Saturday, 2 April 2016

Huskies celebrate special season

The Huskies women's basketball team's fifth year players and coaches.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies athletic program had a season they will never forget.
    The 2015-16 campaign saw the Huskies capture four Canada West championships coming from men’s track and field, men’s wrestling, men’s hockey and women’s basketball. The women’s hoops team capped the campaign claiming a national championship, when they downed the Ryerson University Rams 85-71 for a Canadian Interuniversity Sport title on March 20 in Fredericton, N.B.
    On Friday, the current class of all the Huskies teams gathered together at TCU Place to celebrate their accomplishments at the Huskie Salute, where the U of S athletics program hands out its seven major team awards.
    Members of the women’s basketball team took three of the honours. Lisa Thomaidis, who is one of the best bench bosses in any sport in Canada, was named the coach of the year, guard Laura Dally was the female athlete of the year and post Dalyce Emmerson was named the all-around female athlete of the year. Wrestler Kiera Prior took home honours as the female rookie of the year.
    The men’s awards included one individual from each of the Canada West title winning teams. CJ Gavlas was named the male rookie of the year, goaltender Jordon Cooke took home honours as the male athlete of the year and Jared Olson of the track and field team was the all-around male athlete of the year.
    The trainers of the year were Lisa Rystephanuk from Huskies wrestling and Stephen Hutton from Huskies track and field.
    The team awards were a capper to a campaign that saw 17 individuals win major CIS awards or be named all-Canadians along with members of the men’s 4 X 200-metre and 4 X 400-metre relay teams, who won CIS championship gold medals. The Canada West honours on top of that were big time numerous.
    The gathering at the Huskie Salute is one of those rare opportunities where all the athletes from all U of S teams can assemble in one place. All the teams on campus are elite programs and a lot times athletes can get locked into their own world of their own sport and their studies.
    During the season, players are good at getting out to see and support their peers on other clubs, but there usually isn’t a whole lot of time to get to see each other on a social basis. With how advanced year-round training has become for elite athletes, it is likely harder and more time consuming right now to be a CIS athlete than it ever has been compared to the past.
    Before the Huskie Salute, a large number of the athletes attended the school’s athletic wall of fame reception. The University of Saskatchewan Athletic Wall of Fame inductees included athletes Andrew Spagrud from men’s basketball and Karlyn (Serby) Wells from track and field, the 1998-99 CIS champion Huskies men’s volleyball team, and builders Michael PJ Kennedy and Gil Wist. Kennedy wrote two editions of the history book on the Huskies hockey teams and Wist spent over 30 years supporting the wrestling program.
    The main message echoed by all of those inductees was how much they enjoyed their time with the Huskies and how time has gone by so fast.
    During the Huskie Salute, the fifth-year athletes that won awards told the younger athletes to enjoy their time with the teams, because it goes by too fast. In the end, the athletes, coaches and staff will remember all sorts of other memories that occurred around practices and games. Those memories are the things that always stick with you.
    While the Huskie Salute was a time to celebrate, it was also a moment of finality. What the athletes might not realize that starting now there is a chance years and even decades may pass before they see some of the of the faces they saw on Friday night again. That was the last moment the 2015-16 Huskies would be together in one place.
    Before the awards were handed out, a moment of silence was held for former Huskies men’s hockey player Cody Smuk and former wrestling coach Todd Hinds, who both passed away last June. That was a small reminder of how finite life can be.
    When an athlete looks to join a post-secondary program, they are looking for a place where they feel they can belong. The Huskies over the decades have managed to accomplish that. Their athletes were and still are making memories they will carry with themselves forever.

Catching up with Clark for the Express

    I was back in the Saskatoon Express this week with a cool cover story.
    I caught up with Saskatoon product Emily Clark, who is playing forward for Canada at the women’s world hockey championships on right now in Kamloops, B.C. At age 20, Clark is the youngest player on Canada’s senior national women’s team.
    Clark joined the Canadian team right after her University of Wisconsin Badgers women’s team fell 3-2 in overtime to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in a National Collegiate Athletic Association semifinal game.
    She was also once a star on the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team. The story on Clark can be found right here.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to