The true mark of top athletes at Hunting Hills High School came not with the list of their accomplishments, but the acknowledgment of their teammates Wednesday.
The Lightning celebrated a season of highs and lows from both teams and individuals at their year-end banquet and what stood out most was the dedication to the collective by the school’s best athletes.
Grade 11 Sydney Larsen for example, who was named the High School Female Athlete of the Year, explained her major success came from being a leader on both the volleyball and basketball courts. That inspiration from her teammates was what helped her excel.
“This is more of a grade 12 award, so the honour that my coaches and teammates see me so highly and want me to achieve this award. Really thankful to all my coaches, I would be nowhere close to where I am without them,” she said.
“My mindset was just to work hard and trying to encourage my teammates. Especially with being the captain of the basketball team. I wanted to be a leader and be able to show the younger girls to strive for excellence and to be where they want to be in the years to come.”
Male Athlete of the Year Nathan LaVigne noted that when he started at Hunting Hills he wasn’t particularly interested in football, but went out after some encouragement from friends.
Four years later he was the MVP of the Central Alberta High School Football League and was quick to remember those who helped pave the path to his success.
“It’s really satisfying to see it all come to fruition in the form of this. All my teammates, coaches, teachers and friends, they made this possible and really helped me along the way. It feels great,” he said.
The Lightning star wide receiver will play football next season with the Edmonton Wildcats in the Canadian Junior Football League.
LaVigne added that he looks back fondly on how he grew at Hunting Hills and in particular, what it means to be a Lightning athlete.
“Just that commitment to making a sacrifice. Sacrificing your daily routine to build yourself as an athlete and contribute. It’s why Hunting Hills is at the top in a lot of ways,” he said.
He is also a big part of the Lightning rugby team that will play for an Alberta Schools Athletic Association Tier II Provincial Championship this weekend. He also played on the senior basketball team.
Larsen finished off her grade 11 sports season with a silver medal in the pentathlon at the ASAA Track and Field Championships on home turf, one of her proudest accomplishments of the year.
“It was great, it was a hard-earned medal, especially because it was pentathlon. It was basically the best way to end my grade 11 year, Hope to come back next year and achieve more than I did this year,” she said.
She hopes to make that a gold medal next season and will focus on being the best teammate she can be in her other major sports.
“For volleyball and basketball, it will be my third year on both teams, I hope to show as one of the team leaders and representation for the young girls about what they need to be doing for the years to come. And track I want to come back and win gold,” she said.
Other major award winners included: Doug Spicer, Lightning Advocate of the Year; Joel Demale, Stacey Larsen Memorial Award; Andrew Abey, Top Academic Athlete Award; Blake Hopkins and Callum Deditch, Ross Towers Award; Grade 9 Badminton, Lightning Pride Team of the Year; Warner Schultz, Andre Sather Memorial Award.