The challenge of trying to narrow down the field when it came to honouring some of Sudbury's top athletes and sports volunteers proved to be a little too much for the organizers of the 2018 Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame Awards Dinner this past Wednesday.
No less than three separate categories would feature a tie for the top spot in the voting, including a highly logical deadlock within the local curling community. With both the boys and girls U18 teams which represented Northern Ontario at the inaugural Canadian U18 Curling Championships in 2017 capturing gold, a draw seemed all too appropriate (pardon the curling pun!).
In fact, there was every reason to celebrate the shared rarity that the very same club, the Sudbury Curling Club (now Curl Sudbury), should produce both championship teams.
Sharing the Sheridan Family Team of the Year award were the Kira Brunton rink of Kate Sherry, Sydnie Stinson and Jessica Leonard, as well as the Jacob Horgan quartet that included Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette and Shane Robinson.
And it wasn't just established awards that were the subject of neck and neck races. The newly created Volunteer of the Year prize was shared between Donna Kivinen (Big Nickel Hockey Tournament) and Randy Stevens (Joe MacDonald Youth Football League).
Finally, no single winner could be determined in the Amateur Female Athlete of the Year category, with Samantha Cooper (Fairfield University Stags women's basketball) and Stephanie Pascal (Queen's Gaels women's hockey) both walking off with award winning plaques.
Following is a list of the remaining winners, as well as the finalists, with a brief bio on one and all:Import Athlete of the Year
Winner - Kadre Gray (Laurentian Voyageurs men's basketball) - was recognized not only as the U-Sport Player of the Year in men's basketball, but was also the first ever national Male Athlete of the Year in Laurentian varsity athletics history
Finalist - Mary Strain (Cambrian Golden Shield cross country running) - OCAA provincial silver medal winner and Cambrian Female Athlete of the Year
High School Male Athlete of the Year
Winner - Calum Passi (Lasalle Lancers - cross-country, track, volleyball, basketball, soccer) - captured bronze at the OFSAA Cross-Country Championships, becoming first Sudbury athlete since Devon Kershaw to medal at the event
Finalist - Nick Rideout (Lively Hawks - football, track, basketball) - named MVP in the SDSSAA Football League and also captured the city title in the senior boys triple jump in 2017
Bill Roman Administration Award
Winner - Neil Phipps (Sudbury Fitness Challenge) - at a time when the city risked seeing the demise of the Fitness Challenge that dates back to the 1970s, Phipps led a group of volunteers in re-energizing the event, drawing an increasingly larger number of participants in recent years
Finalist - Jack Miller (Sudbury GymZone/OFSAA Gymnastics) - a coach and do-it-all volunteer with the Sudbury GymZone for several decades, Miller was also prominent in the organization of the very last OFSAA gymnastics championships hosted this past April in Sudbury
Joe Drago Coach of the Year
Winner - Dean Henze (Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club) - not only has Henze produced a number of national caliber swimmers in the past decade or so, including Florida State recruit Nina Kucheran, but he has also helped broaden the overall strength of the SLSC on a provincial scale
Finalist - Lindsay Wandziak (Sudbury Synchro Swim Club) - competing against clubs with many times more athletes to choose from, Wandziak and her team of coaches have proved more than competitive, consistently cracking the top three in multiple competitions across Ontario
Professional Athlete of the Year
Winner - Jenna Hellstrom (Canadian national team) - a graduate of the Kent State Golden Flashes program, Hellstrom would go on to play professionally in Sweden before being asked to join the national women's soccer team in tournament play in Germany, earning the first "cap" of her career
Finalists - Mike McCue (professional squash) - represented Canada at World Squash Team Championships in France and captured the first PSA Tour event of his career; Tyler Bertuzzi (Detroit Red Wings) - cracked an NHL roster on a consistent basis for the first time, scoring seven goals and adding 17 assists in 48 games
Elite Athlete of the Year
Winner - Collin Cameron (Paralympian - para-nordic skiing) - captured three bronze medals competing at 2018 Paralympics in Pyeongchang (South Korea)
Finalist - Nina Kucheran (Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club) - kicking off her NCAA career at Florida State this coming fall, Kucheran capped off an outstanding competitive season by picking up a silver medal at the Canadian Swimming Championships, a performance that helped her crack the Canadian team which will compete at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships this August in Fiji
Amateur Female Athlete of the Year
Co-Winner - Samantha Cooper (Fairfield Stags - women's basketball - NCAA) - Cooper was named to the All-Metropolitan Second All-Star team following a senior year in which she would finish her career ranked 5th in rebounds, 6th in three-point field goals made, and 16th, all-time, in scoring
Co-Winner - Stephanie Pascal (Queen's Gaels - women's hockey) - Pascal was recognized as the OUA Goaltender of the Year, was named to the first all-star team, selected as U Sport Female Athlete of the Month in January, all while helping to lead her team to an appearance at nationals for a second straight year
Finalist - Tiffany Johnson (Cambrian Golden Shield - women's soccer) - Johnson rewrote the OCAA record book during the course of her career at Cambrian, as she now holds both the all-time career mark for goals scored, as well as the single season record
Amateur Male Athlete of the Year
Winner - Tristan Renaud (Idylwylde Golf & Country Club; Lockerby Composite) - Renaud captured the Ontario Junior Golf Championships last summer, as well as becoming the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Idylwylde Invitational
Finalist - Jacob Czaja (St Francis Xavier X-Men/Ottawa Redblacks) - named to the first all-star team in the Atlantic Athletic Conference, Czaja was selected in the 8th round of the CFL draft by the Ottawa Redblacks
High School Female Athlete of the Year
Winner - Tyanna Soucy (Marymount Regals - wrestling, flag football, soccer) - competing in wrestling for the very first time, Soucy captured gold at the 2018 OFSAA Wrestling Championships, in addition to being a team captain with the ultra successful Marymount flag football team
Finalist - Meredith Kusnierczyk (Lo-Ellen - cross-country, nordic skiing, track) - Kusnierczyk captured gold at the OFSAA nordic ski championships as well as city titles in track and field and cross-country
Dr Fred W Sheridan High School Team of the Year
Winner - Lockerby Girls Curling Team - Sydnie Stinson, Jessica Leonard, Abby Deschenes, Elizabeth Huska - team captured gold at the 2018 OFSAA curling championships
Finalist - Lo-Ellen Park Knights senior girls basketball team - the group led by coach Jennifer Bourget claimed both the city and NOSSA banners before earning bronze at the OFSAA "AA" Girls Basketball Championships in November