Grading the Thunderbirds: The 2016/17 second term report card

Our totally objective report on how the UBC Thunderbirds did this season.

Men’s hockey

File Matt Langmuir

Grade: B-

A little too generous of a grade for a team that finished sixth out of eight teams? Maybe. But the team’s late season push earns them this grade.

After a dreadful first half of the season, head coach Sven Butenschon was able to rely on his veterans to get the job done. Luke Lockhart and Joe Antilla led the Thunderbirds into a playoff position through the most unlikeliest of circumstances.

The talent we saw between the pipes was also a big factor to the ’Birds’ success. The dynamic duo of Matt Hewitt and Derek Dun provided excellent goaltending for UBC.

Moreover, we saw a much more exciting Thunderbirds team this year — one that showed resilience and character.

Best player: Anthony Bardaro

No surprises here. Bardaro has been a prolific scorer for the ’Birds since his freshman year. Now a fourth-year, he continued to light the lamp this past season. The veteran scored a U Sports career-high of 30 points, putting him at fourth place in Canada West scoring.

Best surprise: Derek Dun

When the ’Birds acquired Derek Dun over the off-season from North Michigan University, no one knew what to expect. With Hewitt out of the lineup towards the end of the season, the spotlight was on Dun to see the ’Birds through. Dun did just that — backstopping UBC to clinch the final playoff spot against all odds.

Women’s hockey

File Geoff Lister

Grade: A

It is clear that the 2016/17 season will go down as one of the women’s hockey team’s most successful campaigns to date.

Veteran athletes have always proven to be the most valued players on a varsity team and this year’s women’s hockey team is just another example. The team had a solid chance at a national championship title — something that the graduating players have been craving for the last five years. They finished their season with a U Sports bronze medal.

Thanks to capable scorers, solid defence and consistent goaltending, the ’Birds were strong on all fronts throughout the entire season. During the regular season, UBC had the second-most goals for in U Sports with 86 and the eighth fewest goals against with 45.

Best player: Cassandra Vilgrain

Many players have contributed tremendously to the ’Birds' success this season, but with eight goals and 19 assists to lead UBC in points this season, Cassandra Vilgrain does get special recognition.

Best surprise: Tory Micklash

Despite being a first-year, Micklash has shown some of the best goaltending this season. In the 10 games she played during the regular season, she posted a 1.39 GAA — the sixth best in U Sports.

Men’s rugby

File Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Grade: A

This season has been a year of big change for the men’s rugby team, with many of last year’s seniors having left to graduation. Despite a hiccup to start the season, the team is now firing on all cylinders and holds an 11-3 record.

This year may not be as impressive as the perfect season the ’Birds had last year, but few can deny that the ’Birds' momentum is still there. Already, many players — both new and old — have been making their mark on the team.

The ’Birds most recently played in the National University Seven’s Rugby Championship, where they won all of their six games — including two victories against their arch-rivals, the University of Victoria Vikes (UVic). Earlier this year, UBC also won its fourth straight Wightman Boot title against UVic and both legs of the World Cup against the University of California Berkley Golden Bears (UCB).

There are still two games remaining in the regular season, but by the look of things, the ’Birds might make another appearance in the Rounsefell Cup.

Best player: Adam McQueen

Sophomore fly-half McQueen has been a terror for opposing defence this entire season. McQueen took over the role of converter from Brock Staller just this season, and has proven to be very effective at it. He also notably recorded three tries during the first leg of the World Cup.

Best surprise: Munar Kulkan

Kulkan barely made the headlines last season, but this year, he’s been one of the more consistent players on the team, having scored important tries like the winning one in the Wightman Boot.

Women’s rugby

Grade: A-

UBC’s women’s rugby sevens moulded into a force to be reckoned with as their season went on, culminating in a 16-8 season record for the ’Birds. The team had a disappointing first weekend out, winning just two of the six matches in their first sevens series in late January.

