Track star Jasneet Nijjar was named High School Female Athlete of the Year on Thursday, and Uyi Ologhola earned the High School Male Athlete of the Year award.
Running coach Lynn Kanuka is Sport BC’s Female Coach of the Year, and volleyball player Kiera Van Ryk won University Athlete of the Year honours as leader of the UBC Thunderbirds womens volleyball squad, named Team of the Year.
The 54th annual Sport BC awards event, originally scheduled at Vancouver Convention Centre East on Thursday evening, was postponed due to COVID-19 virus concerns.
The awards recognize the province’s best in amateur sport including athletes, coaches, teams and officials for outstanding performances in their sport over the 2019 season.
Nijjar, as a Grade 12 student at Queen Elizabeth Secondary, had a record-setting year on the track in 2019. After recovering from a hamstring injury, she led the 2019 BC High School Track & Field Championships as champ in the 100m, 200m, and 100m hurdles, and was named outstanding athlete of the springtime meet. She now competes as a freshman on the Washingston State Cougars track team.
Ologhola, a standout athlete at Holy Cross Regional High School, has excelled in both basketball and football in recent years. He won the AA football provincial defensive player of the year award in 2019, along with Fraser Valley basketball MVP honours, among others. “The Crusader is a model of hard work and battling adversity (who) plays to the best of his ability in both football and basketball,” award presenters said. “His ability to deal with the personal loss of his mother’s passing and continue to be an outstanding student-athlete and leader is inspiring.”
In 2019, Van Ryk enjoyed a record-setting year on volleyball courts near and far. The outside hitter, a Surrey Christian School grad, was named the top female university athlete in Canada and also won the U SPORTS Lieutenant Governor Athletic Award after leading UBC to the 2019 U SPORTS women’s volleyball championship. A member of Canada’s senior national women’s team, Van Ryk went pro last summer after signing with Volley Bergamo of Italy’s Serie A1 league.
Van Ryk’s 2019 championship-winning UBC team includes Earl Marriott Secondary grads Tessa Davis and Danika Cowie, former Seaquam Secondary standout Brynn Pasin and Pacific Academy grad Gabrielle Attieh. “The Thunderbirds had one of the youngest, most inexperienced rosters in all of U SPORTS and had a 0-3 season start to the Canada West season,” Sport BC award presenters noted. “After this tough start, they began climbing the ladder finishing the regular season 15-9 and earning a berth at the national championship tournament. The team grew together throughout the course of the season, never doubting themselves to win the U SPORTS National Championships.”
Coach Kanuka, a White Rock resident, is a two-time Olympian on the track, former Canadian record holder and Olympic bronze medalist. The 2019 BC Athletics Team head coach and Canadian cross-country national team coach, she encourages new runners in the SportMed BC Sun Run in-training program. “She takes her wealth of experience and knowledge combined with her passion for the sport into her coaching career,” award presenters said. “Lynn has been coaching Natasha Wodak to numerous national teams and international medals. In addition to coaching Natasha, Lynn has also coached a group of developing athletes including Tyler Wilson, a talented and accomplished young race walker.”
Each Sport BC award finalist was nominated by their provincial or multi-sport organization, high school, college or university. The awards selection committee, led by chair Bernie Pascall, included “a diverse group of highly experienced British Columbia sport leaders and media members,” according to a Sport BC news release in January.