Richards-Kwok, Humana-Paredes named athletes of the year

From left, Kristen Barbara, Kathryn Pistor, Melissa Humana-Paredes, Dontae Richards-Kwok, Gerard Ladiyou and David McKay

York University Lions track and field athlete Dontae Richards-Kwok and volleyball player Melissa Humana-Paredes were named the male and female athletes of the year on Thursday, March 29 at the 44th annual Interuniversity Sport Banquet.

Richards-Kwok and Humana-Paredes were named York’s top athletes from among a group of more than 400 student-athletes who celebrated at the banquet after finishing off a successful 2011-2012 campaign. Richards-Kwok captured the award two years after teammate Tyrone Halstead won it in 2010, while Humana-Paredes is the first women’s volleyball player to earn the honour since Chris Pollitt won it in 1991.

Several other student-athletes were also honoured at the banquet.

From left, Kristen Barbara, Kathryn Pistor, Melissa Humana-Paredes, Dontae Richards-Kwok, Gerard Ladiyou and David McKayLeft: From left, Kristen Barbara, Kathryn Pistor, Melissa Humana-Paredes, Dontae Richards-Kwok, Gerard Ladiyou and David McKay

Cross-country and track and field athlete Kathryn Pistor was named the recipient of the Bryce M. Taylor Award, given to a graduating female athlete who has made outstanding contributions to interuniversity sport at York University. Gerard Ladiyou, of the soccer team, received the Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy, which is presented to a male athlete who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, enthusiasm for life and the consideration of others.

The coach of the year award was presented to women’s volleyball head coach Nick Tran after winning the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Coach of the Year Award.

Track and field athlete David McKay and hockey player Kristen Barbara were named the male and female Rookie of the Year award winners.

The men’s hockey team was named the most improved team for the season.

The Spirit Cup, which was donated by Lorna Marsden, York president emerita, and is presented to the individual or group within York University that best exemplifies the spirit of York University and their involvement in sport, was given to the women’s volleyball team after their tremendous character following the premature end to their season earlier this year.

Rounding out the awards was the Sport Council Award, which was won by council representative David Mayer of the track and field team.

Male Athlete of the Year: Dontae Richards-Kwok, Track and Field

Richards-Kwok, of Mississauga, capped a strong season with a stellar performance at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships, earning the most outstanding athlete award at the meet. He won two individual gold medals at the national event, in the 60m and 300m, while also running the opening leg for the silver medal winning 4×200-metre relay and the third leg for the 4×400-metre relay that finished fourth. His showing also earned him CIS first-team all-Canadian honours, and he contributed 33 of the team’s 72 points in the team standings to help the Lions finish in fourth place. At the OUA championships, Richards-Kwok won silver medals in the 60 metres and 300 metres and a bronze in the 4×400-metre relay to receive OUA all-star honours, and earlier in the year he was named the athlete of the meet at the Windsor Team Challenge. Richards-Kwok was also the OUA and CIS athlete of the week following the national championships.

Female Athlete of the Year: Melissa Humana-Paredes, Volleyball

Humana-Paredes, of Toronto, transitioned to left side for her second season with the Lions after playing libero last year and had a tremendous year for the squad. She proved to be one of the most versatile athletes in the league, ranking in the OUA top 10 in both scoring (seventh in points per game) and defence (fourth in digs per set), and she also ranked in the CIS top 10 in three statistical categories (service aces, service aces per set, digs per set). Humana-Paredes was named an OUA first-team all-star and CIS second-team all-Canadian at the end of the season, earned York athlete of the week honours on two occasions, and helped the Lions to a 16-2 record and first place in the OUA standings. The Lions also climbed as high as No. 8 in the CIS rankings and were the only OUA team to be ranked nationally at any point this season.

Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy: Gerard Ladiyou, Soccer

Ladiyou, of Toronto, graduates from the men’s soccer program this season with a long list of accomplishments on the field. When he first tried to join the team as a walk-on in 2007, after moving to Toronto from the Ivory Coast, head coach Carmine Isacco turned him away but he kept working hard and earned a place on the roster for that season. In the five years since, he has become one of the top defenders in the OUA and was a crucial piece of the defence for the team’s two national championship campaigns in 2008 and 2010. Individually, Ladiyou was recognized as an OUA all-star and CIS all-Canadian in 2008, was named to the CIS tournament all-star team in both 2008 and 2010, and earned CIS tournament MVP honours in 2008. Ladiyou, who served as a team captain this season, continued to experience success on the field while also grieving the death of his father, celebrating the birth of his son and earning a degree in linguistics.

