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Loyalist athletes recognized for their achievements

By Mark Hodgins [4]

BELLEVILLE – Thirty student athletes were recognized for excellence Thursday during the annual Loyalist College Athletics Awards Luncheon.

A committee made up of staff from the athletics department chooses the winners. The committee looks at not only athletic achievement, but also academic proficiency. Students must have a grade average of at least 60 per cent to be eligible.

Sara Piana-Yafu, a player on the Loyalist Lancers women’s volleyball team, says that balancing school and sport isn’t easy.

“Especially for me, because I’m a Frenchie,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve studied in French all of my life, and just out of nowhere coming into an English school and studying in English, everything in English and maybe two friends who speak French – that’s really hard.”

The recipients get a monetary award which varies depending on which sport they play. For sports with shorter seasons like rugby, cross-country and soccer, winners receive $500, while the scholarship for sports that continue through both semesters, like basketball and volleyball, is $1,000. This money goes directly toward paying off any outstanding balance on a student’s account with Loyalist, but if the student is all paid up, he or she receives a cheque in the amount of the award.

Another decision the committee has to make is who will win the Scott Reid Award. That distinction goes to an outstanding player on the men’s basketball team who demonstrates excellence in and passion for the sport, while also keeping his grades up.

The award is handed out in honour of Scott Reid, a former Loyalist student and basketball player who died of brain cancer.

Jim Buck, Loyalist’s manager of athletics, was Reid’s basketball coach from 1991 to 1994.

“Scott was a tremendous player when he played here – just a wonderful young man,” said Buck. “I was very close to Scott and his family, and shortly before he passed away they asked if they could do a scholarship in his honour.”

This year’s recipient, Jamal Okunbor, said he didn’t expect to be chosen.

“Once I heard about the award I was kind of in shock,” said Okunbor, a student in the animation program. “I’m really honoured and thankful about it.”

The choice of which student will receive the scholarship isn’t always an obvious one, said Buck.

“We have some tough decisions to make. Sometimes kids that probably in most years would get (a scholarship) miss out because of the number of candidates we have.”

Here’s a complete list of the students chosen for scholarships: