Nunavut Recreation and Sport Awards preview: who will the winners be?

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It’s been a great past 12 months in the world of Nunavut sport and the best of the best will get their just due in October in Iqaluit when the Recreation and Sport Awards Gala hands out the hardware.

We’ll begin with an obvious choice:

Male Athlete of the Year – Eekeeluak Avalak, wrestling

Find me another young athlete in Nunavut who’s had a better last little while than “Eekee”.

Cambridge Bay’s own has torn it up on the wrestling mat and put the icing on the cake by winning silver at the Wrestling Canada U17 Canadian Championships earlier this year. And he’s only 15.

He has a great coach in Chris Crooks, who has done a masterful job in keeping him grounded and realistic. At that same event where he won silver, Avalak got the chance to try out for the team that would head to the Pan-American Championship. He didn’t qualify and he didn’t even win any of his matches. He didn’t care. Crooks said it was all about getting him experience because he wanted to compete.

Avalak wrapped things up nicely by winning silver at the Western Canada Summer Games last month and should have this award all wrapped up as well.

Eekeeluak Avalak of Cambridge Bay, seen in action during the Western Canada Summer Games in August, is the front-runner for Male Athlete of the Year. photo courtesy of 2019 Western Canada Summer Games

Female Athlete of the Year – Taryn Lavallee, speedskating

Now, you could pick any one of the Nunavut speedskaters that went to the Canada Winter Games this past February for this award. You could also pick any of the wrestlers that went to the Western Canada Summer Games and finished fourth but Taryn Lavallee of Iqaluit noses them out for one reason.

Lavallee set the new Nunavut mark in the girls 1,500-metre race during the repechage round. It didn’t end the way she wanted as she was disqualified. But she still owns the record. She also set personal bests in the 500-metre and so did her teammates, Akutaq Williamson Bathory and Emma Carpenter.

She will get a chance to try out for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games speedskating team and don’t be shocked if she ends up being a force on the ice in Whitehorse.

Coach of the Year – too many to mention

Again, this is a category where you pick so many and you would be right.

I could say Martin Joy, coach of the Canada Winter Games boys hockey team, and how he managed to get those boys prepared for the biggest event of their hockey lives.

I could say Chris Crooks, who’s coached Nunavut to so many great results over the past few years, especially Eekeeluak Avalak.

I could say Donald Clark, head coach of the Kivalliq Canucks, who took his boys to within one game of the final at the Maritime-Hockey North Junior C Championship.

I could say Liam Clarke, who helped mastermind Kugluktuk’s young soccer players to Super Soccer victories in Yellowknife.

I could say Robert Kabvitok and Holly Mercer, both of whom have brought the Rankin Royals girls volleyball team to where they’re at and who have started a youth baseball league from the ground up.

Pick one. You won’t be wrong. Speaking of Kabvitok and Mercer …

Special Recognition – Robert Kabvitok and Holly Mercer

You need to have good people in a community to keep a program alive. You need someone to put in the time to help keep a program alive.

Kabvitok and Mercer have done that with the Rankin Royals, putting in so many hours over the past few years to help develop a great junior team that will keep volleyball growing in the community. They’ve also been the duo behind the youth baseball league in Rankin Inlet with the hope of building Little League in the community.

People like Kabvitok and Mercer do the little things and they’re often forgotten because they’ve never gone looking for the spotlight. And that’s why they’re the best people to win this award.

Honourable mention: Thomas Levi, recreation co-ordinator in Arctic Bay. He’s done so much for that community and I always like to joke about even if there’s nothing going on in Arctic Bay, there’s something going on in Arctic Bay because of Levi.

Team of the Year – Iqaluit Taekwondo Society

This is a bit outside the box but hear me out.

The society made history by being part of the first Chan Hun International Taekwondo Federation World Championships in Australia this past March and only went and brought back seven medals of various colours between them.

They also went to the General Choi tournament in Ottawa in June and cleaned up there, as they always do.

It’s one of those clubs that just breeds success, not only in competition but also in life because so many people are a part of the society for so many reasons. It’s a great club with great people running it and they’re there for the right reasons.

Honourable mention: Canada Winter Games boys hockey team simply for being there for the first time and suffering through the worst schedule in the world with four games in less than 36 hours. They still won a game, though, and they didn’t finish last.

If you need some help with your nominations, please feel free to use this. I’m OK with it. We’ll see how it plays out in October.