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Central Sport announces 2023 sports award recipients

Athletes of the year plus more
Red Deer Rebels forward Kai Uchacz was awarded the Red Deer Advocate Male Athlete of the Year award on Saturday night prior to the Rebels game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Taylor Lachance/ Red Deer Rebels)

Central Sport announced their 2023 sport award winners on Saturday in front of thousands of fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium before the Red Deer Rebels game.

In partnership with the City of Red Deer and the Red Deer Advocate, the winners of the awards were chosen by a committee to recognize local athletes, teams, volunteers, and coaches.

Male Athlete of the Year

Red Deer Rebels captain Kai Uchacz was named the Red Deer Advocate Male Athlete of the Year following a career year in the WHL.

Uchacz was one of the leagues top goal scorers notching 51 goals between the end of the 2022-23 season, playoffs and the first half of the 2023-24 campaign.

His 50 regular season goals in 2022-23 were second in the WHL behind only Connor Bedard.

After winning the team’s Most Valuable Player honour and Humanitarian of the Year honour for 2022-23, he was named the Rebels captain for the 2023-24 season.

Uchacz said he didn’t expect to be named the award winner but that he was honoured.

“That’s a huge honour from the city and the Rebels organization… I’m pretty happy about that.”

Red Deer track and field athlete Jeremiah Lauzon and RDP Kings goalie Arik Weersink were also nominated.

Female Athlete of the Year

BMX athlete Molly Simpson is the 2023 Red Deer Advocate Female Athlete of the Year for an outstanding season on the BMX circuit.

The 21-year-old competed internationally in BMX racing which ended with a silver medal at the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile. To come home with the silver medal, she beat a strong field of competitors and finished just behind a two-time Olympic champion.

She also placed within the top-five of her first four World Cup races of 2023. This led to her finishing the season seventh overall in the World Cup standings.

RDP Queens guard Sandra Garcia-Bernal and Red Deer track and field athlete Tricia Madourie were also nominated.

Team of the Year

The RDP Queens basketball team was named the 2023 Pattison Media Team of the Year after winning their first ACAC title in 31 years.

The Queens had a season for the record books in 2022-23 and that continued into the first half of 2023-24.

In the second half of the season, they were undefeated with 25 straight victories. The Queens went on to play at nationals and finished fourth in the country.

Kendall Dunkle Minor Coach of the Year

Ben Cripps was named the 2023 Kendall Dunkle Minor Coach of the Year Award presented by the Red Deer Fire Department.

The award was given to a coach who volunteered in 2023 coaching athletes 16 and under, is a role model, who shows and encourages leadership, good sportsmanship and enthusiasm for their sport.

Cripps is a basketball coach with both male and female teams in the Red Deer Minor Basketball Association.

He also serves as a referee and is an RDMBA board member. on top of that, he hosts drop-in sessions for younger players and encourages players to be the best teammates they can be while helping foster growth and development.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael Klass was named the posthumous recipient of the 2023 Red Deer Lifetime Sport Achievement Award.

Klass moved to Red Deer in the early 2000s and was a community leader. He fought tirelessly for the betterment of Central Alberta and that showed through his work in the community.

He served on the 2006 Alberta Summer Games host committee and in addition to his role with the Central Alberta Sport Development Centre, he later worked with Hockey Alberta.

He was a part of the 2010 Olympic torch relay committee and was integral in helping bring the 2019 Canada Winter Games to Red Deer.

He also worked as mission staff for the Alberta Games, the Canada Games and the Artic Games. Furthermore, he was a volunteer coach for Red Deer Minor Hockey and Red Deer Minor Lacrosse.

Klass sadly passed away on Nov. 5, 2023, but his legacy and long-lasting impact on sport in the region will not be forgotten.