It was an impressive year for the Lindsay Thurber Raiders athletic program, overshadowed by only its future.
Of the three athletes named male and female athlete of the year, two of them still have a year left at the school — Kelsey Lalor and Ben Pasiuk. Jarrett Zilinski is the only one moving on, but he too has a bright future.
“It’s always nice to get, but it’s really a testament to all of my coaches and family who’ve been supporting me,” said Pasiuk, 17.
Pasiuk was named MVP of the football team after taking over as starting quarterback and was a key cog on the boys basketball team as well as a big contributor on the track and field team.
He knows he has a lot of work ahead of him to improve on this season.
“It’s all about effort and working harder than you did, but keeping at it and never stopping, always getting better,” he said.
In addition to being named co-athlete male athlete of the year, Zilinski was also named MVP of the volleyball team, the handball team and the tennis team, though his crowning achievement arguably came in 2013 when the Raiders volleyball team won provincials. They made it back this year but ultimately fell short of the repeat.
Still, he is a product of not just the high school but their sports programs.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be captain of a few teams and I really enjoy that because I feel like I’m making a difference with my pears,” said Zilinski, 18. “I learned all of those leadership skills from my coaches and from athletics and I think that’s something I will carry on. Leadership is not necessarily something that everyone’s born with but my coaches have really pushed me to see that within myself.”
His athletic passion, however, is handball. When he heads off to the University of Alberta next year for engineering, he will also be playing handball, not for the Golden Bears but for the province. This means travelling with the team as they take on some of the best competition in the world.
“It’s pretty cool, we’re really lucky I get to go to Europe a couple of times a year and it’s an opportunity that not everyone is lucky enough to have,” said Zilinski, who plays right back and centre back on Team Alberta. “I just try and milk it as much as I can and get everything I can out of this.”
Athletic director Dwayne Lalor says the naming of a co-athlete of the year is rare but it does happen every decade or so. It just goes to show the depth of quality produced by the athletic program.
“When both players are top en in the province, it’s amazing and a lot of fun to be apart of that,” he said.
Kelsey Lalor had an incredible year, capped with an intermediate girls javelin gold medal at provincials on the weekend. But the list of her athletic accomplishments goes on and on, as she was named MVP of the volleyball team, the basketball team, the badminton team and the track and field team. She also played tennis — finishing as the zone runner up to Raiders teammate Alysha Halsey — and is heading to the Pan-Am games as part of Canada’s women’s baseball team — she is a key contributor on the Red Deer Midget AAA Carstar Braves.
“This is what I enjoy, I think I found my passion really lies in sports,” said Lalor, who credits her teammates for her successes. “I completely enjoy playing sports, I enjoy getting up and going to practice … because I know it’s an opportunity that I have that not everyone gets to have. Going to games and going to tournaments is my favourite part of every day.”
The scary part is, her younger sister Hayley Lalor is two years behind her and just as dominant, winning the Grade 9 female athlete of the year award after being named MVP of the Grade 9 girls White basketball team, the Grade 9 badminton team, the Grade 9 track and field team and received a Raiders award for volleyball.
Next year the two sisters will be on the same teams.
“We’re best friends, we’re with each other all the time, I can only hope that we are teammates next year that would be awesome, I love playing with Hayley,” said Kelsey. “There’s always that competition back and forth, but I think it’s that good competition to help one another out to get better and excel.”
For Dwayne Lalor, it was a proud night as a father, watching his two girls deservedly clean up at the awards night.
“Both of the girls really like to play and they’ve got great teammates,” he said “They like coming to practice, they’ll come down early, they’ll be here in the morning on days when the team doesn’t practice and there’s an open gym. As a dad, that’s wonderful to see them excited about participating in sports and getting the opportunity to do stuff that sports gives you, it opens a lot of doors for you.”
Like any good athletic director, Lalor is also aware the downtime until next year will be short with football hitting the field in August and volleyball not far behind. They have their work cut out for an encore.
“We have a group of kids that play all of the sports, all of our top end kids, you’ll see them on the court or on the pitch from September till June,” he said. “I hope the youngsters learn from the older kids that the more you play, the easier it is and the better you are.”