But the T-Birds continued to progress through their next several series, winning three of six matches at Victoria in February, all six matches at the Las Vegas Invitational in early March and five of six matches in the National University Sevens Rugby Championship last weekend. In the gold medal match against the UVic Vikes, UBC was defeated 24-0, winning a silver medal.

Evidently, it was a learning curve for all involved in the inaugural season of women’s rugby sevens, but with their biggest win of the season coming in the championships against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (47-0), the team made huge strides over their three months of play.

Best player: Ciara Malone

A veteran on the women’s rugby team, Ciara Malone expanded her repertoire into the new rugby sevens team this season. She led UBC with 12 tries and 10 conversions throughout the first two series.

Best surprise: Brooke Bazian

Although only a first-year, Brooke Bazian sat just behind Malone for most conversions and tries through the first two series this season. The Kamloops native proved an invaluable attacking presence for the T-Birds, with eight tries and 11 conversions between the Victoria and Alberta series. With several seasons of eligibility left for Bazian, we look forward to seeing where she takes her game in the coming seasons.

Men’s volleyball

File Jeremy Johnson-Silvers

Grade: A-

With a new head coach came new life for the ’Birds, who upped their 13-11 conference record from last season to 16-8 in the 2016/17 season. The team also sat higher than average in kills, total attacks and kills per set compared to the rest of the league. As the Canada West bronze medalists, the team headed to the nationals. In the end, they placed fourth in the nation after a tough straight-set loss in the bronze medal match against McMaster University.

Although the team’s veterans continued to dominate for the ’Birds this year, first-years Jordan Deshane, Nick Mickelberry and Danny Aspenlieder proved valuable assets in their first season with the side. Deshane even sat fourth in team standings for kills this season. It was a year of combining old and new faces, which proved incredibly successful for the ’Birds.

Best player: Byron Keturakis

With 111 kills, Byron Keturakis sat right in the middle of the pack of highest scorers for the ’Birds. What put him in our books are his assists over the season: over 1,087. Yes, he gets a lot of court time, but that is a ridiculous statistic nonetheless.

Best surprise: Kerry MacDonald

After UBC Athletic’s parted ways with the team's former head coach Richard Schick in April after a 12-year tenure, it was up for debate who would step into those shoes and take over the team for 2016/17. Current head coach Kerry MacDonald has done just that, and taken the team to new heights in his first head coach position in U Sports. By combining science into their training to prevent injuries and also bringing new ideas to the ’Birds game, they have shaped into a focused, smart side both in training and on the court.

Women’s volleyball

File Christopher Blanchette

Grade: A+

Overall, the Thunderbirds women’s volleyball team has had a year worthy of UBC story books for years to come. Not only were they crowned the U Sports national champions, they did so against all odds.

The ’Birds had a good season, finishing with a 32-7 overall record and a 20-4 conference record. Despite this, it became clear that UBC had a roadblock in the form of the Trinity Western University Spartans and the University of Alberta Pandas. They lost their first encounter with Alberta and their first three with Trinity Western. Seeing that all three are Canada West conference teams, the ’Birds were going to need to face them eventually to make it to nationals.

That’s exactly what they did. The ’Birds last two games of the season were against the Alberta and they blew past the Pandas in both games at the War Memorial gym, spoiling the opposition’s perfect season in the process. Entering the Canada West playoffs, the T-Birds made it easily past the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack before facing the Spartans once more. Led by outside hitter Danielle Brisebois’ 20 kills and four blocks, the ’Birds earned their place in the U Sports National Championships despite a later loss to Alberta.

The nationals saw the ’Birds get past the Western University Mustangs and Trinity Western once again before a final showdown with Alberta. The ’Birds claimed their first national title since 2013 with a commanding 3-1 victory.

Best player: Danielle Brisebois

The fifth-year veteran may have played her final game in the blue and gold, but she’s most definitely left her mark — Countless double-digit kill games, two national championships and 2017 U Sports all-star team. To cap it all off, the Canadian senior national team member is your 2017 U Sports Championship MVP.

Best surprise: Maggie Li

The fourth-year Dalhousie transfer started the first half of the season relatively quiet before catching fire in the second half and especially in the playoffs. The final is where she was especially impressive, recording four aces and 2.5 blocks while earning an all-star team mention.

Men’s field hockey

File Bill Situ

Grade: C+

Only two years ago, the men's field hockey team were crowned champions in the Vancouver Men's Field Hockey League. However, having fallen short of a playoff spot last season, head coach Kinder Gill and his Thunderbirds were hoping to get back on the right track.

This season, the squad holds a 6-7-4 record. The Thunderbirds jumped to a convincing start this year with two wins, but the team failed to consolidate it as the season produced long winless streaks and no back-to-back wins since the start of the campaign.

Although UBC failed to qualify for the playoffs this year, the team is young and has potential to improve in time for next year’s competition.

Best player: Gordon Johnston

Already having played for the Canadian national team, the fourth-year defender/midfielder provided a strong base for defence and a lethal shot from short corners on offence.

Best surprise: The team's offensive threat

Although the Thunderbirds finished mid-table and missed the playoffs, they were second in the league when it came to goal scoring in the regular season.

Men’s basketball

File Koby Michaels

Grade: B+

The 2016/17 season was just shy of a perfect one for the men’s basketball team. The team finished as the eighth seed last year, but ranked second this year with a 26-4 overall record — the best record in Western Canada. A great journal was cut short by a heartbreaking playoff series which saw two of the most painful losses of the ’Birds' season. The team lost to the University of Manitoba Bisons 79-75 and 98-96. However, the early termination of the team's championship dreams shouldn’t define a bountiful season for the hardworking Thunderbirds.

This team was unstoppable during the regular season — They only had four losses and went on an eight, seven and eleven-game winning streak in between losses. However, they often found themselves helpless when facing certain teams and also struggled when Conor Morgan was not on the court.

This Achilles heel manifested itself in the most crucial game of this season when the ’Birds faced elimination and were fighting for survival.

Best player: Conor Morgan

Nobody can play as well as they usually do without their best player, especially when he is potentially the best one of the country. Conor Morgan was having his best season and the stat line was screaming for the national player of the year award. He averaged 23.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, and habitually came through clutch when the game was on the line.

Best surprise: Jordan Jensen-Whyte

Not giving Jordan Jensen-Whyte the biggest surprise award seems like an insult to a player who has great potential, is explosive and reliable game in and game out. Jensen-Whyte had games where he just completely dominated and carried the ’Birds' offence single-handedly. His greatest game came in the loss against the Bisons, when he scorched the Bison’s defence with 33 points and sent the game to overtime.

Women’s basketball

File Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Grade: A-

The women’s basketball team had a very successful 2016/17 season, but had an equally disappointing end to their terrific campaign. The team was on a nine-game winning streak when their campaign was halted by the University of Alberta Pandas.

It was fantastic watching the T-Birds play, as on any given game, any player could put on a show. It was disappointing that the team's great season couldn’t advance even further. After playing fundamentally solid and thoroughly entertaining basketball throughout the season, they looked like solid national contenders.

Kara Spotton made the Canada West third team all-star line-up and averaged 12 points per game (PPG) and 7.4 rebounds per game (RPG). Keylyn Filewich made the Canada West all-rookies team while averaging 8.7 points and 6 rebounds per game. It was a team effort which allowed UBC to have such a successful season.

Best player: Maddison Penn

Maddison Penn made the Canada West first team all-star and U Sports second team all-Canadian teams. She also averaged 18.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game and was 81.8 per cent from the free throw line.

Best surprise: Rookies

All the rookies were extremely impressive this season, showing that both individual players and the women’s basketball team have extremely bright futures.

