Top Panthers’ prowess in spotlight at year-end awards night

Athletic achievers - The winners of PECI's major athletic awards this year are (from left) Vanessa Willis (Joe Scott Award), Cameron Pero (top Grade 9 male athlete), Hannah Goad (Top Grade 9 female athlete), Nolan Dawson (top junior male athlete), Sydney Davies (top junior female athlete), Wyatt Gilbert (top senior male athlete), Brooke Roche (top senior female athlete), and Eli Strome (Jeremy Vincent Award). (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

Brooke Roche, Wyatt Gilbert named PECI’s senior athletes of the year




The players and coaches of the 2017-2018 PECI Panthers athletic program traded their uniforms for semi-formal attire Monday as they celebrated a year of accomplishment at the Regent Theatre.

Hosts Jack MacCool and Carter Whitteker offered a recap of a successful year, despite the fact that gold medals eluded the Panthers in all but one instance — a second undefeated Bay of Quinte Conference campaign for the senior girls basketball team.

Still, the Panthers boasted an OFSAA cross country competitor in Sydney Davies, COSSA silver medals in junior and senior girls basketball and boys baseball, seven track and field competitors at East Regionals and a whole swarm of teams competing at the COSSA level this year in curling, boys and girls hockey, junior and senior boys basketball, junior girls soccer, and cross country.

While congratulating the athletes and thanking members of the coaching staff, students’ families, and the community at large for their ongoing support, principal Darren McFarlane said he appreciated Panthers athletes for more than just the accolades they might have garnered in the field of play.

“One of the things I’m always proud of is not only our student success, but also the class and manner in which our athletes conduct themselves. We are always now for our incredible sportsmanship, effort , and attitude.”

McFarlane said athletics runs from literally the first day of the fall semester — if not in the summer months — to nearly the end of the year and the success of the whole program comes from athletes and coaches working together to achieve common goals.

When it came time to hand out the major awards, the two senior students recognized by the collective coaching staff for their excellence across a range of sports — Wyatt Gilbert and Brooke Roche — fit McFarlane’s definition of character.

Coach Rob Garden said the coaches felt Gilbert stood out in a deep field of talented seniors.

“This athlete excelled at individual and team sports. He went to COSSA four times this year, twice as an individual athlete and twice with the team. He also qualified for OFSAA East Regionals in high jump,” Garden said. “Perhaps the best quality of this individual is his dedication to school or community and his team-first attitude.”

Top male athlete – Wyatt Gilbert receives his award from Rob Garden. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

While playing six sports this year — cross country, soccer, basketball, badminton, tennis, and track and field — as well as rep hockey and basketball outside of school, Garden said Gilbert maintained a 95-per-cent average, volunteered in his community with the County Clippers and was a co-captain of the athletic council. He impressed coaches with his attitude toward sport and life.

“He never complains, he never gets down on himself, and he’s always willing to do whatever it takes to make the team or athletes around him better,” Garden said. Gilbert said there was never any doubt in his mind about the importance of making time for sport.

While he might sacrifice social occasions to get homework done to attend games or practices, it helps him keep his mind focused.

“With a pretty heavy academic schedule, obviously it is a lot of mental thinking and stress sometimes. Sports and athletics are a good way to relieve the mind and do something I’ve love for so long and just take off some stress as well.”

Gilbert said the biggest thing he’s learned through sports is that whether he’s having a good day or bad day, he can always control his own hard work and effort — and he can always choose to give 100 per cent. He credits his coaches, teammates and family for supporting his success and development.

“I’ve had the greatest coaches and the greatest teammates I could have asked for through school sports as well as outside sports,” he said.

Gilbert said, to him, being a Panther was all about tremendous determination, hard work, and proving to people that even though they may not come from the largest area or have the most athletes, county athletes have a strong will to compete. He encourages others to get involved and don’t get discouraged.

“Sports is all about failure, but at the end of the day if you really stick to it and continue to grow and are willing to grow and willing to be coached, you can turn into a great athlete, teammate and person through sports.”

Gilbert is heading to McGill University next fall and he plans to keep physical activity as a central part of his routine. Other male senior nominees included Cole St. Pierre, Alex Arsenault, John McHugh, Bruce Reynolds, Jack MacCool, and Braedan Kelly.

Soccer coach Jen Lyons said Roche is an athlete who “enriches her life through sport for all the right reasons. She plays because she is proud of her school and wants to compete as a Panther for a Bay of Quinte title each year” in her chosen sports of soccer, rugby, and volleyball. Often a captain on teams throughout her high school career, Roche was a player that tried on challenge and being an effective team player.

