By Lethbridge Herald on March 27, 2015.
If you look closely, it was a successful year for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
The schoolâ€™s team sports missed the playoffs across the board but the program was bolstered by national gold medals from track athlets Aaron Hernandez and Peter Millman. Hernandez continued his rise to elite status as a triple jumper in Canada with his second national gold while Millman won his first Canadian Interuniversity Sport gold in the shot put.
The track team also saved the day with a six-medal performance at the Canada West Conference championships. that included a podium sweep in the shot put featuring Millman, Ryan Sommer and Madison Hurst. Millman also nabbed the Canada West field athlete of the year award.
That was more than enough for Millman to be named the Pronghorn Male Athlete of the Year Thursday night at the U of Lâ€™s Blue and Gold Banquet at the Lethbridge Lodge.
â€œIt was very unexpected, with the year Arron (Hernandez) had and some of the other guys on the team sports, a couple of the swimming guys had big years, so I certainly didnâ€™t expect to win it.â€
At the Canada West championships in Winnipeg, Millman won the shot put with a personal-best throw of 17.23 metres, while Sommer claimed the silver medal and Hurst earned the bronze medal with a personal-best toss of 14.06 metres.
Millman followed that up with his national gold in the shot put in Windsor, Ont. His 17.18-metre throw edged the silver medal by one centimetre. Millman credited the support he received not only from other Canada West athletes and his teammates Hernandez and Sommer but from a dedicated group of Millmans.
â€œMy family came out, my parents made the 18-hour drive, came out to see me compete,â€ said Millman. â€œThat was pretty special.â€
Millman made the trip out sound like a National Lampoon movie, as his parents picked up his sister in Toronto â€” and hit a raccoon.
â€œThey hit a raccoon, ripped the bumper off,â€ said Millman. â€œProbably would have been cheaper for them to fly out.
â€œBut it was nice they came out.â€
Millmanâ€™s father, Paul, coached him until he left for the U of L. Now heâ€™s coached by Canadian national throws coach Larry Steinke, who has coached a passel of CIS gold medallists and has sent two of his homegrown throwers â€” Jim and Heather Steacy â€” to the Olympics.
â€œI was real happy to finally win the gold,â€ said Millman. â€œI didnâ€™t want to be known as the guy who gets to CIâ€™s and never shows on the day. So for me, to do that was pretty special. I definitely would have regretted another bad showing.â€
Millman chose the U of L, leaving his family a continent away but has found a new family with the Horns.
â€œLove it, love the U of L. These guys, theyâ€™re my teammates but itâ€™s not even that. I spend every day with them, I even live with them and thatâ€™s part of what makes it for me, is being around these other athletes because they replace my family, since I donâ€™t see them very often,â€ he said.
Within the small details of the team sports, however, the Pronghorns found small successes. The womenâ€™s basketball team was 4-16 but centre Kim Veldman led the Canada West Conference in scoring for most of the campaign. She followed that up with a conference all-star nod and the national Sylvia Sweeney Award for achievement in athletics, community service and academics. Veldman volunteered in local elementary schools, with the Junior Horns basketball program and continues to work with her church, despite graduating with a nursing degree last year.
Those achievements netted Veldman the Pronghorns Female Athlete of the Year award at Thursdayâ€™s Blue and Gold banquet.
Shy and humble by nature, it took an effort for Veldman to become a vocal leader on the Horns. Like her success on the court, it was something she simply worked toward.
â€œWhen I look at Kim, I think about the how she wasnâ€™t this great player or even a starter when she came to Lethbridge,â€ said Pronghorns coach Erin McAleenan. â€œShe worked to become what she is, it wasnâ€™t something she was just born with. Obviously, being six-foot-two and athletic is a big plus but as a player, to see how her game changed is incredible.â€
McAleenan, who coached Veldman her final three years, said while the Immanuel Christian grad worked to improve her game, she also worked to improve her leadership.
â€œShe isnâ€™t the kind of person who will start yelling at a teammate, in fact, she wouldnâ€™t say a word,â€ said McAleenan. â€œBut she realized that to be better, to make her teammates better, she needed to become a different klind of leader.
â€œAnd Iâ€™m not saying she all of a sudden became this big loud person but she found a way to be more vocal and to lead that way as well as being just an amazing example of what we want our Pronghorn athletes to be.â€
And the community work will always be important to Veldman.
â€œObviously, working with my church is very important to me so I guess, to win an award like (the Sylvia Sweeney Award) is great but I honestly will probably do more of that now that Iâ€™m not playing,â€ she said.
Veldman was the Canada West Conference second-leading scorer this season, averaging 18.6 points per game. She leaves the Pronghorns as the schoolâ€™s all-time leading rebounder and second-leading scorer with 805 boards and 1,391 points over the course of her five years.
She is only the second member of the Pronghorn womenâ€™s basketball program to win a CIS major award in womenâ€™s basketball joining former head coach Louisa Zerbe, who received the Peter Ennis Award for top coach in 1985.
The menâ€™s basketball team struggled through a host of injuries in their 7-13 season, and both soccer teams failed to make the playoffs. The menâ€™s soccer team, however, wasnâ€™t eliminated until the final game of the season. The men were 3-7-2 while the womenâ€™s team was 1-7-4 and promoted assistant coach Freddie Trinh to head coach last month. At the Blue and Gold banquet, Horns soccer player Alicia Amatto earned the Presidentâ€™s Award for achieving the highest academic standing among Horns players. Amatto, a Catholic Central star, had a 4.0 average while pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree. She was CCHâ€™s co-athlete of the year alongside Pronghorn basketball sophomore Mariah Miller in 2013.
The team academic award went to the womenâ€™s rugby team, which finished their season 1-3 but were fourth at the recent Sevens championship in Victoria. The Horns were 4-0 before they ran into defending champion McMaster in the semifinals.
The hockey teams struggled again in 2014-15, but the menâ€™s squad took on a tougher opponent than any Canada West team could offer. Early in the season, Horns goalie Dylan Tait was dignosed with testicular cancer. Backed up by his teammates, Tait and the Horns took the lead in a massive fundraising and awareness campaign to fight the disease. His diagnosis also led to team equipment manager Brendan Mahon getting an early digagnosis â€” and treatment.
Makes rookie head coach Spiros Anastasâ€™s 5-23 season seem insignificant.
Award winners from the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Blue and Gold Banquet, held Thursday at the Lethbridge Lodge:
Female Athlete of the Year â€“ Kim Veldman.
Male Athlete of the Year â€” Peter Millman.
Presidentâ€™s Award â€” Alicia Amatto.
Team Academic Award â€” womenâ€™s rugby with a combined GPA of 3.16
Team MVPs (voted by team members)
Menâ€™s Soccer â€” Scott Slomp.
Womenâ€™s Soccer â€” Kayla Wurzer.
Menâ€™s Hockey â€” Damien Ketlo.
Womenâ€™s Hockey â€” Crystal Patterson.
Menâ€™s Basketball â€” Brandon Brine.
Womenâ€™s Basketball â€” Kim Veldman.
Womenâ€™s Rugby â€” Tiffany Wideen.
Menâ€™s Track â€” Peter Millman.
Womenâ€™s Track â€” Laura Roth.
Menâ€™s Swim â€” Devon Chernow.
Womenâ€™s Swim â€” Christyna Dashko.