Bryce M. Taylor Award: Kathryn Pistor, Cross Country / Track and Field

Pistor, of Barrie, was the recipient of the OUA’s student-athlete community service award for cross country this season. The team captain in each of the last two years, she had no formal running training before coming to York and joined the varsity team after the coaches found her in a practicum class. She began running as a way to cope with the stress of having a family member with cancer and became a team MVP in her career with the Lions. Away from running she is a three-time academic all-Canadian and serves as an academic mentor for other Lions student-athletes. She is also a volunteer coach with the North York Jets of the Special Olympics and volunteers weekly at Toronto Grace Hospital in the palliative care unit.

Coach of the Year: Nick Tran, Women’s Volleyball

Tran, a part-time coach who also serves full time as a middle school principal, earned the OUA women’s volleyball coach of the year award this season after leading the women’s volleyball team to a 16-2 mark in the regular season and first place in the OUA standings. The squad also reached as high as No. 8 in the CIS rankings and was the only team from the OUA to be nationally ranked at any point this year. Two of his athletes, both second-year players with whom he has worked with tireless to help them improve on the court, were recognized by the league as OUA first-team all-stars and CIS second-team all-Canadians.

Male Rookie of the Year: David McKay, Track and Field

McKay, of Victoria, BC, missed the start of the track and field season because of an ankle injury but quickly found his groove when he entered competition in the winter. He opened the season with a 4.52-metre jump at the York Open and won the Akron Invitational with a jump of 4.75-metre, but it was at the OUA championships where he really made his mark. McKay won the OUA gold medal thanks to a personal best of 25 centimetres, clearing 5.00-metre for the top spot and a spot on the first all-star team. He was named the OUA rookie of the year following the meet and wrapped up the season with a seventh-place finish at the CIS championships.

Female Rookie of the Year: Kristen Barbara, Hockey

Barbara, of Mount Hope, proved in her first year with the Lions that she is one of the top defenders in the OUA. An offensive defender who contributed significantly at both ends of the ice, she finished her rookie campaign first in the OUA and second in the CIS in rookie defender scoring with 15 points, including four goals and 11 assists. That total also put her fourth overall in OUA scoring by all blueliners and seventh overall in OUA rookie scoring. Barbara capped off the year by being voted the top rookie defender in the OUA, earning a place on the OUA all-rookie team and the OUA second all-star team, and one of the top two in the country after earning a place on the CIS all-rookie team as well.

Most Improved Team: Men’s Hockey

The men’s hockey team finished this season with 32 points, 10 more than last year, and earned home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005 with a fourth-place finish in the OUA West Division after finishing in last place one season ago. The Lions, who defeated the No. 1 nationally-ranked Western Mustangs in the regular season, scored 15 more goals and allowed 22 fewer than last year, and accomplished all of that with the youngest team in the country, featuring 17 first-year players.

Spirit Cup Award: Women’s Volleyball

After having their season cut short because of the use of an ineligible player in the OUA quarter-finals, the Lions, who were the top-ranked team in the OUA heading into the championships, showed the true spirit of what it means to be a Lion by exhibiting leadership, courage, compassion, professionalism, respect and a stubborn determination to succeed together as a team. It was that spirit that was honoured on Thursday night.

Sport Council Award: David Mayer, Sport Council Representative

Mayer of Picton, Ont., is graduating this June with a kinesiology degree, and is a team captain on our track & field team, winning multiple OUA and CIS medals over a highly decorated five-year career. He was the unanimous choice for this award from all Sport Council members. He took the reins of the Lions 4 Lions program and most Sport Council initiatives this year and, through his leadership and hard work, ensured they were a success.  We often talk of athletes who would bleed York red if they could, he is certainly someone who exudes York spirit and pride and can now boast a York legacy as his efforts with Sport Council will be felt for years to come.

Team MVPs

Men’s Basketball – David Tyndale

Women’s Basketball – Brittany Szockyj

Men’s Cross Country – Christopher Pietrangelo

Women’s Cross Country – Karen Lawson

Field Hockey – Shannon Vance

Football – To be announced at annual football banquet in April.

Men’s Hockey – Jesse Messier

Women’s Hockey – Lisa Stathopulos

Women’s Rugby – Sarah Campbell

Men’s Soccer – Gerard Ladiyou

Women’s Soccer – Nicole Markowitz

Men’s Tennis – David Kishlyansky

Women’s Tennis – Julia Khalilova

Men’s Track and Field – Dontae Richards-Kwok

Women’s Track and Field – Cynthia Appiah

Men’s Volleyball – Greg Ivan

Women’s Volleyball – Tisha Rouse