Joanna Alphonso & Kaion Julien-Grant named StFX student-athletes of the year

Joanna Alphonso & Kaion Julien-Grant named StFX student-athletes of the year

ANTIGONISH, NS --- The StFX Athletic Department honored the athletic accomplishments of their varsity athletes Thursday evening at their annual awards gala at the Charles V. Keating Centre. X-Women rugby prop Joanna Alphonso was named the StFX Female Student-Athlete of the Year, while X-Men football receiver Kaion Julien-Grant received StFX Male Student-Athlete of the Year honors. The StFX Female Community X-Cellence award was presented to Kelsey Ellis from the X-Women soccer team, while Riley Jennings from X-Men track & field was the winner of the StFX Male Community X-Cellence award.

Joanna Alphonso is a first year Education student in her fifth year of eligibility as a co-captain of the X-Women rugby team. A prop from Ajax, Ont., Alphonso earned AUS all-star status for the fifth consecutive year and was named a U SPORTS All-Canadian for the fourth consecutive time as she was fifth overall in AUS scoring this season with 30 points. She was a key leader on the X-Women squad that took home their sixth national championship banner. Over her five years at StFX, Joanna has won three U SPORTS national gold medals, one bronze medal and four AUS championship titles, and she was the AUS most valuable player in 2017, 2016 and 2015. She earned U SPORTS tournament all-star status for the second time this past fall and finishes her career sixth on the AUS all-time career scoring list with 195 points.

Alphonso becomes the sixth X-Women rugby athlete to be named the StFX Female Student-Athlete of the Year. Previous hockey winners include Emma Taylor (2015), Tyson Beukeboom (2012-2013), Ghislaine Landry (2007-2010), Michelle Tremere (2004) and Danielle Goulet (2002-2003).

Kaion Julien-Grant is a fourth year Human Kinetics student from Toronto, Ont. A receiver/returner on the X-Men football team, Julien-Grant led the AUS conference this season in receptions with 49 for an average of 6.1 receptions per game. He had a league-leading 638 total receiving yards and tied for first in receiving touchdowns with five. Kaion was honoured as the AUS conference MVP last fall as he helped the X-Men win their third AUS championship title in the past four years. A conference all-star as both a receiver and a kick returner, he received U SPORTS first team all-Canadian recognition on both offense and special teams, his third consecutive time being named a first team all-Canadian. In four seasons played, Julien-Grant now sits sixth in the AUS record books in career all-purpose yards with 4,563—more than any player in StFX school history, and he is tied for fifth in AUS history in career receiving touchdowns with 22.

Julien-Grant becomes the 11th X-Men football athlete to be named StFX Male Student-Athlete of the Year (dating back to 1974), with the most recent being Tivon Cook (2017) and Ron Omara (2014).

Kelsey Ellis is a fourth year Human Kinetics student with the X-Women soccer team. The Ottawa native was the co-president of the StFX chapter of Obesity Canada where she designed the 'OneTeam' program that involved pairing varsity athletes with local athletes with a disability to provide active peer mentorship. She also volunteered weekly at L'Arche Antigonish, designing and providing individualized physical activity for adults with intellectual disabilities in group home settings. Ellis lent her time as a volunteer with the StFX Fit 4 Life program, and was a rehabilitation assistant with the Motor Activities at X program, providing physical activity and therapeutic programming for an adult with newly acquired lower motor neuron disease.

Ellis' other community services activities included being a volunteer at Saint Martha's Regional Hospital in both the emergency room and as an art therapy volunteer, coaching boys and girls in U6 soccer, and being a peer buddy with the Best Buddies program, providing social mentoring an individual with an intellectual disability. Kelsey was a U SPORTS academic All-Canadian in each of her three years of studies to date and has presented her research at regional and national conferences. On the soccer pitch this past season she was honoured as a U SPORTS second team all-Canadian and an AUS first team all-star as she was third overall in conference scoring.

