Regan Fathers (Right) accepts the 2017 Advocate Red Deer Athlete of the Year on Wednesday night prior to the Red Deer Rebels game. (Photo courtesy of Rob Wallator)

Jordanna Cota and Regan Fathers 2017 Advocate Athletes of the Year

When Regan Fathers reflected on it all, it was his teammates that brought him the most joy.

Same with cross-country runner Jordanna Cota, who said what made all the sacrifices worthwhile wasn’t the accomplishments, but the teammates.

Cota, a fifth-year student at RDC was named the 2017 Advocate Red Deer Female Athlete of the Year, partly because she finished first in every Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference race she entered this season.

Fathers, the 2017 Advocate Male Red Deer Male Athlete of the Year, an outside hitter with the RDC Kings volleyball team that won a national title for the second straight season last year, said it was his team that he’ll remember in the end.

Cota was the ACAC Cross-Country Runner of the Year and first-team all-conference last year. She also finished fourth at nationals and her team was just off the podium for an overall medal.

Yet, in all her years of running and in particular this season, it was what the team support she remembers most.

“My team has probably been the biggest impact that I never expected,” she said.

“Running is an individual sport. I’ve really grown from my first year to now, realizing how important your teammates are. Regardless of whether it’s a team or individual sport. And really the importance of staying humble and having fun with it.”

All Fathers did last season was pick up player-of-the-game honours in all three matches in the ACAC Championships on home court, then follow that up with an MVP performance in the National Championship title run.

“Always being there for your teammates. We struggled in our first semester at RDC. We discussed as a team we hadn’t been hanging out much time together and everyone was focused on school,” he recalled.

“When we got together as a group and talked about what needed to be done. We hung out more and gelled a lot as a unit and that paid off at the end of the season.”

For his role in the second consecutive national title for the RDC Kings, Fathers said there were a few other moments during the run that stood out.

The first was the fan support at the RDC Main Gym, where the ACAC Men’s Volleyball Championships were held in 2017.

“The support was incredible and that just raised the energy for our team and for me individually. It was like nothing I’d really been a part of,” he said.

The other, was his own individual performance against the host Fanshawe College in the national title quarter-finals last year.

“There was a huge crowd for our quarter-final game, against the host team. Personally, I think that was one of my better games of the tournament. I thrive off the crowd environment and the energy on the court,” said Fathers about the 14 kill, five ace performance.

Cota added that celebrating a race win with her teammates for the first time in her ACAC career, in Red Deer on home turf ranked highly on her memorable moments from the standout year.

“Our entire team had all of our family and friends there. It was a really special moment. In cross country, we haven’t been able to host a race at RDC in a long time. We brought out a lot of people and showed the true sport of it. Awesome having the community and other teams at the college, it was really special,” she said.

Cota also said that while she was hoping for a medal at nationals, she was still proud of her fourth-place finish. The course was a lot flatter than she expected, and as a running who thrives on hills, it threw her off slightly.

“That was a humbling experience. I went to nationals looking at the times from across the nation and they were running extremely fast. I just wanted to beat my placing from the previous year which was sixth,” she said.

“I went into the race and ran my absolute hardest. I don’t think I’ve ever run that hard in my life. It was fast from the start to the finish.”

Other female athletes that were considered for the award included Queens curler Marla Sherrer, swimmer Rebecca Smith and golfer Shaye Leidenius.

On the male side, Red Deer Rampage lacrosse players and national silver medalists Connor Shantz and Dustin Bell were also considered, as well as Reese Lehman who won silver at the Canada Summer Games in volleyball.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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