“Her warm, and yet intense, presence enriches each of these teams due to her competitiveness, sport-specific skills, leadership and most importantly, her smile and her sense of fun. Her coaches could count on her to lead by example before, during, and after each practice and game,” Lyons said.

Top senior female athlete – Brooke Roche (centre) claims her award from coaches Greer Koutroulides (left) and Jen Lyons. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

Roche said almost immediately in Grade 9 on the rugby pitch, she started to make friends. The experience also brought her out of her shell.

“I think sports with PECI has helped me become more determined, more outgoing with people and I’ve been able to show it builds teamwork,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I was as outgoing (before), but it definitely pushed me to be more and more outgoing with people.”

According to Roche, her willingness to lead was a natural thing. Just as she enjoys volunteering within her community, she enjoys stepping forward for her teammates. Heading to Laurentian University to study sports psychology next fall, Roche said she’ll look back on her four years with the Panthers with fond memories.

“I’ll probably remember most the team as a whole — getting to spend time with everyone, competing, and everyone having the same heart during games and practices.”

Through that time, she says she’s learned teamwork and how to handle different situations and lift up her peers. Asked about her career path in sports, Roche said she stumbled on sports psychology in Grade 10 and knew it was what she wanted to do. The mental side of the game is something that she’s been keenly aware of in all of her chosen sports.

“I can tell, myself, when I’m starting to get down because of possibly not performing well. I know to shake it off,” she said. “If I see it in teammates, I find ways to encourage them to improve their game. Psychology is a big part in most athletics.”

Roche encourages younger students to invest time in the game and don’t be afraid to try out.

“Join and tryout anyway, even if you think you don’t have a chance. If you don’t try out, you’ll regret it definitely.” Roche has been contacted by the Laurentian Voyageurs’ soccer coach and she’s hopeful she’ll get to play varsity in the fall.

Other senior female nominees included Vanessa Willis, Amanda Johnson, Chloe Marshall, Mikayla Leavitt, and Emma Lamorre.

Among junior males, the coaches selected Nolan Dawson from a field that also included Nolan Steen, Cooper Rogers, Thomas Davies, and Case McFarland. Baseball coach Matt Ronan said Dawson was a four-sport athlete who balanced his Panthers commitments with AAA hockey and maintained an honours average.

“He’s setting himself up nicely to play sports, perhaps at the junior level or the varsity level in post-secondary,” Ronan said. “As a younger player on the PECI hockey team, this athlete never shied away during crucial moments of the game. With his speed and physical play, he was called upon in crucial situations and became a key player.”

Dawson’s badminton and volleyball coach spoke of his willingness to learn and listen to feedback to be a better team player. He treated practices with the same intensity as his games and encouraged teammates.

Top junior male athlete – Nolan Dawson receives his award from coach Matt Ronan. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

Ronan said Dawson knew in baseball he wouldn’t likely start on a team filled with Grade 11 and 12 players, but he worked hard enough and demonstrated when he was called he would be ready.

“He responded with the confidence and maturity of a veteran player,” said Ronan, who added Dawson’s quiet work ethic and willingness to improve his game will serve him well.

The junior female athlete of the year, Sydney Davies, not only made it to OFSAA for cross country, she also was a leader on the hockey rink as a top-scoring two-way centre and basketball court as a point guard.

Athletic director Laurie Spencer said Davies has made an impression with how hard she works for her successes while balancing a busy schedule.

“She’s passionate. She trains both at school and on her own time for her very, very many sports,” Snider said. “She’s inquisitive, she’s driven, and she’s a strong role mode for her peers and other young members of our community,” Spencer said.

Top junior female athlete – Sydney Davies, right, receives her award from athletic director and coach Laurie Spencer. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

Other nominees included Madalynn Snider, Maddy Rowbotham, Maddy Young, and Trinity Roche.

Cameron Pero was selected as the Grade 9 male athlete of the year. Other nominees included Eli Strome, Cole Lavender, Ross Maycock, Logan Blower, Nic McGrayne, and Jasper Gilbert. While Pero was a lynch pin for the golf team, he also shone on the basketball and volleyball court and took part in racquet sports badminton and tennis.

Volleyball coach Sharalee Foster said when she first met Pero “he was extremely timid, with limited eye contact,” but she could tell he was absorbing tactics and he possessed skill and finesse. He quickly became a go-to server in volleyball. In basketball, he was a leader on the court and a strong three-point shooter. A broken arm also didn’t stop Pero from attending practices and encouraging teammates. Coaches described him as mentally tough and determined.

