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Kesteris, Chetrat named Varsity Blues athletes of the year

On Saturday night, Varsity Blues announce winners of six major awards
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From left: Danny Sprukulis, Townsend Bernard, Zack Chetrat, Nicole Kesteris, Malena Rapaport, Tessa Davis. JING LONG KAO BERSERVE/VARSITY BLUES
From left: Danny Sprukulis, Townsend Bernard, Zack Chetrat, Nicole Kesteris, Malena Rapaport, Tessa Davis. JING LONG KAO BERSERVE/VARSITY BLUES

After a long season, Varsity Blues athletes and coaches gathered at the Chestnut Residence ballroom this past Saturday for an intercollegiate athletic banquet, celebrating the year’s athletic achievements. The stars of the banquet, swimmer Zack Chetrat and hockey goalie Nicole Kesteris, each received the 2013–2014 T-Holders’ Association Athletic Award, and were named male and female athletes of the year.

Chetrat’s win made varsity history, making him the first student to be named male athlete of the year three times. Chetrat, who is studying economics and political science, won male athlete of the year in both 2011 and 2013.

In 2013–2014, Chetrat led the varsity men’s swimming team to their eleventh consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) banner and second consecutive Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national title. At his recent national competition, the Oakville native achieved impressive placings: the gold medal in the 200 butterfly, silver in the 100 butterfly, and bronze in the 400 and 1500 freestyles.

Kesteris’s female athlete of the year win also broke varsity records; Kesteris is the first female goalie of any U of T sport, and second female hockey player to win the award. Kesteris also won both the OUA and CIS Marion Hilliard Awards, recognizing athletic excellence and community involvement, respectively.

Kesteris, who studies human geography, led the OUA and CIS hockey team at a save percentage of .948 this past season, and has achieved an excellent number of saves herself, with a season-high of 35 saves and a playoff shutout against the Laurier Golden Hawks this past February. Kesteris, who hails from Aurora, Ontario, was also named OUA first team all-star this past season.

The athletic banquet also honoured several other student athletes, such as Townsend Benard, a track and field athlete, winner of the George M. Biggs Trophy for leadership, sportsmanship, and performance. Bernard specializes in pole vaulting, for which he has achieved impressive placings in the CIS and OUA.

The kinesiology student has brought home two CIS pole vault bronze medals and an OUA silver medal in 2012. In the same year, he received an OUA all-star nod. Benard also shines in academics as a three-time CIS academic all-Canadian and winner of both the Dr. Donald H.H. Mackenzie and Worts Lennox Smart scholarships, as well as the U of T Scholar Award.

After presenting at the KPE Berth Rosenstadt National Undergraduate Research Conference earlier this year, volleyball player Malena Rapaport was presented with an award of her own: the Dr. Clara Benson Honour Award, given annually to a graduating female student athlete for excellence in athletics and sportsmanship.

Rapaport has exhibited excellence not only through her athletics, but also in her community involvement. Rapaport co-captained the 2011 and 2012 Varsity volleyball team, and in 2012 was named a member of Volleyball Canada’s national B team. Through her efforts with the CAAWS “On the Move” project, she introduced 12 female high school students to the U of T campus and women’s volleyball program.

Blues volleyball middle Tessa Davis and football lineman Danny Sprukulis were named female and male Varsity Blues rookie of the year. Sprukulis was the only first-year athlete to start on the Blues football offensive line this past season. He was also recognized as a 2012 Canada Cup all-star.

The engineering student and Oakville native shows no signs of slowing down, after dressing and starting all eight games in the 2013 season. He was named an OUA all-rookie team member after helping the Blues to their best team finish since the 1993 Yates and Vanier Cup winning season.

Davis has led an equally impressive first season with the Blues, after she led the female varsity volleyball team in the CIS with 41 solo blocks. She was named members of the OUA East and CIS all-rookie teams, as well as OUA East rookie of the year. Davis, who is studying international relations, also ranked second in the OUA with 53 total blocks in 19 matches. She helped the Blues cap off the season with a first-place regular season finish and bronze medal in the OUA East division.

After their win, both male and female athletes of the year, Chetrat and Ketstiris, posed for photos together with their awards in front of blue and white balloons — commemorating their own accomplishments at U of T and acting as inspiration for incoming talent.