Vernon Secondary athletes did well at the 24th annual Tim Hortons North Okanagan awards night.
The Panthers football team — which made it to the double A varsity BC final — was named team of the year for 2016-17.
Coach Sean Smith says it was a unique squad.
“I’ve coached for a number of years and what made these guys special was they had talent and they also had the work ethic that goes with it. I’ve had one or the other with different groups. They also put in a lot of time outside of the season to get better and stronger,” Smith told the media.
Photo: VSS Panthers accept award for Team of the Year at Tim Hortons North Okanagan Awards
The Panthers were the first Interior team in 20 years to make it to the provincial finals.
They fell 35-15 to the Seaquam Seahawks of Delta in the final at B.C. Place.
L-R Taylor MacInnis and Dan Currie from Tim Hortons present Team of Year to VSS football players Ben Hladik, Josh Hyer and Rylie Bos
Smith hopes to soon be able to have a field to play on at VSS.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s now probably been six years since we’ve been able to play on a field. We lost our field when they were building the new VSS, plus the four years since we’ve been in it. It takes its toll on everybody.”
Smith is optimistic winning the award will inspire younger kids who want to play high school football.
Ken Richardson and Kevin Mitchell present Athlete of the Year award to cross country runner Hannah Bennison
Cross country runner Hannah Bennison of VSS was named athlete of the year after winning her third provincial title.
Bennison was also the top Canadian finisher at the IAAF World Championships in Uganda, finishing 24th in the Under 20 women’s race.
“After a year of injuries last year, it was really rewarding to come back so strong. I hadn’t expected to, and having been injured, I learned a lot about myself and it put everything in perspective. I don’t take anything for granted for sure, and this is very rewarding,”
The grade 12 student will be off to Providence on scholarship this fall.
“I’m majoring in political science, and I think I will do my degree in five years, and spread it out so it’s not too stressful.”
Bennison says she loves to run.
“I really love it. I think even if I can’t compete someday for some reason, I will definitely keep running. I will run my entire life. I really love to compete too.”
Justin Sigal of Special Olympics was the runner up for top athlete after winning two medals in cross country skiing at the world winter games in Austria.
Taylor MacInnis and Jack Gilroy present Leadership Award to Ian Gibson (centre)
Ian Gibson was presented with the Leadership award for his many years of service to boxing and soccer.
He says the award means “everything” to him.
“Coming to this town was a pleasure for me really. When I came here I went to see Don McDonald (boxing coach), and he told me ‘I don’t need help, but I need somebody for refereeing and judging.’ That’s what got me involved in that,” says Gibson who was overcome with emotion upon receiving his award, thinking of his late wife Betsy, who used to travel to all the boxing matches with him.
Gibson, at 81, is still involved in local sports.
“I’m totally involved with the kids in boxing and soccer. Right now my boxing association is really exploding. We were down for about three years, and now all of a sudden it’s climbing again.”
The award winners are chosen by a media and community panel, chaired by Ken Richardson, and featuring John Topping, Jack Gilroy, Dan Currie, Taylor MacInnis, Betty Selin, Kate Bouey, Kevin Mitchell, and Pete McIntyre.