Apperson, Blinn named Athletes of the Year

For the second consecutive year, women’s hockey captain Kelty Apperson has been named the Tommies Coastal Graphics Female Athlete of the Year.

“It’s awesome and humbling,” Apperson said after St. Thomas University’s annual athletics banquet on Wednesday night at the Forest Hill Conference Centre.

Front row, from left: Stephane Blinn and Kelty Apperson, Anisha Romany and Justin Robar. Back row, from left: STU president and vice-chancellor Dawn Russell and athletics director Mike Eagles. Photo: Keith Minchin
Front row, from left: Stephane Blinn, Kelty Apperson, Anisha Romany and Justin Robar. Back row, from left: STU president and vice-chancellor Dawn Russell and athletics director Mike Eagles. Photo: Keith Minchin

“I’m really excited about it, but it’s a step forward for our team in future years to come.”

After twin brother Marc Blinn received the honour last year, Stephane Blinn of men’s volleyball was also recognized as Tommies Coastal Graphics Male Athlete of the Year at St. Thomas University’s annual athletics banquet Wednesday night at the Forest Hill Conference Centre.

“I’ve been working hard all year for this,” said Stephane Blinn. “It’s great to see my hard work being recognized by STU, and it’s nice to see everyone who played with us put their hard work in.

“It was a great season for us.”

As well, the Blinn twins were both chosen as Most Valuable Players for men’s volleyball.

Other major award winners were Anisha Romany of women’s track and field, who earned the Cathy Wadden Commitment Award, and men’s rugby player Justin Robar, who received the John Frederick Walls Memorial Award.

Kelty Apperson

The prolific fifth-year forward from Kingston, Ont. was also named Most Valuable Player for women’s hockey after another career season and a trip around the globe.

Not only did Apperson notch 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 21 games during the 2016-17 Atlantic University Sport campaign, but she also recorded seven points (four, three) in five contests with Team Canada at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

One of those goals was the only marker for Canada in a 4-1 loss to Russia in the gold medal game.

Tommies women's hockey captain Kelty Apperson, left, accepts the Most Valuable Player award from head coach Peter Murphy. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ
Tommies women’s hockey captain Kelty Apperson, left, accepts the Most Valuable Player award from head coach Peter Murphy. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ

“To go over there and travel and get that experience, with not only hockey but to interact with kids in the community and people there, it was one to remember,” Apperson said about her international hockey experience.

“With STU, what I’ll take away is the connections I’ve made and the person I’ve become. STU gave me an opportunity to get myself out there and learn to become a better leader and adjust to situations.”

Despite the Tommies’ promising regular season and 17-4-3 finish, good for second in the AUS, Apperson and the Tommies earned a first-round bye before falling to the St. Francis Xavier University X-Women in the best-of-three conference semifinals.

“When I reflect on the year, it sucks because we did have an amazing team,” said Apperson.

“The opportunity [to reach the AUS finals] was something we could have grasped, but in saying that, when I leave this year, there are still things I can take away from [the experience] and look back on.”

Overall, Apperson said, it isn’t the regular season or playoff wins and losses she’ll remember most, but she’ll always cherish the bond she and her STU teammates shared.

Apperson, 22, couldn’t say for sure what her future holds, but she hopes to continue her hockey career either in Europe or in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which has teams in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Boston.

“It’s exciting to always be competitive and play,” said Apperson.

Stephane Blinn

After going 9-6 in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association regular season, Stephane and the Tommies fell 3-0 to the University of New Brunswick Saint John Seawolves in the conference semis.

Although STU came up short in its quest for another ACAA men’s volleyball title, Stephane said this past season was his best as a Tommie.

Stephane Blinn, left, and Marc Blinn, right, accept the men's volleyball Most Valuable Player award from head coach Francis Duguay. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ
Stephane Blinn, left, and Marc Blinn, right, accept the men’s volleyball Most Valuable Player award from head coach Francis Duguay. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ

“I couldn’t do it by myself,” he said. “I’ve got to give props to my brother. He definitely helped me along.”

Aside from the success the Tommies and their distinguished twins enjoyed, Stephane, 22, also said playing with his twin, who is nine minutes younger, made his STU volleyball career enjoyable.

“It’s wonderful to see that, as twins, we’re at the same calibre and level sports wise,” he said. “He helps me build my game, and I help him build his.”

Stephane hails from Nasonworth, a small community outside Fredericton. He and Marc are both currently in the Canadian Reserve Forces, but they hope to join the RCMP in the next year or so.

As for volleyball, Stephane said coaching isn’t out of the question once he establishes his career and perhaps finds a more permanent home.

He also said he wouldn’t mind playing so he can stay in shape.

“[Being an athlete] is definitely something that has helped me thrive in life and in my career so far,” said Stephane.

Anisha Romany

Romany, 21, was acknowledged for her involvement in extra-curricular activities, as well as her success as a Tommies track and field athlete.

Romany has been busy with her commitments to school, the STU Students’ Union, campus ministry, Theatre St. Thomas, the STU Cares Day of Action and the Vanier Hall house committee.

As well, she recently starred in Chicago, the STU musical theatre class’ 2017 production.

Anisha Romany, left, accepts the women's track and field Unsung Hero award from head coach Greg Allan. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ
Anisha Romany, left, accepts the women’s track and field Unsung Hero award from head coach Greg Allan. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ

“It feels amazing,” Romany said about the recognition. “The community is such an important part of my experience here at St. Thomas.”

