Bison athletics wraps up a memorable year

A look at some award winners, noteworthy performances from the past season

As Bison sports wrap up this year, there have been both ups and downs. Overall, however, the herd experienced more ups.

In this article, we recognize some of the accolades hard-working Bison athletes have achieved in the 2022-23 season.

To begin enumerating the lists of achievements the herd has accomplished, we must first acknowledge all the hardworking athletes that have participated this year in Bison athletics and thank them for their dedication for which many were already recognized at the annual Brown and Gold Banquet, which took place on April 1.

With so many amazing candidates to acknowledge from a multitude of different sports, it was a difficult task to pick the female rookie of the year. But, ultimately, no one comes to mind faster than volleyball player Raya Surinx, who ended up winning female rookie of the year.

Surinx helped lead the women’s volleyball team to a Canada West conference (CanWest) bronze medal and to the U-Sports championship in Vancouver, B.C., where her squad finished fourth.

Another coveted award was male rookie of the year, which went to Simon Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt, who stands at six-foot-nine, wasn’t shy on height or points during his scintillating rookie year, averaging 16.8 per game.

Hildebrandt was part of the men’s basketball team in a season where the squad finished first in the CanWest standings, had a hard fought semi-final berth in the playoffs and set a new school regular season wins record since joining the CanWest conference.

At the Brown and Gold awards ceremony, the anxiety was mounting as we got closer to the most anticipated awards of the evening — namely, Female Athlete of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year.

These two awards go only to the most skilled, dedicated, driven and hardworking athletes. And on the female side, the athlete who encompasses all those excellent qualities is none other than track and field superstar Madisson Lawerence.

Lawrence more than displayed her athletic talent throughout this past year’s track and field season. She came first in the pentathlon in the CanWest championship and topped it off with a matching first place finish in the U-Sports championship.

The Male Athlete of the year award went to AK Gassama. Gassama is known as being determined, compassionate and motivated according to those who know him. To boot, Gassama also finished with 761 receiving yards. In short, he is the perfect example of a high character, premier athlete.

Gassama was a star receiver on the football team this season and also played a significant factor in the herd clinching a spot in the Hardy Cup playoffs back in November.

The swim team also had a myriad of standout performances this year. Not least, Andriy Usan’s 100-metre butterfly third place finish and Kelsey Fillion’s second place finish in the 100-metre free at the Speedo Western Canadian championship.

Graduating swimmer Dora Modrcin also played a big part in the swim team’s success. She was a complete asset to varsity athletics and will certainly be missed as she moves on from swimming.

Modrcin took the time to look back on her varsity career — a career in which she overcame mental health issues.

“Overall, I feel like it was really good,” she said. “I was able to reach all the goals I had.”

When asked what her most memorable race was, Modrcin said, “definitely my 50-[metre butter]fly. I never expected to medal in that at any point in my career.” Modrcin recently won the silver medal in the 50-metre fly at the 2023 U-Sports championship.

Concerning the swim team coaching staff, Modrcin later went on to say, “overall, I just think that [head coach] Vlastimil [Cerny] and [assistant coach] Craig [McCormick] have created a really good environment together for the team, and if they keep doing what they’re doing, and going with the team spirit we built this year, I think the team in general will make a lot of progress.”

Ultimately, Bison athletics looks to be in good hands for the next season after all sorts of feats this year, from the women’s soccer team hosting their first-ever home playoff game back in October, to Bisons fifth-year golfers Stefan Lavallee and Cameron McIntyre both finishing in the top twenty at the CanWest championship after a hard-fought season.

The various returning athletes who adorn the brown and gold will be champing at the bit to represent the U of M once again.