Varsity Blues track and field standout Sacha Smart and women’s swimming star Kylie Masse were named the 2016 T-Holders’ male and female athletes of the year during the University of Toronto’s annual athletic banquet awards ceremony on Saturday, April 9 at Chestnut Residence.
Tennis player Zain Manji and badminton sensation Rachel Honderich took the second annual Frank Pindar male and female athlete of the year awards, which is given annually to athletes competing in a sport whose official season concludes with either an OUA or other university recognized championship event.
The Blues also honoured track and field graduating seniors Darnell Girard as the George M. Biggs Trophy award winner, as well as Rachel Jewett, who was awarded the Dr. Clara Benson Honour award, for their outstanding athletic achievement, scholarship and community service during their tenure at the University of Toronto.
In addition, swimmer Osvald Nitski and women’s volleyball phenom Alina Dormann took home the sixth annual Varsity Blues male and female rookie of the year awards.
A second-year kinesiology major, Masse was named the OUA and CIS female swimmer of the year in leading the Blues to their third consecutive OUA title and first national banner since 1996-97.
On the national stage, the LaSalle, Ont., native collected seven podium finishes in as many events, including four gold medals, three long-course meet records and a new Canadian standard. She set CIS long-course records in all three backstroke finals, including a Canadian-record time of 27.84 seconds in the 50-metre swim. She also triumphed in the 400 freestyle relay and added a trio of silver medals in the 200 IM, 800 free and 400 medley relay.
At the provincial championships, Masse won all six OUA finals in record time, while also adding her name in the Canadian record book thanks to her times in the short-course 50 and 100 backstroke.
This past Wednesday night, Masse qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She broke her own Canadian record and touched the wall with the second fastest time in the world this season in the 100-metre backstroke.
Smart had a breakout season and led the Varsity Blues to their first national medal in over 20 years. The fourth-year kinesiology major from Toronto earned CIS track athlete of the year honours and won one gold and two silver medals at the national meet.
A CIS first team all-Canadian, Smart claimed the men’s 1000m title and the silver medal in the 600m. He also led Toronto’s silver-medal winning 4×400 relay team with a result that catapulted U of T two spots in the standings to earn the team bronze.
Smart was awarded the OUA Hec Phillips Trophy as the province’s overall most valuable performer after capturing four medals, including three gold, to lead the Blues to a fourth-place finish at the OUA championships. An OUA first team all-star, he won the 1000m and 4×400 relay in OUA record time, while also earning gold in the 600m and silver in the 4×800 relay.
Manji was honoured as the OUA men’s tennis player of the year and an OUA all-star after he helped U of T capture their first provincial title since 2011. A third-year computer science student from Ajax, Ont., Manji went undefeated at the championship, opening the tournament with an 8-1 doubles victory over UOIT’s No. 1 pair and a 6-0 victory over UOIT in singles action.
Along with partner Sasha Obucina, Manji went on to defeat Montreal’s No. 2 doubles team, before defeating the Montreal Carabins’ No. 1 singles player. When his team needed him the most, Manji capped off the championship with an 8-6 victory over Western’s No. 2 doubles pair, while also defeating their No. 1 player 6-2, 6-4 in singles action.
First-year badminton player, Honderich earned both OUA female most valuable player and rookie of the year honours in leading the Varsity Blues to their fourth OUA title in program history this season.
A two-time medalist at the 2015 Pan American Games this past summer in Toronto, Honderich went undefeated over eight matches at the provincial tournament, winning four mixed doubles, three women’s doubles and one women’s singles match. The Toronto native and kinesiology major was also named an OUA all-star for her efforts, and earned OUA peak performer of the week honours following the championship.
Girard has been a member of both the Blues football and track and field teams during his time at U of T. The human biology major from Toronto earned CIS academic all-Canadian honours in 2014-15. He served as the Varsity Board co-chair in 2015-16 and also sat on the Council of Athletics & Recreation as an ex-officio member this year.
He was a member of the Varsity Board community service subcommittee and led in the organization of the Holiday Toy Toss in support of the CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish foundation and UTSU Toy Drive. Girard served as a U of T Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) ambassador and also volunteered his time with the Blues Buddy Up program.
Jewett, a master’s of exercise science candidate, is a four-time CIS academic all-Canadian and was honoured as the 2015 U of T CIS top female scholar athletes. The five-time OUA first team all-star and four-time CIS first team all-Canadian was named the 2012 OUA female field events most valuable performer and is a member of two national championship teams.
The Toronto native has twice won the OUA student-athlete community service award. Jewett volunteers weekly at CAMH and organizes U of T’s annual holiday baked good drive for the Yonge Street Mission. She also volunteers with Toronto Cat Rescue and from 2011-13 gave her time at the Toronto Humane Society.
Nitski was named the CIS men’s swimming male rookie of the year in helping the Varsity Blues to their third national title in the past four years in 2016. At the national meet, the mechanical engineering major from Hamilton, Ont., won CIS gold medals in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley. The CIS first team all-Canadian also helped the Blues to a bronze-medal finish in the 800 freestyle relay.
At the provincial championships, Nitski won five medals, including OUA titles in the 1500 freestyle and 800 freestyle relay, a silver medal in the 200 butterfly, and bronze medals in the 400 freestyle and IM events. He was named an OUA first team all-star in helping the Blues to their 13th straight OUA banner.
Dormann, a first-year right side hitter and life science major, had an incredible rookie season with the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team. The Ottawa native was named the CIS rookie of the year, a CIS second team all-Canadian and a member of the CIS all-rookie team in helping the Blues to a perfect 25-0 record and their first-ever national title.
She ranked second in the conference with 4.1 points, and third with 0.56 service aces per set, while also contributing a team-high 3.08 kills per set. Dormann notched double-digit points in all but three conference matches and was honoured as the OUA East player of the year, rookie of the year, a first team all-star and a member of the all-rookie team. She led the Blues to their second straight provincial title this season.
2015-16 Varsity Blues Major Award Winners
T-Holders’ Athletes of the Year
Presented annually to the male and female student T-Holder – the U of T Athlete of the Year – for exhibiting the highest degree of excellence in athletics.
Male – Sacha Smart (Track & Field)
Female – Kylie Masse (Swimming)
Frank Pindar Athletes of the Year
Presented annually to a male and female varsity athlete competing in a sport whose official season concludes with either an OUA or other university recognized championship event, who exhibits the highest degree of excellence while representing the University of Toronto at competitions during the team’s intercollegiate schedule for the current academic year.
Male – Zain Manji (Tennis)
Female – Rachel Honderich (Badminton)
George M. Biggs Trophy
Awarded to the graduating male student-athlete who has contributed most to university athletics from the standpoint of leadership, sportsmanship and performance.
Darnell Girard (Track & Field)
Benson Honour Award
Awarded to the female student-athlete in her graduating year for outstanding ability in athletics and scholarship.
Rachel Jewett (Track & Field)
Rookie of the Year Award
Awarded to a male and female Varsity athlete in their first year of post-secondary eligibility that exhibit outstanding athletic performance.
Male – Osvald Nitski (Swimming)
Female – Alina Dormann (Volleyball)
Swimming news courtesy of University of Toronto Varsity Blues Athletics