Men’s swimming

File Charles To

Grade: A+

Last year saw the Thunderbirds fail to win either the men’s or women’s national titles, a rare occurrence for what is without a doubt the most successful Canadian university swim program in history. This wasn’t entirely their fault, as a number of swimmers chose to pass on U Sports swimming in order to prepare for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic.

This year saw the ’Birds return with the likes of Pan American Games silver medalist Markus Thormeyer and FINA World Championship bronze medalist Yuri Kisil. This, along with a deeply talented team on all strokes, saw the ’Birds blow past dual meets before claiming victory at the Canada West Championships in Edmonton in November. The ’Birds managed to accomplish this despite losing first-year Will Dickinson and veteran Coleman Allen to injury for parts of the season.

The ’Birds stormed into the U Sports finals looking for vengeance for their close 50-point loss at the hands of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues last season. Led by Thormeyer, Kisil and veteran Keegan Zanatta, the ’Birds placed on almost every podium and swept all relays in one of the most commanding wins in U Sports history.

Best player: Yuri Kisil

Yuri “The Missile” Kisil set countless records, clocked in times that place him within the fastest 20 sprinters in the world, and came through on national team duties by racing at pro meets in Austin and Short Course World Championships in Windsor. Half those accomplishments would still get him this title.

Best surprise: Coleman Allen

Coleman Allen isn’t here because he had a breakout performance — it's a known fact that he’s one of the best butterflyers in the country. But a severe arm injury kept him out of the water for the better part of 2016, and limited his training going into the seasons. Despite this, he persevered and claimed Canada West and U Sports titles in butterfly and relay events.

Women’s swimming

File Jeremy Johnson-Silvers

Grade: A+

Going into this season, the UBC Thunderbirds wanted one thing and one thing only: revenge. The ’Birds were edged out by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues last year. While a second-place finish is commendable for basically any other program in the country, it is not for the most successful U Sports swimming program in Canadian history.

Going into this year, there were three clear frontrunners for the title — those being the Thunderbirds, the Varsity Blues and the University of Montreal Carabins. The Varsity Blues had individual Olympic bronze medalist backstroker Kylie Masse on their side. The Carabins had Canadian record-holder Katherine Savard and the Mainville sisters, three of the fastest freestylers in the country.

The competition was going to be tough, much more than what the men’s team had facing them. That didn’t stop the ’Birds from having a remarkable season. This was largely thanks to some pretty good first-year talent in the form of Olympic and Pan American medalist medley specialist Emily Overholt and backstroker Ingrid Wilm.

At the Canada West Championships, the ’Birds were unbeatable and dominated both individual events and relays. Wilm was especially brilliant, setting three Canada West records in all three individual backstroke events.

With a conference title under their belt, the ’Birds came into the U Sports National Championships in Sherbrooke with high expectations. The met almost all of them, with the ’Birds placing on nearly every podium and winning all but one relay title, placing second in the 4x100m freestyle relay behind Katherine Savard and the Carabins.

Best player: Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson

Seltenreich-Hodgson left Sherbrooke with two silver medals and five national university titles. This fourth-year exploded in 2016/17 and next season only has her going even faster in the pool.

Best surprise: Ingrid Wilm

It's one thing to set three conference records, grab six Canada West golds and win four silver medals and two gold medals at the U Sports National Championships. It’s a whole other thing to do it in your first year. While it takes most swimmers to get used to university swimming in their first and maybe even second year, Wilm is already knocking on the doors of Canada’s best with four more seasons under coach Steve Price to look forward to.

Softball

File Jeremy Johnson-Silvers

Grade: C-

The season has just started but the UBC softball team hasn’t had much to show for so far. After a dismal 1-5 preseason start, the ’Birds went winless in their first six league games.

This is UBC’s second year in the Cascades conference, and head coach Gord Collings says it is going to be tough for his team to try and best their opponents. So far, things haven’t gone Collings’ way. The team has seen a fair share of lopsided losses. In fact, aside from a 3-2 loss to Corban University, their other defeats were by wide margins.

