York University Lions track and field standouts Brittany Crew and Pierce Lepage were named the female and male athletes of the year, respectively, at the 51st annual Varsity Athletics Banquet on April 4.
Crew, who returned to the Lions this season after spending two years competing internationally, picks up her third Female Athlete of the Year award after winning the award in 2015 and 2016. Lepage earned his first Male Athlete of the Year award this year, in his first season competing with the Lions.
Four of the Lions’ graduating seniors were also recognized for their outstanding contributions to varsity athletics with the Lions Legacy Award. Women’s volleyball player Cadence Currie, track and field athlete Bailey Francis, women’s hockey player Jenna Gray and field hockey player Sara Vollmerhausen all took home the award, which recognizes the imprint they’ve left on York both on and off the field during their time with the Lions.
Also receiving major awards at the event were Christy Ihunaegbo from the track and field team, who 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; Kalifornia Mitchell from the women’s soccer team and men’s basketball player DeAndrae Pierre, who were named the top rookies of the year; and women’s basketball head coach Erin McAleenan, who received the Coach of the Year award.
Female Athlete of the Year: Brittany Crew, track and field
Crew, a now three-time female athlete of the year, had another phenomenal season for the Lions, as she was named both U SPORTS field events athlete of the year and the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) field events MVP. She won gold medals in the weight throw and shot put events at both the U SPORTS championships and the OUA championships and received the Wendy Jerome Trophy as the most outstanding performer at the OUA championships. She also broke her own OUA championships records in both the shot put and weight throw and her own U SPORTS championship record in the shot put. Crew graduates from York this year with a degree in kinesiology and health science as one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the track and field program. In her Lions career, Crew won a total of six gold medals at the U SPORTS championships and seven gold medals at the OUA championships.
Male Athlete of the Year: Pierce Lepage, track and field
Lepage was outstanding this year, his first season with the Lions track and field team. He won two gold medals at the U SPORTS championships in the 60m hurdles and long jump events, a silver medal in the men’s 4x200m relay and a bronze medal in the men’s high jump. He also dominated the competition at the OUA championships, winning three gold medals in the 60m hurdles, high jump and long jump. Lepage was named the U SPORTS field athlete of the year and male athlete of the meet for U SPORTS championships and also received the Hec Phillips award as the most outstanding performer at the OUA championships.
Lions Legacy Award: Cadence Currie, women’s volleyball
Currie played for five years on the women’s volleyball team as both an outside hitter and a libero. She had an outstanding career for the Lions on the court, appearing in 88 games and earning a total of 330 points and 660 digs. Off the court, Currie was also a great student in the classroom, earning academic all-Canadian honours last year and maintaining her AFA status for all five years she spent at York. She was always willing to help her teammates with their academics as well, and served as a PAWS mentor, guided the women’s volleyball study hall hours, and was the team academic lead and captain of academics. She was also a member York Sport Council, Lions Leadership and Athletes in Action, and was an active contributor to Shoreham sports clinics and the women’s volleyball reading buddies program as well as the driving force behind many Lions 4 Lions initiatives with the women’s volleyball program.
Lions Legacy Award: Bailey Francis, women’s track and field
An active member of the York Sport Council and a four-year member of the Lions track and field team, Francis spearheaded a number of initiatives with the Sport Council and was always a positive influence on her teammates throughout her career. She was also a strong student inside the classroom, maintaining a B+ average while earning her degree in criminology. She not only left her mark on the Lions, but in other areas of York as well. She was selected to be a part of the President’s Ambassador Program for emerging student leaders, she was a member of the Stong Student Council for three years and she participated in many intramural sports. She spent countless hours volunteering with local homeless shelters, Special Olympics Ontario and a number of other charitable causes. On the track, Francis finished in the top 10 at the OUA championships the past three years, including a career-best fifth place in the women’s triple jump this year, and she competed for the Lions at the U SPORTS championships the past two years.
Lions Legacy Award: Jenna Gray, women’s hockey
Gray was an ironwoman for the Lions during her outstanding career. She stepped into the Lions lineup right away in her rookie season and never came out of it, playing in all 120 games in her five-year career. She was one of the leaders on the ice and inside the locker room for the Lions and served as team captain for the past two years. She scored 39 points in her career and was named an OUA second-team all-star in her fifth and final season. Off the ice, Gray was a PAWS mentor, an academic all-Canadian, and won the 2018-19 U SPORTS Student-Athlete Community Service Award for excellence in athletics, academics and sport leadership. She was also an executive member of the York Sport Council, and she played a large role in the organization and execution of the Hockey Education Reaching Out Society, which gives local children from the Jane-Finch community the opportunity to play hockey as an education and leadership vehicle.
