HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Two well-respected Ottawa high schools had unique results after determining their 2021-22 senior Athletes of the Year.
Imitating a long-time Canadian coffee tradition, Glebe Collegiate Institute and John McCrae Secondary School athletic officials couldn’t decide on only one senior girl and one senior boy for their top athlete, so they went the ‘double-double’ route.
Both Glebe and McCrae, which are known for their well-established athletic programs to develop student-athletes, selected co-winners in each of the girls and boys’ senior divisions, which is rarely seen in the awards field.
Sharing the girls’ senior honours for Glebe are Kenzie Girgis and Paris Axam, while Gavin Ryan and Aidan Suri were the boys’ senior winners.
On the McCrae side, Cora McQuinn and Ivy Baird were the girls’ senior co-Athletes of the Year, and Will Harris and Nolan Legare took boys’ senior co-winner honours.
Here are the details on all of the top athletes:
CO-FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Kenzie Girgis
SPORTS: Field hockey, ice hockey, track and field.
THE WHY: When it comes to field hockey, Girgis was the centrepiece of the Gryphons’ team, which goes back as far as Grade 9 when she was the NCSSAA OFSAA Division’s MVP. This season, she sparked Glebe to a first-place, regular-season finish in the OFSAA Division at 5-0 and a berth in the final. Team officials said her skills are at a high level and she fared well at a Canadian senior women’s team selection camp. She has been the national U18 captain and is in the mix for the U21 Canadian team. Besides her skills, she has plenty of athletic character as a team player and is willing to fill any position on the field.
CO-FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Paris Axam
SPORTS: Soccer, tennis, rugby.
THE WHY: Axam is considered ‘a gamer’ by her coaches and teammates as she is a dependable performer in every situation, leads by example, is determined and does her best to achieve a positive result. She dictated the play on the soccer field with her incisive passing or strong solo efforts and scored six of the Gryphons’ seven goals. At the OFSAA tennis championships, she posted a winning record and a top-10 finish in girls’ doubles. Axam made her debut in rugby this season and was willing to play the game head-on with only two months experience.
CO-MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Gavin Ryan
SPORTS: Basketball, baseball, rugby.
THE WHY: Once the game started, Ryan was in until the end, whether he used his size to his advantage on the basketball court or was reliable in every offensive and defensive situation on the baseball diamond. He played a vital role in Glebe reaching the NCSSAA Tier 1 baseball final as well as the basketball team playing in the boys’ senior Gold Division championship game. Ryan also joined forces with Glebe co-male Athlete of the Year Aidan Suri to win the NCSSAA rugby title and advance to the OFSAA championship, where he scored a game-tying try in Glebe’s last game on his 18th birthday. They also were in the baseball lineup.
CO-MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Aidan Suri
SPORTS: Hockey, rugby, baseball.
THE WHY: A rock-solid, first-pairing defenceman, Suri was in control in his defensive zone for the Gryphons’ hockey team, which finished the NCSSAA non-contact Tier 1 regular season in first place at 5-1, but lost its first playoff game. He was a consistent performer with the puck coming out of his end. Suri also was steady in every inning of baseball. As a rugby player, he was a hard tackler and finished his last game before letting anyone know he had broken his nose.
JOHN McCRAE SS
CO-FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Ivy Baird
SPORTS: Curling, nordic skiing, tennis, basketball, soccer.
THE WHY: Baird shared the award with Cora McQuinn as both McCrae student/athletes demonstrated the proper mix of leadership, continuous effort and dedication as well as true sportsmanship. After calling a timeout in the NCSSAA OFSAA Division curling championship game, she made the critical winning shot for the title. In her first year as a nordic skier, she placed sixth in the novice skate-ski race at the city championships. Her basketball coach described her as a player with a positive attitude willing to accept any role.
CO-FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Cora McQuinn
SPORTS: Track and field, volleyball, soccer.
THE WHY: Track was McQuinn’s spotlight sport as she qualified for three events at the OFSAA provincial championships. Despite dealing with injuries during the spring season, which kept her out of the soccer lineup and left her in a support role, she placed 12th in the 400-metre final, 22nd in the 200 metres and an impressive fifth in the 4×400-metre open relay in a team-best time of 4:08.07. The McCrae team was comprised of one runner from each of the four grades, while many schools had a team of senior runners. McQuinn also was the most improved player on the volleyball team as she worked hard to develop her skills as a middle player and supported her teammates.
CO-MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Nolan Legare
SPORTS: Track and field, cross-country running, nordic skiing, volleyball.
THE WHY: An incredible work ethic and determination took Legare a long way, all the way to the OFSAA track and field championships for two events, including one final. Recording a pair of personal-best times, he was eighth in the 400 metres in 49.47 and 14th in the 800 metres in 1:59.70. In the fall, the enthusiastic Legare was second at the NCSSAA West Conference cross-country running championships in the boys’ senior race and ninth at the NCSSAA city finals. He also placed ninth and 10th in two skate-ski races in the NCSSAA nordic ski championships.
CO-MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Will Harris
SPORTS: Track and field, swimming, soccer, hockey, wheelchair basketball.
THE WHY: Powered by his enthusiasm, commitment, leadership and drive for excellence, Harris had multiple memorable moments, especially in track and field and swimming. He qualified for three races at the East Regionals and was seventh in the 4×400-metre relay, ninth in the 4×100-metre relay and 12th in the 400 metres. In the pool, he won three medals at the NCSSAA city swimming championships – 50-metre breaststroke gold, 50-metre freestyle silver and anchor for the boys’ freestyle relay bronze. As goalkeeper for the McCrae boys’ senior soccer team, he allowed the least number of goals in an undefeated regular season before losing the playoff semifinal.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Noah McNeil
SPORTS: Volleyball, baseball, track and field, intermediate volleyball referee.
THE WHY: McNeil finished his high school athletic career placing second in the boys’ senior shot put and fifth in discus at the NCSSAA West Conference track and field championships. He advanced to the NCSSAA championships, but missed top-10 results by one placement. Whether on the volleyball court or baseball diamond, he showed his leadership throughout the games and always stressed the importance of playing as a team.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Teagan O’Grady
SPORTS: Soccer, field hockey, basketball, volleyball, ultimate.
THE WHY: O’Grady found more success in her field sports than her court sports. She helped Pierre-Savard to a fourth-place Far West Division result in the girls’ senior soccer league at 2-1-3, and a fourth-place finish in Tier 1 field hockey at 1-4-1 from two one-day tournaments. She also showed her many skills, physical abilities and understanding of the games in basketball and volleyball.
Read More in our 2022 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our caps to top local student-athletes at:
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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