Moreover, there is a lot of work to be done before the team can best their new conference.

Best player: Mackenzie Siddall

Oh captain, my captain. The inspiring story of pitcher Mackenzie Siddall continues for yet another season. Sharing the captaining duties with Lindsay Oglivie this season, Siddall has had a positive impact on the field helping the rookies develop.

Best surprise: Lexie Brenneis

Brenneis was acquired over the offseason from University of Montana. So far, she has surprised UBC with her hits and runs.

Baseball

File Jeremy Johnson-Silvers

Grade: A-

It may still be early in the season, but the UBC baseball team has proven itself a capable team, winning six of it last eight games. In three of those games, the ’Birds scored in the double digits. Head coach Chris Pritchett and his players are already confident that this season will turn out to be another successful one.

The ’Birds did have some tough odds to beat when the season started, as the team did lose talented players like star pitchers Alex Webb and Curtis Taylor. UBC also had difficult opponents to start the season such as the Lewis-Clark State College — the defending World Series champions.

Still, nothing has really slowed the ’Birds down, thanks in part to some of the veteran leadership that remains on the team. Six players on the team have already recorded five or more runs, while nine have picked up five or more hits.

Best player: Mitch Robinson

At the batting plate, junior third baseman Robinson has been the most prolific hitter so far. He also hit a homer in one of his games against Lewis Clark State.

Biggest surprise: Austen Butler

Pritchett has admired how the freshmen players are stepping forth big time and Butler is one of those players. He currently ties fourth-year shortstop Tyler Yorko — a transfer from Cumberland University — for the most hits.

Men’s golf

Rod Commons/Washington State University

Grade: B+

Ranked sixth in the 2016/17 NAIA Men’s Golf Coaches Preseason’ top 25 poll, UBC men’s golf is continuing to put in a great season, averaging out to about a fifth-place finish through their eight tournaments so far. Their best finishes to date: a gold-medal finish in the 45th Annual Western Washington Invitational back in September, followed shortly by a second-place finish at the University of Victoria Vikes Shootout in October.

Best player and best surprise: As one of the youngest members of the team, Andrew Harrison continues to put on stellar performances for the T-Bird golf team. This season, he has been in the top two T-Birds at every tournament, with his lowest placing overall being just 33rd in the Folino Invitational. His best finish? First at the Saint Martin’s Invitational, with a -4 on his final scorecard.

Women’s golf

Chuck Russell/Golf Canada

Grade: A-

Although they still have five tournaments to go this season, UBC women’s golf is building a reputation for itself out on the course as a dominant Canadian team. Their lowest finish so far was at their first tournament where they placed eighth as a team. Since then, the women have continued to gain momentum and aren’t slowing down. With a second-place finish at the Western Washington Invitational and the Cal State University San Marcos Cougar Invitational, alongside a convincing gold medal win at the University of Victoria Vikes Shootout in October, UBC is proving to be a leading team in women’s golf. We look forward to seeing them continue to dominate into late spring!

Best player: Kat Kennedy is putting in another incredible season for the ’Birds, finishing first out of the UBC representatives at every tournament so far. Her lowest placing so far is 10th, but she has four first-place finishes in her pocket as well. A fourth-year veteran and last year’s Alberta Golf Amateur Player of the Year, Kennedy is the driving force behind another successful golf team in the 2016/17 season.

Best surprise: The medal sweep at the Victoria Vikes Shootout. Veteran Kat Kennedy finished at +3 and placed first in individual scores, but UBC’s domination that weekend didn’t stop there. Barbara Neto-Bradley followed Kennedy, taking home second with a +7, and rookie Claire Emery tied for third with +12. As they finished in first place as a team in the tournament, the team solidified UBC’s powerhouse persona on the course.

Men’s track and field

UBC Athletics

Grade: B+

The team’s performance in the last NAIA championship was more or less the same as the year before. Still, last season was a remarkable one for many of the team’s athletes. Many recorded personal best performances and captured multiple medals during the various events in the season.

