing as a Kajak, she was one of the top athletes in the junior development program and qualified for the Canadian National Legion Championships, after winning at the 100, 200 and 300-metre distances at the provincial championships.

•Jessica Jones, basketball, and Anmol Mattu, basketball, were also finalists for this award.

Post-Secondary Female: Hillary Strelau, softball

A 2012 graduate of Hugh Boyd Secondary School, Hillary Strelau adjusted quickly to post-secondary life by helping to lift Douglas College Royals to the top of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges women’s fastball league.

Along with fellow Richmondites Emi Nomura and Sydney Jeffers, Strelau hit over .400 during the 2013 season as the Royals came within two runs of winning their first championship. Strelau was selected to the all-star team in the championship round and her .489 batting average was the highest in the conference.

Douglas College coach Gord Collings said of Strelau: “It was a challenge for anyone to get her out and as a result  she had a phenomenal record of getting on base and coming up with something when we needed it.”

A gold medallists at the Canada Summer Games, where her two RBI in the championship game lifted Team BC to first place, Strelau also assists younger athletes at various softball clinics and is a consummate community volunteer including at her church.

•Summer Clarke, soccer, and Taryn Lim, soccer, were also finalists for this award.

Post-Secondary Male: Tyson Popoff, baseball

From the lead-off position, Tyson Popoff led the 2013 version of the University of B.C. Thunderbirds men’s baseball team in just about every statistical category: batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits and RBI. He also established a new school record with a .401 batting average.

Popoff played his minor ball in Richmond up to Peewee, and won a gold medal with Team BC at the national junior championships. He also spent two seasons at Salt Lake Community College, winning All-Conference and Defensive Player of the Year honours, before joining UBC.

•Shaul Gordon, fencing, Qunton Bradley, lacrosse, and Philip Scrubb, basketball, were also finalists for this award.

Coach: Tony Lindsay, ice hockey

Tony Lindsay’s contributions to the Richmond Ravens girls’ ice hockey program are as widespread as they are profound.

Head coach of the Ravens’ Bantam A1 team, which in 2013 came within an eyelash of winning the provincial championship (a feat they achieved in 2014), Lindsay’s troops were considered one of the best teams not only in B.C. but Western Canada.

Lindsay’s contributions extend beyond the bench, however. He enthusiastically shares his coaching experience with all the other Ravens’ mentors as director of hockey development. It’s largely because of his guidance that the association has a well-earned reputation for consistently developing the top female hockey players in the province season after season.

•Ted Lorenz, soccer, and Ron Ng, soccer, were also finalists for this awar

Builder: Stephanie Kennedy, cheer

Co-founder of Richmond’s Panther Cheer Athletics a decade ago, Stephanie Kennedy is one of the leading forces in the growth of cheer in B.C.

A former president of the B.C. Cheer Association, she was raised in Richmond and completed her bachelor of science and bachelor of education at University of B.C.

She also has a master’s degree in educational leadership, specializing in curriculum and instruction, from San Diego State University.

She is a proud mother of four children, three of whom are athletes in the cheer program.

Kennedy came to all-star cheer from an extensive gymnastics background.

She was first an athlete and then a coach with the Richmond Gymnastics Association where she coached all ages and levels of athletes from preschool to the provincial level.

She was a high school math and science teacher in Richmond for many years before retiring from teaching to focus on raising her family and growing the Panthers.

Armed with a Level 3 national coaching certification in gymnastics and her Level 5 U.S. credentials in stunting, baskets and tosses (highest level possible), she is also a member of the provincial cheer judging committee in which she helps to train and certify the cheerleading judges in the province.

Builders:  Bruce and Bill Haddow, football

The name Haddow is synonymous with football in Richmond, particularly at Hugh Boyd Secondary where brothers Bruce and Bill Haddow have headed up the high school program for the better part of two decades.

The fact Hugh Boyd remains the only secondary school in Richmond still to field a football team speaks volumes about their dedication to the sport.

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