Eight Aboriginal athletes had the spotlight on them for their achievements inside and outside the realm of sports.
Of the eight from the Interior region recognized with the 2016 Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport in Kamloops on Nov. 29, four are from Penticton (Kalezafar Lawrence, Hayden Craig, Lyndzie Caron) and one from Osoyoos (Brooklyn Tanner).
The Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Partners Council, in collaboration with the Province of British Columbia, launched the regional nomination process in September, receiving more than 130 nominations from across the province for Aboriginal athletes under 25 who have achieved excellence in performance sport, are regarded for their leadership qualities, committed to higher education and are recognized as community role models on and off the field of play.
“I was super happy, honoured and grateful. I was proud to be Métis of course and to represent my culture,” said Caron, 17, a recipient in basketball, soccer and volleyball with Métis Nation.
Caron, a member of the Pen High Lakers senior girls basketball team, also played for Team B.C. on the basketball court, and has become more involved with her culture over the years through tea harvests, speaking with Elders, assisting Pen High Aboriginal education teacher Dustin Hyde and going on pictograph hikes in the area.
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After learning she is Métis on her father’s side in Grade 8, Caron started getting more involved with doing crafts and tea harvests in her first year at Pen High.
Craig, 20, Métis, plays basketball and softball for Olympic College in Bremerton, Wash. She said being recognized was a humbling experience with the other athletes and their great accomplishments.
“I’m still pretty proud and honoured that I was recognized,” said Craig, at left in picture below. “I want to give back to my community and help out, just like how all the other coaches and everyone else has helped me. I want to be able to make a difference.”
Craig helps coach clinics in basketball and softball and has worked with Special Olympics. Craig said playing both sports at Olympic College is a challenge.
“It’s hard,” said Craig. “Just time management honestly. It’s pretty busy, but I like it because I like the routine of practice, class, study hall, practice, workout.”
With the softball team, she batted .340 with 32 hits and collected 18 runs batted in through 38 games last season. On the court, she averaged 12.58 points per game to go with 5.92 rebounds. She had a season high 36 points and plays the post position.
Lawrence, 15, Métis, said the recognition makes him very proud.
“All the hard work I put in the sport paid off,” said Lawrence, a lacrosse player, who has represented his zone in the B.C. Summer Games and suited up with the Stealth Lacrosse Academy midget A team, as well as being a Penticton Minor Lacrosse Association member.
When Lawrence isn’t playing, he picks up his lacrosse stick and works on his skills at home throwing the ball around. Away from the field, he is a strong student averaging a B+ or better. His favourite subject is biology.
Tanner, 14, is involved with archery with the Osoyoos Indian Band. Others recognized are Brianna Kelly, 17, downhill mountain biking, Leq’á:mel First Nation (Misson), Ethan Joe, 16, hockey, Splatsin, Secwepemc Nation (Kamloops), Richard Celesta, 17, rugby, snowboarding, softball, Simpcw First Nation (Barriere) and Ryan Ignace, 18, hockey, Skeetchestn Indian Band (Savona).
A total of 47 recipients were chosen within the Partners Council’s six regions – Northeast, Northwest, Interior, Fraser, Vancouver Coastal, and Vancouver Island.
“We are proud to recognize the outstanding achievements of our athletes in the Interior region,” said Bruce Baptiste, Regional Lead for the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Partners Council’s Interior Region. “The recipients we have honoured tonight have dedicated their time to achieving excellence and we look forward to the continued success of these young role models.”