Daines, Finnigan named Advocate’s athletes of the year

Top-level athletes, for the most part, do not enter into competition in search of individual accolades.

Top-level athletes, for the most part, do not enter into competition in search of individual accolades.

However, now and then certain competitors excel to the extent that they’re impossible to ignore. Sydney Daines and Tim Finnigan are two such individuals, and therefore have been selected by the sports department and former staff member Danny Rode as the Red Deer Advocate Red Deer female and male athletes of the year for 2014.

“It’s a great accomplishment, especially with how many great female athletes there are in Central Alberta,” Daines, who last year was a standout in soccer and the rodeo event of barrel racing, said Thursday.

Daines, who with her horse Flame was runner-up at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton and won $44,209 in the process, beat our fellow nominees Kelsey Lalor (volleyball, basketball, baseball), speed skater Maddison Pearman, gymnast Kalena Soehn and swimmer Rebecca Smith for the Advocate award.

“I didn’t even know some of the other sports along with the other nominees, like speed skating. That’s very interesting,” said Daines, who finished her rodeo season with earnings of $59,015 that also included the $14,805 she garnered in 29 Canadian Pro Rodeo Association events.

The Innisfail area resident and Red Deer College student also flourished in soccer, scoring five goals in eight games with the RDC Queens and six goals in 12 games with the Red Deer Renegades of the Alberta Major League. She won’t be with the Renegades this season due to her rodeo commitments, but hasn’t ruled out joining the Queens in late summer.

“I haven’t quite decided yet. College soccer doesn’t start until the beginning of August (with training),” said Daines. “I know we’re going to have a pretty good team this year. We had a meeting last night getting everything ready for the fall. It just depends on how the Calgary Stampede goes and how much travelling I do.”

Daines was referring to the berth she earned in this year’s Stampede, recognized as the premier rodeo in the world and just one of many rodeos — including Medicine Hat this weekend — on her summer schedule.

“I’m very excited about that and I’m also looking at some rodeos in Montana,” she said. “It all depends on how the Stampede goes and how well my horse is running.”

Finnigan, meanwhile, was selected as the winner of the Advocate male award over former Red Deer Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak, former RDC Kings basketball star Lloyd Strickland, gymnast Keegan Soehn and Braden Posyluzny of the Red Deer Titans Track and Field Club.

“It’s definitely awesome to have the individual recognition, but I wouldn’t have been nearly where I was without the teammates I had around me,” said Finnigan, who helped the RDC volleyball Kings win a national title in 2014 and was named Alberta Colleges player of the year as well as an All Canadian.

“We had such an awesome team. The coaching staff was beyond my expectations,” said the Red Deer native and former Notre Dame high school star and athlete of the year, who played two seasons at SAIT before shifting to RDC in 2012. “(Kings head coach) Aaron Schulha and his staff are at a high level of excellence and they just push you so hard.

“Everyone around me contributed to it.”

Finnigan, who last year was also selected as an all-star at both the provincial and national finals and was honoured as the RDC male athlete of the year, said his ACAC recognition as player of the year was his award of choice.

“I’d say that was probably my favourite one just because our league is so tough,” he said. “Obviously I’m biased, but I think our league is the toughest in the (country). Getting recognized as the top player in the league is pretty awesome.”

Finnigan will enter his final year of his business studies in the fall but has exhausted his college volleyball eligibility. But that doesn’t mean his association with the Kings is over.

“I might help out with coaching next year,” he explained.