A pair of national calibre athletes shared the spotlight at the annual Red Deer Community Sports Awards Banquet at the Sheraton Sunday.
RDC Kings basketball star Robert Pierce and Lisa Dahlke of the Red Deer Synchronized Swim Club were named the Red Deer open male and female athletes of the year.
The award was a perfect way for Dahlke to finish her competitive career.
“I’m finished after last year,” she said. “Last year I had some health problems, which kept me out of the pool for a lot of the season.”
She finally got back for the provincials and despite not being able to train she won gold in the solo technical, was third in the solo freestyle and third overall. At the Western championships she placed third in the solo free, was fourth in the solo technical and fourth overall. She then turned in an outstanding effort at the national finals, placing fourth in the free, technical and overall.
“I was most proud of what I accomplished at the nationals,” she said. “The East usually kicks our butts so it was a big deal to place up there.”
The 19-year-old Dahlke was named the 2012 National senior (18-and-over) athlete of the year by Synchronized Alberta at the Alberta Aquatic awards.
“That was a great award to win for the club as there’s a lot of stiff competition. Red Deer never won anything like that before.”
Dahlke has been involved in synchro for nine years after breaking her leg in gymnastics.
“I started gymnastics when I was six and after breaking my leg my mom put me in the pool for rehab and I fell in love with it.”
Despite the fact she’s no long competing, she won’t be far from the pool.
“I started coaching four years ago and last year I coached the masters team and worked with little, little girls and basically tried to make it look like they weren’t drowning,” she said with a laugh.
Dahlke edged a pair of RDC athletes — volleyball power hitter Brooke Sutter and Queens hockey netminder Camille Trautman — for the award.
Pierce has been a key player as the Kings built their program into one of the best in the country.
Last season Pierce averaged over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game as the Kings finished second in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference and fourth in the nation. They went into the Canadian finals ranked eighth.
Pierce was named to the first all-star team in the ACAC and at the nationals.
The Windsor, Ont., native was recruited by Kings head coach Clayton Pottinger after receiving his name from a coach in Windsor.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but Jacob Cusumano’s father told me about Red Deer and Clayton contacted me. I was unsure about it, but decided to give it a try and it’s been great. RDC has been so helpful academically and on and off the court. It’s been a great career choice,” said Pierce, who doesn’t want to take all the credit for rebuilding the RDC program.
“I can’t take credit, there’s a strong cast behind me,” he said. “I was put into a position to contribute with a lot of hard work from a lot of others.”
Red Deer Riggers star Jason Chatwood and Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mathew Dumba were also in the running.
• Cross-country runner Kieran McDonald and multi-talented Kelsey Caine received the junior (19-and-under) athlete of the year awards.
McDonald is the top junior aged runner in the province. He won the high school 3,000-metre championship at the track and field finals then joined RDC where he placed second in the ACAC finals and fourth at the nationals. He was the top U19 runner and top Albertan at the Canadians.
He also competed at the Athletics Canada cross-country championships, finishing 21st, and was once again the top Albertan.
Alan d’Assumpcao-Ng of the Exelta Gymnastics Club and world class martial artist Nick Marchuk were also in the running for the award.
Caine was a member of Canada’s junior (U19) national ringette program, competing for Team Canada West at the world finals. She finished seventh in scoring, was a second team all-star and helped her team win bronze.
She also competed at the Canadian U19 AA championships for the Central Alberta Sting. She also competes in volleyball, soccer, tennis and track and field. She was the Notre Dame Grade 10 female athlete of the year.
Cross-country runner Jordanna Cota of Hunting Hills and softball’s Kaylee Domoney were also up for the award.
• Ultra marathon runner, Jeff Stokoe, and Mary Gardner of the Red Deer Tennis Club shared the masters athlete of the year awards.
Stokoe, who is heavily into cross-fit, has spent his career running, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, cycling and rock climbing to name just a few of his accomplishments.
Gardner, who has been a long time member of the local tennis club, won gold at the Canada 55 Games last year, her third medal at the Games. She previously won gold and bronze.
Nicole Elliot of the Synchronized Swim Club was also up for the award.