Valérie Breen-Dionne is easily one of the most decorated athletes in the history of Collège Boréal varsity sports. An accomplished multi-sport participant, competing for the Vipères in both badminton and volleyball, the native of Orleans completed her OCAA career with four medals, including the first ever gold medal performance for the local institution in March of 2010.
Earlier this month, the current crew of Boréal athletes enjoyed the opportunity to share the stage with the 27 year old paramedic who now serves as an assistant coach with the badminton team, as Breen-Dionne was recognized with the Alumni Award at the year-end Athletic Banquet.
The honour speaks not only to the legacy that she would leave as an athlete during her time at the New Sudbury campus, but also the litany of community involvement projects with which Breen-Dionne has become involved, especially since her graduation from the college in June of 2014.
On an evening that celebrated athletic excellence and perseverance, Breen-Dionne recalled with pride the lessons of the road that she travelled as a member of the Vipères family. “I was always somebody who had to work really hard for everything that I had,” she stated, moments after the conclusion of the year-end festivities.
“Having to work extra hard in sports was a good life lesson, especially when it came to my work field. Also the time management that I learned, being able to manage my schedule for everything that I do, whether it be paramedic bike rides, coaching, family life. Those are all positives that I took with me after college.”
The bond that she shares with Boréal is a particularly tight one. It was here that she would meet her husband, Mike Dionne, the man whose father (Dennis) worked hand in hand with long-time Vipères badminton coach Lynn Michel, building a tradition that is easily the pride of the varsity folks at the school.
Special memories are not the least bit difficult to access for Breen-Dionne. “To me, it's the family you create when you are there,” she said. “The sport is always going to be there, whether it's recreational or competitive or higher levels. But the family you create, the friendships you create, it's just different. It's not like every day life.”
While medals might be few and far between for a college that ranks among the smallest size of student population in the province, Breen-Dionne suggested there is the recognition of a greater inner strength that most prevails over time.
“Being able to participate in nationals twice was a good accomplishment,” she suggested. “But to me, medals are something that you put on the wall and you look at every once in a while and it makes you smile. But just knowing that I gave my 100% every practice, that's something I won't ever look back on with regret.”
“I was always able to push myself and not rely on someone else to push me, being at every practice, not missing them.” Still, there is a slightly different perspective that comes with time, looking back on some very impressive accomplishments.
“When I went through it, as an athlete, I was the type that would think that I did well, but that I was also kind of lucky,” said Breen-Dionne. “Now, looking back at the competition, I'm like “Oh my gosh, I was there”. I think now that my achievements are maybe a little better than I thought back then, but I was younger then, too, so that might play into it.”
On this particular night, not all the award recipients could be described as younger. Young at heart, perhaps. The afore-mentioned Lynn Michel, now in her fifties and returning to school in the women's carpentry program, was selected as Female Rookie of the Year, with volleyball setter Kevin Longpré earning the distinction for the men.
The Athlete of the Year voting would see badminton star Emilie Roy walk away with bragging rights, for the women, for the second year in a row, after finishing fourth in the OCAA Women's Doubles event with partner Lynn Michel.
The Male Athlete of the Year presentation would see Penetanguishine sophomore and volleyball power hitter Stephen Lefaive stepping into the shoes that were occupied, one year ago, by his current assistant coach, Adam Martelli.
Following is a breakdown of the remaining individual awards that were doled out at the ceremony:Women's Volleyball
Most Improved Player – Karlee Gravelle
High Performance Athlete – Myriam Bouffard
Rookie of the Year – Megan Hicks
Most Valuable Player – Josée Côté
Most Improved Player – Justin Lamontagne
High Performance Athlete – Rylan Levean
Rookie of the Year – Kevin Longpré
MostValuable Player – Stephen Lefaive
Most Improved Player – Danika Mayer
Rookie of the Year – Lynn Michel
Most Valuable Player – Emilie Roy
Most Improved Player – Luc Demers
Rookie of the Year – Zackary Brunet
Most Valuable Player – Jonathan Boucher
Dennis Dionne Memorial Bursary