York University Lions dual-sport athlete Kayden Johnson and track and field standout Holly Pitters were named the male and female athletes of the year, respectively, at the 50th annual Varsity Athletics Banquet earlier this month.
Johnson, a member of the Lions football and track and field teams, is the first dual-sport athlete since 2006 to receive the honour, while Pitters is the female recipient for the second year in a row and the sixth straight women’s track and field athlete to win the award.
Also receiving major awards at the event were Tim Jensen from the men’s volleyball team and Rebecca Titus from the field hockey team, who took home the Outstanding Male Graduate Award and the Bryce M. Taylor Award, respectively, for outstanding contributions to varsity athletics over their five-year careers. Joey Cicchillo from the men’s soccer team was named the recipient of the Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy for exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, enthusiasm for life and the consideration of others.
Andrew Tauhid from men’s volleyball and Jaslan Stirling from field hockey were named the top rookies of the year, and field hockey head coach Zeeshan Minhas received the coach of the year award.
Male Athlete of the Year: Kayden Johnson, track and field/football
Johnson displayed his tremendous speed on the football field and the track this season. He asserted himself as the best hurdler in the country, winning Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and U SPORTS gold medals in the 60m hurdles and three times recording a time under eight seconds, the only hurdler to accomplish the feat even once this year. He earned first-team OUA all-star and U SPORTS all-Canadian honours and contributed 10 of the team’s 43 points at the U SPORTS championships to lead the squad to a sixth-place finish. In the fall, Johnson was a running back on the football team and finished 16th in the conference in total rushes and 19th in rushing yards while playing in all eight games.
Female Athlete of the Year: Holly Pitters, track and field
Pitters capped off her career with her best season as a member of the Lions. She won two medals at the U SPORTS championships, a gold in the triple jump and a silver in the long jump, to earn first- and second-team all-Canadian honours and contribute 18 of the team’s 42 points at the national meet, where the Lions finished sixth. She was also a double medallist at the OUA championships, winning the same gold and silver in the triple jump and long jump, respectively, and was an OUA first- and second-team all-star. Pitters accomplished all of this while jumping off her non-dominant leg for the first time following a recurring ankle injury.
Outstanding Male Graduate Award: Tim Jensen, volleyball
Jensen is one of the most recognizable student-athletes at York. A five-year outside hitter for the men’s volleyball team and captain for the last two seasons, he has gone above and beyond the role of student-athlete on the team on numerous occasions, including serving in an assistant coach role, volunteering at many different community events and playing an integral role with senior administration through multiple coaching changes. He is a major supporter of the Lions 4 Lions program and cheering on his fellow student-athletes, and last year he led the men’s volleyball team to a Roar Cup win. He is also an academic mentor for multiple varsity teams on his own time and separate from the PAWS program, and he has participated in the Shoreham clinics and other York Sport Council initiatives.
Bryce M. Taylor Award: Rebecca Titus, field hockey
Titus has integrated herself into every aspect of varsity life throughout her five-year career. A defender on the field hockey team and its captain, she earned OUA all-star honours three times and led the Lions to their first conference title in 21 years this past fall. She has excelled in the classroom while studying kinesiology and health science, earning U SPORTS academic all-Canadian honours and renewing her entrance scholarship in all five years, and is also part of the athletic therapy program, where she was the head student therapist for the track and field team this year and has previously worked with wrestling and women’s hockey. Titus has been a five-year participant in York Sport Council initiatives, including serving as president for the past two years, is a mentor in the PAWS program and has been a student representative on the Hall of Fame selection committee twice. She is also a volunteer at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and has participated in multiple international volunteer outreach trips.
Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy: Joey Cicchillo, men’s soccer
Cicchillo has been a key piece of the men’s soccer team through its most successful run in program history while also battling two serious knee injuries. He was supposed to play his final season of eligibility in 2016 but in the spring of that year, suffered his second ACL tear in four years. He worked hard to get back to peak form and returned in 2017 to play in every game and score a number of key goals, including the winner in the OUA quarter-finals in the 86th minute and another at the U SPORTS championships. His first ACL tear came near the end of a successful rookie campaign in 2012, and he came back the following season to finish seventh in OUA scoring and earn OUA all-star honours for the first time. Throughout his career he was a three-time OUA first-team all-star and helped the Lions win four OUA championships and two national titles. In 2014 he scored the gold-medal-winning goal in the national final to be named the player of the game and was also a championship tournament all-star.
Coach of the Year: Zeeshan Minhas, field hockey
In his fifth year at the helm of the program, Minhas guided the Lions to their best season in decades, capped off by winning their first OUA title since 1996 and capturing the U SPORTS silver medal, the team’s first national medal since 1994. He brought 12 rookies into the fold in the off-season and integrated them immediately, with three finishing among the team’s top five scorers as the Lions led the OUA in goals scored with nearly double the total they had last year. They also topped the conference in goals allowed en route to a first-place finish in the regular-season standings with a sparkling 11-1 record.
Male Rookie of the Year: Andrew Tauhid, Volleyball
Tauhid became just the 10th member of the Lions men’s volleyball team to earn OUA East all-rookie team honours following a tremendous debut season. He played in 17 matches and 65 sets as an outside hitter, ranking in the OUA’s top 35 in scoring, kills per set, service aces and total blocks. He was third overall in team scoring and the team’s rookie leader in nearly every statistical category to help the Lions finish second in the OUA East Division standings in the regular season.
Female Rookie of the Year: Jaslan Stirling, field hockey
Stirling made an immediate splash in the OUA and is already considered one of the best players in the country. She began her career with a bang, scoring a hat trick in her first game, and never looked back en route to leading the country in scoring with 19 goals in just 12 games. She was named the OUA and U SPORTS rookie of the year following the season, as well as the co-most valuable player in the OUA and a first-team OUA all-star and U SPORTS all-Canadian. She was also clutch in the playoffs, tallying the banner-winning goal in the OUA final and the winner in the quarter-finals to lead the Lions to the OUA title and a silver at the U SPORTS championships.
Lions Legacy Awards
Tim Jensen, Tamara Orlando, Shayne Rover, Rebecca Titus, Alexandria Town
men’s basketball – Gianmarco Luciani
women’s basketball – Lindsay Shotbolt
men’s cross country – Ali Ghadghoni
women’s cross country – Katrianna Pisani
field hockey – Jaslan Stirling
football – Adam Adeboboye
men’s hockey – Colton Vannucci
women’s hockey – Erin Locke
rugby – Cheyenne Legerton
men’s soccer – Cristian Cavallini & Daniel Gogarty
women’s soccer – Tomika McIntosh
men’s tennis – Tre Eli
women’s tennis – Eugenie Lim Ah Tock
men’s track and field – Nicholas Fyffe & Kayden Johnson
women’s track and field – Holly Pitters
men’s volleyball – Logan Mend
women’s volleyball – Sarah Williams
men’s wrestling – Shevonne Witter
women’s wrestling – Alexandria Town
Most Improved Team
Sport Council Award
Tracey Edwards, women’s track and field
Senior Student Athletic Therapist of the Year
Spirit Cup Award
JC Hall and Matt Ravida