If this was a normal year, University of Victoria swimmers Danielle Hanus and Eric Hedlin would have just finished competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trials in Toronto. Vikes soccer star Isaac Koch would have been looking to break in as a walk-on pro in a Canadian Premier League training camp and emerging shooting sensation Diego Maffia would have been running and gunning in the Vikes spring basketball league.
But this is a pandemic year and about as far from normal as you can get. The UVic athletic awards banquet, scheduled for this week at the Victoria Conference Centre, was cancelled. Instead, the Vikes unveiled their annual award nominees Friday with the winners to be announced Monday.
“This is a unique environment and a unique time but we still want to honour our top performers from the season. It will just have to take place in a different form,” said UVic athletic director Clint Hamilton.
“We can’t have a ceremony and gathering as usual, but we still think it’s important to go through with the process in another way.”
As has become the way of the world, that process is being handled virtually.
Up for UVic female athlete of the year is Hanus, who followed up her four silver medals internationally at the 2019 Lima Pan American Games with four gold medals in February at the U Sports national championships at her home Saanich Commonwealth Place pool.
The other nominees are Canada-capped field hockey defender Anna Mollenhauer from the two-time defending U Sports national champion Vikes, projected as a key factor for the Canadian Olympic team on the road to Paris 2024 qualifying, and rugby player Paige Farries.
The blindingly-quick midfielder Koch — who led Canada West with eight assists and a conference second-leading nine goals — is up for UVic male athlete of the year. He is pitted against Vikes and Canada U-20 second-row rugby player Gavin Kratz and U Sports track gold-medallist Vaughn Taylor.
Open-water international Hedlin, 5K bronze medallist in the 2019 FINA world aquatics championships in South Korea and winner of seven career U Sports medals in the pool, is nominated for the President’s Cup which goes to the Vikes athlete best combining excellence in athletics and academics.
Hedlin is up against Stelly’s graduate Kiara Kilbey, who was a scoring machine throughout her five-season Vikes soccer career, and second-row rugby standout Zoe Goodwin-Sutton.
“We have athletes up for our awards who are also in national-team programs. That is a reflection of the excellence of our Vikes program,” said Hamilton.
The lethal outside-gunner Maffia, meanwhile, is nominated for UVic male rookie athlete of the year. Not shy to shoot even as a freshman, he averaged 35.2 per cent from three-point range and a team second-best 12.5 points per game. The Oak Bay graduate has already drawn heady predictions that he is on his way to a career that may even rival that of legendary past Canada West shooting guards such as Olympian Karl Tilleman and fellow former Calgary Dinos national-teamer Richard Bohne.
Also nominated for top Vikes male rookie athlete are projected future Olympian Will Simpson, named 2019 top junior rower in the country and who represented Canada at the world junior championships, and rising track star Sajjan Sarai.
The UVic female rookie of the year candidates are U Sports swimming double medallist Lauren Crisp, freshman starting centre-midfielder Nikki Virk of soccer and rower Aida Lissel-DeCorby, fourth with the Canadian quad at the world juniors.