Lions Legacy Award: Sara Vollmerhausen, field hockey
Vollmerhausen played defence for five years on the Lions field hockey team and helped the team go from fifth place with a losing record in her rookie season to a two-time OUA champion by the end of her career. She was the team captain last season as well as a U SPORTS all-Canadian and OUA all-star, and she won the U SPORTS Fair Play Award for sportsmanship. Vollmerhausen was also a York Sport Council member for all of her five years and was in charge of Lions 4 Lions this year as part of the Sport Council’s executive team. She was an active participant in the Lions Adopt-a-Family program, Shoreham sports clinics and many field hockey team fundraisers – including the first-ever field hockey game for the cure, which raised more than $1,000. She also worked as a work-study student in facility operations, organized study hall sessions for the field hockey team and was instrumental in organizing the first-ever team lifts in the varsity gym.
Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy: Christy Ihunaegbo, women’s track and field
After migrating to Canada from Nigeria 10 years ago after competing on the Nigerian national track and field team, Ihunaegbo enrolled at York after a few years in Canada. She began competing with the Lions track and field team in 2015 after giving birth to her second child, and throughout her time at York she has had to balance the responsibilities of being a mother of two and a full-time student-athlete, while also working night jobs after a full day at York to support her family. Despite having an extremely busy schedule, Ihunaegbo was a leader on the track and field team and a role model to her teammates. She always displayed a tremendous work ethic, went out of her way to give other athletes advice to help them improve, and was always willing share her experiences from both on and off the track. Ihunaegbo was always an outstanding athletic performer for the Lions. She is the York University record holder in the 300m and 4x400m relay, a four-time U SPORTS medallist and a three-time OUA championship medallist.
Coach of the Year: Erin McAleenan, women’s basketball
The Lions have improved in every season since McAleenan took over the program in 2015. Despite losing their leading scorer from last year’s team and battling a significant amount of injuries all season long, she led the Lions to their first playoff win since the 2007-08 season, an upset victory on the road over the Queen’s Gaels in the first round of the playoffs. The Lions also achieved their first five-game win streak since the 2007-08 season and finished in fifth place in the OUA East. Their biggest victory of the regular season was a huge win over the No. 4-ranked Ryerson Rams during the final weekend of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth.
Male Rookie of the Year: DeAndrae Pierre, basketball
Pierre becomes the first basketball player to win the rookie of the year since 2010. The Lions guard had a massive impact in his first season with the team and was a huge part of the team’s improvement. He made an immediate splash in the OUA, scoring a career-high 31 points early in the season against the Waterloo Warriors, leading the team by playing almost 30 minutes per game, and ranking second on the team with 13 points and 2.5 assists per game. He was named to the OUA East all-rookie team and ranked second in the OUA among rookies in total points, points per game, field goals made and total assists. Pierre also scored 26 points in the team’s victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues, which clinched a playoff berth, and he was named York’s male athlete of the week twice during the season.
Female Rookie of the Year: Kalifornia Mitchell, soccer
Mitchell stepped into the Lions starting lineup right away and started all 16 games at midfield for the Lions. She scored the first goal of the season for the team in her first career game and played strong on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field all season long. Mitchell also ranked third on the team in goals, fourth in points and shots on goal, and fifth in shots. She was a big part of the Lions lineup and helped the team finish in second place in their division and earn a bye in the first round of the OUA playoffs. In addition to winning the York Female Rookie of the Year award, Mitchell was recognized for her outstanding rookie season by winning the OUA Rookie of the Year award and being named the U SPORTS all-rookie team.
Men’s basketball – Chevon Brown
Women’s basketball – Katrina Collins-Samuels
Men’s cross country – Ali Ghadghoni
Women’s cross country – Katrianna Pisani
Field hockey – Sara Vollmerhausen
Football – Nikola Kalinic
Men’s hockey – Scott Feser
Women’s hockey – Erin Locke
Rugby – Megan Pakulis
Men’s soccer – Daniel Gogarty
Women’s soccer – Christina Morelli
Men’s tennis – Jeremy Guttman
Women’s tennis – Heather Hills
Men’s track and field – Pierce Lepage
Women’s track and field – Brittany Crew
Men’s volleyball – Logan Mend
Women’s volleyball – Celeste Witzell
Men’s wrestling – Shevonne Witter-Watts
Women’s wrestling – Bailey Agard
Most Improved Team – men’s basketball
Sport Council Award – Tara Leithead, women’s volleyball
Roar Cup – women’s hockey team
Student Athletic Therapist of the Year – Brian Richard
Spirit Cup Award – men’s hockey team