Best athlete: John Gay

Gay had quite a season during 2015/16, recording personal best times twice during the last season. At the University of Washington Open, he completed the 3,000m race in 8:16:11. Later at the California-Irvine’s Steve Scott Invitational, he finished the 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 8:53:38. At the NAIA championship, Gay clinched the championship title in the same event. With three more years of eligibility remaining, he has plenty of chances to shine in the future.

Best surprise: Bogdan Pavel

Pavel was ranked 21st in the NAIA prior to the final championship. Still, he made a stunning performance at the championship during the 110m hurdles, where he made it to the finals and ended up placing seventh. He also recorded his personal best time during that race.

Women’s track and field

Rich Lam/UBC Athletics

Grade: B+

The women’s team’s finish at the last NAIA championship wasn’t anywhere near as good as what they have seen in recent years. Last year, the team finished 13th overall, unlike in the previous three seasons where they finished third. Still, like the men’s team, the women’s team also had a season of many personal-best performances. With the young team that UBC had, it was an overall impressive year for head coach Laurier Primeau.

Best athlete: Natalia Hawthorn

Hawthorn was easily the standout of the team, making various headlines throughout the season. During the UBC Open, Hawthorn, along with Kirsten Lee, Camille Van Tassel and Sarah Korpach, recorded the NAIA’s best time in the 4x800m relay. She also had her season-best time in the 1,500m race at the Occidental College Oxy Invitational.

Best surprise: Enid Au

Au barely made headlines during the 2015/16 season. To date, she has run the 5,000m race only two times. Still, in her second race at the NAIA championships, Au managed to finish fourth overall in the 5,000m race despite initially trailing behind a few runners. Even Primeau described her as “look[ing] like a veteran” after that race.

Men’s cross country

File Kosta Prodanovic

Grade: A

The men’s cross country team’s last season remains the best one to date in their history. The team finished third overall at the NAIA championships, and was originally first place according to unofficial results. An error in the timing equipment put the team in third. Before the NAIA championships, the team also finished third or better in four of its five races, including a first place at the A.I.I. Conference Championships. With little change to last season’s roster, the ’Birds are likely to see another successful season ahead.

Best athlete: John Gay

Before the cross country season began, Gay already had a successful debut season with the track and field team. His start to the cross-country season was also a strong one, as he led the ’Birds with a fourth-place finish in the first event. Gay received cross country athlete of the week honours after the A.I.I. Championships and he later finished fifth at the NAIA championships, placing only behind teammate Jesse Hooton.

Best surprise: Kieran Lumb

The 2016 season was the first one for the rookie athlete, but that didn’t stop him from producing impressive results. In every race he had during the season, Lumb consistently had faster times than many of his more senior teammates. His best race was at the BC Championships, where he placed 14th of all runners and first of all T-Birds.

Women’s cross country

Rich Lam/UBC Athletics

Grade: A+

The women’s cross country team has produced successful results for many seasons and last year was no exception. Last season, the ’Birds placed first in the NAIA championships for the fourth time in five years. The NAIA championships was also the team’s best performance of the entire season. Four athletes — Natalia Hawthorn, Nicola Symonds, Brianna Cairns and Madelyn Brunt — finished with All-American honours.

Best athlete: Natalia Hawthorn

Many athletes had exceptional performances during the 2016 season, but Hawthorn is easily the standout on the team. She won the cross country athlete of the week award at the A.I.I Championships, followed by her fourth All-American honour at the NAIA championships. More remarkably, Hawthorn suffered an injury only three weeks before the final championships, but managed to pull off a sixth-place finish in the end.

Biggest surprise: Alison Pouw

Pouw was a freshman during the 2015/16 season, but still proved herself a valuable asset to the team. During the Western Washington University Classic, she and six other rookies competed in the race and came out with 296 points. At the BC Championships, she was the second-highest finishing T-Bird.