Top Grade 9 male athlete – Cameron Pero receives his award from coach Sharalee Foster. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

“He’s had a remarkable Grade 9 year and I think there’s more to come with this kid,” Foster said.

Hannah Goad also stepped in and made an immediate impact as a four-sport player in badminton, soccer, basketball, and volleyball. She earned Grade 9 female athlete of the year honours. Other nominees included Abby Conley, Emma Brady, Keely Kleinsteuber, and Sarah Johnson.

Garden called Goad a “fierce competitor” who is athletic, strong, fast and fearless.” She competed in COSSA twice this year and Garden sees big potential for her in the future.

“She has a ton of raw talent and as she continues to develop as a leader, she will be a force to be reckoned with.”

Top Grade 9 female athlete – Hannah Goad receives her award from coach Rob Garden. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

PECI also handed out two sport-specific major awards, as is custom.

The Joe Scott Award is presented to an athlete who excels in a particular sport outside the school. This year, Vanessa Willis claimed the honour for basketball. Garden said Willis has played rep basketball outside the county since Grade 8 and for the past three years, she’s played for the Kingston Impact in the provincial juvenile elite league — the highest level of basketball for high-school aged girls in Ontario.

In her final year of eligibility, she helped her team to a bronze medal and drew the attention of CIS coaches. Garden said her hard work and dedication, driving to Kingston several times a week for practice, and travelling the province has paid off.

“She was recruited to attend Nipissing University and will be playing CIS basketball for the Lancers,” Garden said.

The other honour, the Jeremy Vincent Award, is given annually to the most valuable track-and-field athlete. This time around, coach Beth Bell said Grade 9 sprinter Eli Strome stood out.

“He was a quiet person who wasn’t exactly sure how to use the starting blocks when he started. He was Bay of Quinte champion in the 100 m and 200 m and came in third at COSSA in the 100 m. This has not been done in the past four years. He narrowly missed the finals at East Regionals by two-tenths of a second. His success is due to sheer ability and dedication.”

Joe Scott Award – Vanessa Willis received the Joe Scott Award for the excellence in and dedication to basketball. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

Jeremy Vincent Award – Eli Strome earned the Jeremy Vincent Award for his outstanding contributions in track and field in his first year as a Panther. Coach Beth Bell presented. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)



Each of the PECI teams also handed out their own awards in the most valuable player (MVP), most dedicated player (MDP), or most improved player (MIP) categories as follows…

– Cross country – Wyatt Gilbert (MDP), Kyla Johnston (MIP)

– Girls rugby – Ashley Mitchell (MDP), Elle Ball (MIP)

– Junior boys soccer – Callum MacDonald (MVP), Riley St. Pierre (MIP)

– Senior boys soccer – Carter Whitteker (MVP), Braedon Sharpe (MDP)

– Junior boys volleyball – Torin Sanders (MDP), Logan Stark (MVP)

– Senior boys volleyball – Devon Wilton (MIP), John McHugh (MDP)

– Junior girls basketball – Myla deBoef (MVP), Gracie Burris (MIP)

– Senior girls basketball – Vanessa Willis (MVP), Abby Margetson (MIP)

-Golf – Cameron Pero (MVP)

– Junior boys basketball – Thomas Davies (MVP), Ghaffard Mehmood (MVP)

– Senior boys basketball – John McHugh (MVP), Alex Arsenault (MIP)

– Junior girls volleyball – Trinity Roche (MDP), Erica Monroe (MIP)

– Senior girls volleyball – Hannah Hungerford (MDP), Brooke Roche (MDP)

– Girls hockey – Brooke Jackson (MVP), Maddy Young (MVP)

– Boys hockey – Cole St. Pierre (MVP), Alex Brady (MDP)

– Junior badminton – Cooper Rogers (MVP), Abby Conley (MVP)

– Senior badminton – Cole St. Pierre (MVP), Justin Arnold (MVP)

– Junior girls soccer – Maddy Young (MVP), Madalynn Snider (MDP)

– Senior girls soccer – Sarah Young (MDP), Mikayla Leavitt (MVP)

– Boys baseball – Braedan Kelly (MVP), Walker DeRoche (MIP)

– Tennis – Callum MacDonald (MVP)

– Track and field – Wyatt Gilbert (MIP), Jasper Gilbert (MDP)

– Girls curling – Hannah Brummell (MIP), Sarah Johnson (MDP)

– Boys curling – Malcolm Ross (MDP), Aaron Wiik (MDP).