Riley Jennings is a fourth year Human Kinetics student in his third year of eligibility with the X-Men track & field team. A thrower from Debert, N.S., Jennings was involved with the Motor Activities at X program, volunteering weekly with individuals with disabilities in a wide variety of physical activity programs. He lent his time to the Autism learn to skate/swim program and was a StFX Fit 4 Life / Fit 4 Tots volunteer. Riley coached throwing to local high school aged athletes with the Antigonish Track and Field Club, was a facilitator with the Antigonish Multisport program, and assisted with the design of the inclusive sledge hockey program at StFX.

Jennings took part in several community service initiatives including the Harvest for Hunger, Halloween Safe Crossing event, and the Men's March for violence against women. In the track & field throwing circle, Riley was an AUS silver medalist in the weight throw this season, setting a new StFX record in the event, and also placed fifth at the AUS championship in the shot put. He is a former fullback with the X-Men football team and was named a Leader of Distinction in the StFX Leadership Academy.

The StFX Athletics 'X-Ceptional Award' which recognizes individuals who go above and beyond to contribute in a positive manner to StFX Athletics, was co-awarded this year to university president Dr. Kent MacDonald and local youth Oliver Smith.

Dr. Kent MacDonald, the 18th President and Vice Chancellor of StFX University, will be stepping away from his role this July and in his five years as university president has dedicated himself tirelessly to leading StFX. An incredible supporter of StFX Athletics and our X-Men and X-Women student-athletes, Kent cares deeply for all StFX students and has an amazing ability to personally connect and communicate with them. The creation of the Xaverian Fund, a $50 million endowment for student scholarships and bursaries. Kent was instrumental in working closely with donors and the student union to begin the creation of the Amelia and Lino Saputo Centre for Healthy Living, of which we have already reaped the benefits of a renovated main gymnasium and bleachers, outdoor stadium bleacher renovation, new sports medicine clinic, and this coming summer fully renovated varsity locker room spaces.

During his presidential tenure, StFX teams won 16 AUS conference championships in seven different sports, along with four U SPORTS national championships titles (three X-Women rugby and Angus Rawling in track & field), along with two silver and two bronze national team medals. Dr. MacDonald bleeds blue and white and is a proud supporter of the accomplishments of our varsity athletes both on the playing surface and in the classroom and the community.    

Oliver Smith is an 11 year old Antigonish, N.S. native who has served as an inspiration to not only our X-Men and X-Women student-athletes but to the greater community as well. Diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma two years ago and still fighting this childhood cancer disease, Oliver has shown our athletes that there is something out there bigger than sport to fight for. A fan of all StFX sports, but particularly hockey as he is a hockey player himself, Oliver and his family started a fundraiser where they make 'Ollie Bots'. So far they have raised over $20,000 for the Ewings Cancer Foundation of Canada through the sale of over 1500 Ollie Bots – a unique wooden robot created with blocks and skate laces and personalized stickers.

During the recent AUS hockey playoff run, Oliver provided unwavering fan support to both the X-Women and X-Men teams, even coming into their dressing rooms pre-game for each home playoff game to give a pep talk, inspirational words and to deliver the starting line-ups. He even surprised the X-Men hockey squad by coming to the U SPORTS championship in Lethbridge, Alta. to continue delivering his pre-game speeches, and he was a significant reason for their drive in winning the bronze medal game.

Mike Cavanagh was the winner of the 2018-19 StFX Coach of the Year award. In his 20th season behind the helm of the X-Women rugby team, Coach Cavanagh led the squad to an undefeated season en route to their 20th AUS championship title in team history. The X-Women then went 3-0 at the national championship to claim an impressive sixth national title. The 2018 AUS women's rugby Coach of the Year, Coach Cavanagh has created a dynasty with the X-Women rugby program.

At the awards gala, three StFX teams – X-Men cross country, X-Men football, and X-Women rugby - along with five individual track & field athletes and four relay teams received their traditional varsity 'X's in honor of their AUS championships from this past season. X-Women rugby athletes, coaches and staff also received their U SPORTS national championship rings. The individual AUS track & field champions honoured included Allie Flower (300m), Jane Hergett (600m), Angus Rawling (3000m), Tim Brennan (600m) and Kirishnia Cooper (triple jump).