Men’s rowing

File Geoff Lister

Grade: A-

It’s been a good year for the UBC Thunderbirds men’s rowing team. They came into the Western Canadian Rowing Championships with some hometown and familiarity advantages, as they were held at Burnaby lake. The ’Birds traded wins with the University of Victoria Vikes and swept the lightweight events, but they ultimately fell 17 points to 16 as the Vikes claimed the title and the ’Birds finished second. The performance saw doubles rower Aaron Lattimer crowned Thunderbird of the week.

The ’Birds switched focus to the Canadian Rowing University Championships, held in Welland, Ontario. Now facing British Columbian teams and strong programs from Ontario and Quebec, the ’Birds pushed through to claim their second national title in three years. Maxwell Lattimer claimed gold in the lightweight 2x, the lightweight 4+ and silver in the men’s 8+. The performance earned him the title of Canadian University Rowing Athlete of the Year.

Despite a national title, men’s rowing ended their season on a bit of a sour note as they fell to the Vikes in the annual Brown Cup. The race was held in Victoria and pitted the men’s eight teams of both schools. Competing in the outside lane at the Gorge Waterway in Victoria, the ’Birds were not able to catch up to the Vikes. Regardless of the loss, the Thunderbirds still have a Western Canadian silver and a national title to be proud of.

Best player: Maxwell Lattimer

Western Canadian titles, a three-medal performance at the national championship and national MVP title has this bird on top of his rowing career. Lattimer will be leaving the ’Birds to train full time with the Canadian National team, but he’s left a lasting legacy on UBC’s rowing program.

Best surprise: Aaron Lattimer

The younger of the two Lattimer brothers also has reasons to be proud of this past season. His best moment came during the Western Canadian Championships where he was part of four different gold medal-winning boats, including one individual title. With one year of eligibility left, it will be interesting to see what this Lattimer brother has left in store for Thunderbird rowing.

Women’s rowing

File Geoff Lister

Grade: A

The UBC Thunderbirds women’s rowing team once again had an impressive season this year. The crew reclaimed the Western Canadian University Rowing title from the University of Victoria Vikes. The ’Birds claimed gold in the varsity 4+, the varsity lightweight 4+, the juvenile 8+, the juvenile 4+ and Julia Lindsay claimed an individual gold in the lightweight singles.

The final race of the competition, the varsity 8+, was one of the most contested. The ’Birds had held the title for the last four years, but the Vikes, the University of Calgary Dinos and the University of Regina Cougars all challenged the team. Still, the ̓Birds cleared the finish line nine seconds ahead of the Vikes, clocking in at 6:34.49 and claiming the title.

The next major competition the ’Birds had was the Canadian University Rowing Championships, held in Welland, Ontario. Julia Lindsay took home the singles lightweight title and a silver in the lightweight fours, but the ̓Birds fell to the Western Ontario University Mustangs 118 points to 115 and would have to settle for silver. Hillary Janssens took the title of athlete of the year, while ̓Birds coach Craig Pond was awarded the title of coach of the year.

Perhaps the most memorable victory came in the final race of the season, the 25th annual Brown Cup held at the the Gorge Waterway in Victoria. The race pitted the ’Birds' eight against the Vikes' eight and although it was a tight race, the ’Birds came out on top in the end to claim yet another Brown Cup title against one of their biggest rivals.

Best player: Hillary Janssens

It should come as no surprise that this national team member would dominate the events she participated in. With her in the boat, she helped the ̓Birds claim the Western Canadian eights title, fending off the Vikes and giving her a fourth straight gold in the event. Strong performances across the season eventually got her awarded the title of athlete of the year by the Canadian University Rowing Association.

Best surprise: Julia Lindsay

Individual rowing races are tough and Julian Lindsay still found a way to excel at them as well as in the fours. Two Western Canadian and National University titles mean that this second-year has plenty in store left for the coming years.