The second-year Spanish and Fine Arts student said STU’s atmosphere made it easy for her to get involved and adapt to Canadian life after coming here from Trinidad and Tobago, a dual-nation island Caribbean nation near Venezuela.

Romany said it isn’t always easy to balance all of her priorities, but staying focused and living in the moment has helped.

“It’s important to plan ahead, too,” she said. “But whatever you’re giving your all to, stick with it in that moment and then go ahead with the next activity.”

Romany also reflected on how the Tommies women’s hockey team made her feel like one of their own in her first year at STU. It all started when Paige Jackson and Emily Oleksuk of the hockey squad introduced her to Kraft Dinner during their first week in Vanier Hall before inviting her to their next game.

Romany took in her first live hockey game that fall. She continues to attend all the Tommies’ home games and live-stream their road contests.

“To see their progress and be there as part of the community and as someone who they can count on to support them has been incredible,” said Romany.

Justin Robar

Robar, 22, earned the John Frederick Walls Memorial Award for having good character and actively contributing to Tommies athletics.

The native of Geary, a small community near Fredericton, also was commended for having a good academic standing and representing student-athletes well.

Men's rugby player Justin Robar, left, accepts the John Frederick Walls Memorial Award from Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ
Men’s rugby player Justin Robar, left, accepts the John Frederick Walls Memorial Award from Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ

“It means a lot,” said Robar. “When I came to STU, I transferred from [Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.], so I really developed a lot at St. Thomas and turned into the man I am today, I guess.”

The fourth-year men’s rugby player said he was honoured just to be in the running for the award and meet its criteria.

“Student-athletes hold an important position of privilege,” said Robar. “They do a lot of good in the community, and for me, all over the world.”

In 2015, Robar and recent STU grad Johnny Cullen spent four weeks in Africa to teach children to play rugby through an organization called Bhubesi Pride, a charity based in the United Kingdom that supports change and development in Africa through rugby.

“It gave me a whole different perspective on life in general,” said Robar. “After seeing the kids playing with the rugby ball as happily as they could be, I came back a different person and appreciated life and sports a lot more.”

Next year, Robar plans to pursue a Master’s degree in sport management at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. He’ll be starting his research in August in Nicaragua.

“Sport is a vessel for positive change if it’s used correctly,” he said.

Photos: Nathan DeLong/The AQ

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Award Winners

Men’s Golf

  • Most Valuable Player: Jake Lloy

Women’s Soccer

  • Rookie of the Year: Phoebe van der Muelen
  • Most Improved: Mackenzie Cox
  • Unsung Hero: Amy Sheppard
  • Most Valuable Player: Zoé de Bellefeuille

Men’s Soccer

  • Rookie of the Year: Alex Soulet
  • Unsung Hero: Oliver Dussault
  • Leadership Award: Eric Prior
  • Most Valuable Player: Kyle Yearwood

Women’s Rugby

  • Rookie of the Year: Olivia Ricketts
  • Most Improved: Megan Gullison
  • Heather Leonard Memorial Award: Jenna Betts
  • Most Valuable Player: Kiaya Jorden

Men’s Rugby

  • Rookie of the Year: Cameron Gillis
  • Outstanding Backfield: Zach Lakes
  • Outstanding Forward: Christian Lakes
  • Most Valuable Player: Austin Comeau

Cross-Country

  • Female Coach’s Award: Demara Pafford
  • Male Coach’s Award: Nathaniel Legere
  • Female Most Valuable Athlete: Chelsey Hall
  • Male Most Valuable Athlete: Ryan Terry

Track and Field

  • Female Rookie of the Year: Chelsey Hall
  • Male Rookie of the Year: Ryan Terry
  • Female Unsung Hero: Anisha Romany
  • Male Unsung Hero: Cowan Donovan
  • Female Most Valuable Athlete: Stephanie Gates
  • Male Most Valuable Athlete: Brandon LeBlanc

Women’s Volleyball

  • Rookies of the Year: Hannah Millier and Megan Mills
  • Coach’s Award: Véronique McGrath
  • Most Valuable Players: Deidra Jones and Jessica Barna

Men’s Volleyball

  • Rookie of the Year: Nathan Brown
  • Most Improved: Spencer Hay
  • Most Valuable Players: Stephane and Marc Blinn

Women’s Hockey

  • Rookie of the Year: Alex Woods
  • Most Improved: Alisha Gilbert
  • Top Defensive Player: Eliza Snider
  • Most Valuable Player: Kelty Apperson

Women’s Basketball

  • Rookie of the Year: Christina Richardson
  • Unsung Hero: Sara Banks
  • Top Defensive Player: Becca MacNeil
  • Most Valuable Player: Carissa McTague

Men’s Basketball

  • Outstanding Rookie: Tariq Thomas
  • Top Defensive Player: Mitch Claybourn
  • Most Outstanding Rebounder: Jeremy Speller
  • Unsung Hero: Travis Valanne
  • Ben Cholody Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player): Sam Drummond

STU Nominee – James Bayer Memorial Award (AUS)

  • Myf Thomson (women’s hockey)

LeRoy Washburn Community Service Award

  • Tommies women’s hockey team

John Frederick Walls Memorial Award

  • Justin Robar (men’s rugby)

Cathy Wadden Commitment Award

  • Anisha Romany (women’s track and field)

Tommies Coastal Graphics Athletes of the Year

  • Kelty Apperson (women’s hockey)
  • Stephane Blinn (men’s volleyball)

 

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