CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – They are among the most recognizable names in amateur sport in the province.
And next week they will be honoured once more as Sport P.E.I. hands out its senior athletes of the year.
The finalists are Veronica Keefe (wrestling), Shannon MacAulay (hockey) and Bailey Smith (track) for the women’s award and Mark Arendz (para nordic biathlon), Brett Gallant (curling) and Billy Bridges (sledge hockey).
The winner will be announced Feb. 7 during the annual awards ceremony at Holland College.
Here is a short bio of the three male and three female finalists provided by Sport P.E.I.
Veronica Keefe had a very successful 2017 wrestling season, both nationally and internationally.
She began the season with a gold medal at the Guelph open, defeating world under-23 silver medallist Gracelynn Doogan.
Veronica went on to win a silver medal in March at senior nationals, earning her an alternate spot on Team Canada for worlds. Then, travelling to the Francophone Games in Ivory Coast, West Africa, she dominated her competition and won gold.
The icing on the cake for Veronica’s outstanding season was earning an alternate spot for Canada at the Commonwealth Games.
Shannon MacAulay spent the beginning of her year playing hockey for the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women's Hockey League. She played in 23 of 24 games, scoring four goals and recording 11 assists.
In late spring, Shannon participated in two RBC Training Ground events. Her strong showing at the P.E.I. event earned her an invitation to attend the regional final in Halifax, where she was the top female performer in the endurance exercise and one of the speed challenges.
Shannon’s Training Ground success led her to an invitation from Rowing Canada to make a run for an Olympic dream in 2020.
2017 was an impressive year for 20-year-old track star Bailey Smith, as she smashed through personal bests in several distances.
The Ten Mile House native took home an Atlantic University Sport championship at the 60m indoor track, then went on to finish ninth at the U Sports national championships.
Making the move outdoors, Bailey qualified for the B final in both the 100- and 200-metre sprints at Canada Games. Her first-place finish in the 200m B final was a very well-received accomplishment.
Bailey ran at least one personal best at each competition she participated in this year. At that pace, she’ll have no trouble bringing home some high level hardware in the future.
Mark Arendz continues to build a name for himself in the para nordic biathlon world.
His career year of 2017 started off with seven podium finishes in seven different races. Then, at the world championships, he managed to capture five medals (two gold, one silver and two bronze) in six events.
Later in the season at the Olympic test event, Mark won two silvers in biathlon and a bronze in cross-country. Mark added to his medal haul by finishing the season with two more silvers at the Para Nordic Biathlon World Cup.
As the 2018 season approaches, Mark Arendz has one clear goal, become a Paralympic champion in PyeongChang.
We all hope that one day, we can achieve our dream. For Brett Gallant, his dream became a reality.
As the first Islander to win the coveted Brier championship, Brett showed how hard work and determination can eventually pay off.
But he didn’t stop there, Brett and Team Gushue went on to capture the world men’s curling title just weeks after the Brier. It was a storybook ending to an outstanding year that featured eight top-place finishes for Team Gushue in 11 national or international events.
Brett and his team have high hopes for the future, but for now, can reflect on a year of excellence.
As one of the most decorated sledge hockey competitors in Canadian history, Billy Bridges from Summerside has become an icon in the world of ParaSport.
A four-time Paralympian, Billy took home his fourth world championship in the spring of 2017. Then, on home soil, Billy led his Canadian team to an eventual silver medal at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown.
When Billy competes, he not only leads his team with work ethic, but his points tally is always impressive. Finishing the 2017 IPC World Para Hockey Championship in Korea last April with 16 points in seven games, Billy showed why he continues to be a key component in the team’s international success.
Got to go
2017 Amateur Sport Awards
What – The annual awards presented by Sport P.E.I.
When – Feb. 7. Reception begins at 6:30 p.m. with the awards ceremony starting at 7:15 p.m.
Where – Holland College's Florence Simmons Performance Hall.
Tickets – $25 and available by calling 902-368-4110.
Editor’s note – This is the fifth in a series of articles looking at the winners and finalists for the various awards.
A look at the recent winners of the 3 Points Aviation Senior athletes of the year.
2016 – Caitlin Campbell, biathlon
2015 - Shannon MacAulay, hockey
2014 - Heather Moyse, bobsleigh
2013 - Heather Moyse, bobsleigh
2012 - Janet Gamble, swimming
2011 - Katie Baker, field hockey
2010 - Heather Moyse, bobsleigh/rugby
2009 - Katie Baker, field hockey
2008 - Kara Grant, modern pentathlon
2007 - Kara Grant, modern pentathlon
2006 - Heather Moyse, rugby/bobsleigh
2016 - Brett Gallant, curling
2015 - Jeff Ellsworth, softball
2014 - Mark Arendz, para nordic skiing and biathlon
2013 - Mark Arendz, para nordic skiing and biathlon
2012 - Jared Connaughton, athletics
2011 - Jared Connaughton, athletics
2010 - Jared Connaughton, athletics
2009 - Jared Connaughton, athletics
2008 - Jared Connaughton, athletics
2007 - Jarrod Ballem, swimming
2006 - Jeff Ellsworth, softball