X-Men and X-Women student-athletes who received AUS and U SPORTS accolades were recognized for their achievements as StFX Athletics produced 41 AUS all-stars, three AUS all-rookies, eight AUS major awards winners, 12 U SPORTS all-Canadians, two U SPORTS all-rookies, four U SPORTS tournament all-stars and one U SPORTS major award winner this past varsity season. All student-athletes who consumed their first year of eligibility received their traditional StFX varsity pins from their respective head coaches. 

Student therapists, strength & conditioning interns, and student managers from all StFX varsity teams were presented with plaques of appreciation for their contributions to the 2018-19 varsity season, with X-Women hockey manager Erin Krill and X-Men soccer manager Rachel Tooth receiving the student-manager of the year awards.

Individual awards for each varsity team were handed out by StFX coaches to the athletes as listed below.

2019 StFX Athletic Awards Gala – Individual Award Winners:

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL                                                  
Rookie of the Year – Lucia MacKay (New Glasgow, NS)
Coach's Award – Jamie McCarron (New Glasgow, NS)
Most Valuable Player – Kim Kingsbury (Nepean, ON)   

WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY                                           
Rookie of the Year – Breanna Sandluck (Thorburn, NS)                                    
Coach's Award – Zoe Johnston (Pembroke, ON)                                   
Runner of the Year – Hana Marmura (Antigonish, NS)               

WOMEN'S HOCKEY                                                           
Rookie of the Year – Tyra Meropoulis (Edson, AB)
Coach's Award – Lydia Schurman (Summerside, PE)                
Most Valuable Player – Lindsey Donovan (Mirimichi, NB)

WOMEN'S RUGBY                                                              
Rachel Duffley Memorial Rookie of the Year – Maddie Harroun (Halifax, NS)
Michelle Birks Memorial Coaches Award – Lucy Killacky (Wolfville, NS)
Most Valuable Player – Joanna Alphonso (Ajax, ON)                                                                            

WOMEN'S SOCCER                                                            
Rookie of the Year – Amanda Smith (Ottawa, ON)                                            
Coaches Award – Rachle Hawkins (Calgary, AB)         
Most Valuable Player – Kelsey Ellis (Ottawa, ON)

WOMEN'S TRACK & FIELD                                              
Rookie of the Year – Olivia Crewe (Ottawa, ON)                                  
Coach's Award – Lani Deakin (Dubai, UAE)                
Track Athlete of the Year – Allie Flower (Lunenberg, NS) & Jane Hergett (Port Williams, NS)                       

Rookie of the Year – Atik Gilao (Brampton, ON)
Most Improved Player – Justin Andrew (Hamilton, ON)
Most Valuable Player – Daniel Passley (Mississauga, ON)

Rookie of the Year – Aidan Doherty (Vancouver, BC)
Coach's Award – Patrick Marlow (Antigonish, NS)
Runner of the Year – Angus Rawling (Calgary, AB)

Joe Stewart Memorial Rookie of the Year – Gregor MacKellar (Tmberlea, NS)
Offensive Player of the Year –Jordan Socholotiuk (Waterford, ON)
Defensive Player of the Year – Tyler Cordeiro (Oakville, ON)
Special Teams Player of the Year – Keiran Burnham (Cambridge, ON)
Lineman of the Year – Jacob Czaja (Sudbury, ON)
Most Valuable Player – Kaion Julien-Grant (Toronto, ON) 

Rookie of the Year – Adam Holwell (St. John's, NF)
Melanson Top Scorer Award – Holden Cook (Whitby, ON)
Wayne Mattie Memorial Unsung Hero Award – Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS)
Most Valuable Player – Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) 

Rookie of the Year – Ayoub Al-Arabi (Halifax, NS)
Coaches Award – Ben Herringer (Calgary, AB)
Most Valuable Player – Josh Read (Bath, England) 

Rookie of the Year – Aidan McMann (Ottawa, ON)
Coach's Award – Angus Rawling (Calgary, AB) & Riley Jennings (Debert, NS)
Track Athlete of the Year – Tim Brennan (Beechville, NB)