The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees announced the varsity award winners on Friday, capping the 2021-22 season by recognizing student-athletes for their work in athletics, academics, and in the community.
Alexandra Ondo of the women's rugby team and Nicolas Mattinen from men's hockey were named the Athletes of the Year, women's basketball team member Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu and swimmer Alexandre Perreault were honoured with the President's Awards, and soccer player Emma Lefebvre joined Ondo as co-recipients of the Career Achievement award, among the highlights of the awards presented.
In addition to the awards below, the Gee-Gees celebrated the over 60 student-athletes who are completing their varsity careers this season, including twelve from the rookie class of 2016 who returned following the cancelled 2020-21 season to complete their fifth season in Garnet and Grey.
Varsity Athletics was also proud to recognize the U SPORTS silver medal-winning women's rugby team, the two Gee-Gees U SPORTS medallists in swimming, 9 All-Canadians, 43 conference medals won by the swimming, rowing, and track and field teams, 15 conference major award winners, and five national award winners from the past season, including Russ Jackson Award winner Francis Perron.
Lionel Woods was celebrated for his thirtieth season as Gee-Gees women's volleyball head coach, and the Student Athlete Council and Black Student-Athlete Advocacy Council gave addresses to the attendees at the Infinity Centre.
Athletes of the Year:
Alexandra Ondo finished her five-year Gee-Gees career with another strong season. She led the RSEQ conference in tries scored during the regular and was named a conference all-star for the fourth time in her career. In the post-season, she found another level and was a key reason for the Gee-Gees victory in the national semi final match, ultimately securing the national silver medal. A First Team All-Canadian this year, Ondo also was awarded the RSEQ Leadership and Community Engagement Award.
Nicolas Mattinen was named the U SPORTS Defenceman of the Year and was also the OUA East Most Valuable Player in 2021-2022. A First Team All-Canadian, Mattinen tied for the Gee-Gees team lead with six goals, and was second on the Gee-Gees with 13 points in 18 games. His presence on the blueline helped anchor the Garnet and Grey penalty kill which was among the league's best throughout the season.
The finalists for Athlete of the Year honours were Emma Lefebvre (soccer), Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu (basketball), Sydney Smith (track and field), Jamie Armstrong (rugby), Zack Pelehos (football) and Guillaume Pépin (basketball).
The President's Awards are given to those student-athletes who best combine academic and athletic excellence. This year's winners are Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu from women's basketball and Alexandre Perreault from men's swimming.
Lefebvre-Okankwu had a career best season on the court and continued to excel academically in her fourth season in Garnet and Grey. Named the OUA East Most Valuable Player and a First Team All-Canadian, the forward from Gatineau established career highs in points (16.4) and rebounds (9.7) per game, ranking first in the league in scoring. She was selected as the Faculty of Science Valedictorian at her convocation in June of 2020 when she received her Honours Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science and Minor in Psychology. She is now pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree, and holds a cumulative GPA of 10.0 in that program.
Perreault enjoyed success in the pool during his first official season in Garnet and Grey, winning four RSEQ medals including a gold with the 400 metre medley relay team, and a pair of silvers in the 50 and 100-metre butterfly events. He then established a new Gee-Gees record en route to a bronze medal at U SPORTS in the 50m fly, helping the Gee-Gees men to a fifth place finish in the overall team standings. The swimming team captain from Ottawa was an Academic All-Canadian in 2020-21 and is now pursuing a Master's of Health Sciences in Physiotherapy.
The finalists for the President's Awards were Anna Dodge (rugby), Malorie Kanaan (swimming), Hailey Walsh (soccer), Wahid Hamidi (rugby), J-R Mantha (hockey) and Cole Newton (basketball).
The future is bright in Garnet and Grey with Rookies of the Year with Sadie Sider-Echenberg and Hugo Lemesle leading the way.
Sider-Echenberg was named an OUA East All-Star at midfield thanks to her outstanding rookie season showing speed and strength in the midfield. The computer science student and local Ottawa product recorded two goals and four assists in the regular season while starting every match for the Garnet and Grey. Recently, she was invited to Racing Louisville FC's 2022 preseason training camp, becoming the first Gee-Gee to earn NWSL experience.
Hugo Lemesle was the most decorated Gee-Gee men's swimmer at the RSEQ Swimming Championships, winning five medals. His individual gold in the 200m breaststroke paired with a gold in the 400-metre medley relay and three silver medals at the conference meet. He then established a new Gee-Gees record and captured a U SPORTS bronze medal in the 50m breaststroke at the U SPORTS National Championships, one of two team records he set this year.
The finalists for the Rookie of the Year Awards were Nadine Katumbayi (basketball), Ngozi Mosindi (rugby), Mahika Sarrazin (hockey), Quincy Louis-Jeune (basketball), Thomas Sénéchal-Becker (track and field) and Yenam Zouzoua (rugby).
The Gee-Gees Community Engagement Award was presented to Malorie Kanaan. Kanaan is a veteran member of the swim team who has been leading community research and work throughout her academic career, particularly this year as she pursues her Master's of Laws with a focus on social justice and human rights.
A recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant for research that has a positive impact on lives, communities and future generations, Kanaan's published work includes research on homelessness, poverty, racial profiling in the justice system, and feminism in the health care field. On campus, she has created a group to support student-athletes in the Faculty of Law and in sport she has co-created with three Gee-Gees teammates a Summer Swimming League of Ontario - one of the main goals of the program is to promote diversity, inclusion, and accessibility to sport for disadvantaged youth ages 10-15 in the Ottawa-Gatineau region
The finalists for the Gee-Gees Community Engagement Award were Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu (basketball), Borys Minger (basketball), Nathan Walker (football).
Career Achievement Award: Emma Lefebvre
A prolific goal-scorer who set the pace up front for five years, Emma Lefebvre has made a historic impact on the Gee-Gees soccer program. Named the OUA East Most Valuable Player this season, Lefebvre led the league in scoring with 12 goals in 10 games, bringing her career regular season total to 36 which ties her for second in program history. Lefebvre was a member of the 2018 OUA and U SPORTS Championship winning team and was a 2018 U SPORTS Tournament All-Star, having scored two goals in the national semi final. In 2019, Lefebvre potted three goals to lead the team as the Gee-Gees captured the FISU University World Cup.
She is a three-time OUA All-Star, was named an RSEQ Indoor Soccer All-Star in 2019, and finished her career as a First Team All-Canadian. A rookie in 2016, the Gee-Gees were 54-5-13 in the OUA regular season during her career including undefeated regular seasons in 2019 and 2021, as well as an OUA bronze medal in 2019 and an RSEQ Indoor Championship in 2020.
"More than any other player in recent memory, Emma helped define our team's playing style through her entire career," says Gee-Gees head coach Steve Johnson. "Emma pressured opposition defences for five years with unrelenting effort and self-sacrifice. Our entire system of play was made possible because of Emma; her heart allowed us to be a high pressure team without the ball that was also able to relax and control play through possession with the ball. Her ability to be one of the team's best defenders, while being the team's top forward is remarkable."
Lefebvre, a three-time Academic All-Canadian who graduated from uOttawa's Faculty of Health Sciences in Nursing and is now a registered nurse, is currently in Serbia playing with ŽFK Spartak Subotica of the Serbian Super Liga.
Career Achievement Award: Alexandra Ondo
With her selection to the 2021 First Team of All-Canadians, Ondo joined elite company in Gee-Gees history. She is one of just three Gee-Gees across all team sports to be named an All-Canadian four times, and the first since 1987. Of her four times selected to the All-Canadian team, three times she was selected to the First Team.
Ondo holds five U SPORTS medals: gold from 2017, silver from 2016 and 2021, and bronze from 2018 and 2019. She led the RSEQ in tries scored in 2021 and is a four-time RSEQ Conference All-Star. She was a member of four RSEQ Championship-winning teams from 2016-19 and won the RSEQ silver medal in 2021, one of just three Gee-Gees players to win an RSEQ and U SPORTS medal in all five years of their career, alongside Tori Wyman and Taylor Donato. She was a U SPORTS Tournament All-Star in 2021.
In 2021, Ondo won the RSEQ Leadership and Community Engagement Award in recognition of her impact in the community. Ondo has been instrumental in developing the women's rugby team Recruitment Relations and Diversity Liaison work-study positions, the Task Force for Equity and Diversity, and the Gender Equity Committee.
A member of Canada's Under-20 National Team in 2017, Ondo was recently invited to Rugby Canada's NextGen Talent ID camp. She holds a Bachelor's of Social Science with a Minor in Global Studies.
True Sport Awards are presented to those who exemplify the True Sport Principles through their attitude and actions in sport. This year's recipients are: Ritaj Abdoulla of the women's rugby team, and the executive committee of the Black Student-Athletes Advocacy Council. These recipients will be highlighted in articles next week.
Team Most Valuable Players: these awards reflect outstanding athletic performance or overall team contribution in 2021-22. The winners are:
Basketball (f) – Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu / 4th year forward / Gatineau, Que. / Psychology
Basketball (m) – Guillaume Pépin / 3rd year forward / Montréal / Marketing
Cross Country (f) – Skye Pellerin / 1st year / Sudbury, Ont. / Human Kinetics
Cross Country (m) – Adrian Fournier / 3rd year / Ottawa / Civil Engineering
Football – Zack Pelehos / 2nd year offensive lineman / Gananoque, Ont. / General Studies
Hockey (f) – Christine Deaudelin / 4th year defence / Beloeil, Que. / Criminology
Hockey (m) – Yvan Mongo / 3rd year forward / Gatineau, Que. / Finance
Rowing (m) – Alexander McDermott (3rd year / Iqaluit / Human Kinetics) and Phillip Brule (4th year / Ottawa / Computer Science)
Rowing (f) – Alyssa Pastic / 1st year / Ottawa / Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Rugby (f) – Claire Gallagher / 3rd year centre / Caledon East, Ont. / Health Sciences
Rugby (m) – Sam Mace / 3rd year back row / Kingston, Ont. / Human Kinetics
Soccer – Trinity Esprit / 2nd year defence / Toronto / Sociology
Swim (f) – Adelle Yamashita-Ball / 3rd year / Ottawa / Psychology
Swim (m) – Alexandre Perreault / 1st year / Ottawa / Physiotherapy (Master's)
Track (m) – Thomas Sénéchal-Becker / 1st year / Ottawa / Health Sciences
Track (f) – Sydney Smith / 5th year / Ottawa / Human Kinetics (Master's)
Volleyball – Tristan Peterson / 3rd year left side / Political Science