Top award for rowing’s golden girl

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The Network Waitaki Sports Awards were held yesterday evening at the Oamaru Opera House with 120 award nominees, special guests and event sponsors attending.

The first award of the evening was the Emerging Talent Award, which went to Bree Louden for her achievements in squash, touch, basketball and netball.

Masters Athlete of the Year was won by long-distance and ultra runner Val Muskett, of Hampden, for her achievements on the international stage. Muskett recently gained two world titles for 12-hour endurance racing on track and road and will represent New Zealand at the world championships next month.

The Denis Birtles Memorial Award for Service to Sport was presented to Heather Smith for 40 years’ service to gymnastics. Smith’s commitment and dedication to gymnastics is widely recognised throughout the region.

The Athlete with a Disability Award went to Emma Paton for her achievements in table tennis and indoor football.

Paton was recently crowned New Zealand Deaf Sportswoman of the year. Her outstanding results in table tennis include winning the South Island teams champs, and placing fifth at the New Zealand champs, all against hearing competitors.

Top coach of 2014 went to rugby coaching pair Kurt Rooney and Justin Fowler, who beat out Andrea Naylor (Waitaki Boys’ and Oamaru squash) and Ray Boswell (Waitaki Boys’ hockey and trapshooting). Rooney and Fowler led the St Kevin’s College first XV to their best season in recent memory.

St Kevin’s rugby scored a double win, with the team also being crowned Team of the Year. The boys won the South Island secondary schools co-educational tournament, and backed this up by a fourth placing in the national competition, to beat St Kevin’s trapshooting duo Jessica Fraser and Georgia-Kate Blair and the Waitaki Girls’ under-18 coxed quad for the title.

Swimmer Isobel Ryan was the winner of the Junior Sportswoman Award. Ryan won three gold and three silvers at the New Zealand short-course championships. She has also set five new Otago records and secured a scholarship to Wyoming University later this year. Ryan won the award ahead of rower Maysie Scott and duathlete Olivia Ollerenshaw, who both had strong results in 2014.

Junior Sportsman of the Year was awarded to motocross star Joel Meikle. Meikle produced a fine display on the international circuit in 2014, competing at the Pacific Cup in Tahiti.

At present, he is riding in round three of the New Zealand Senior Motocross Championships in Tauranga. Meikle beat out basketball star Max De Geest and table tennis champion Josh Tonkin for the award.

Sportsperson of the Year was contested between downhill mountain biker Connor Sandri, rower Johannah Kearney and Emma Paton.

The award went to Kearney for her achievements on the international stage. As a member of the New Zealand under-23 quad, Kearney brought home a silver from the world championships in Italy.

She was also the first Oamaru rower in over 50 years to be presented with the prestigious red coat for winning the premier eight at the national championships.

In the final award of the night, Kearney took top honours, gaining the Network Waitaki Supreme Award.

She was crowned Waitaki’s top sports star of 2014 ahead of fellow category winners Ryan, Meikle, Muskett and Paton.

The evening’s guest speaker was Prof David Gerrard, of the University of Otago, who shared his experience of world-class competition as an Olympic swimmer, chef de mission and medical professional.

Sport Waitaki’s Kate Holland said she was thrilled with the evening.

“Hosting the event at the opera house brings a real sense of occasion to the Network Waitaki Sports Awards,” she said.

“Alongside the North Otago sports bodies, we like to recognise all of the outstanding nominees and celebrate in their successes and achievements in the last year. The 2014 Network Waitaki Sports Awards showcased the strength of sporting talent in the Waitaki district, which is something we can all be proud of.”

2014 NETWORK WAITAKI SPORTS AWARDS RESULTS
Emerging Talent: Bree Louden (squash, touch, basketball, netball) Masters Athlete of the Year: Val Muskett (long-distance and ultra running)
Service to Sport Award: Heather Smith (gymnastics)
Coach of the Year: Kurt Rooney and Justin Fowler (rugby) – WINNERS; Ray Boswell (trapshooting, hockey); Andrea Naylor (squash).
Team of the Year: St Kevin’s College 1st XV -WINNER; St Kevin’s College trapshooting; Waitaki Girls’ High School under-18 coxed quad.
Athlete with a Disability: Emma Paton (table tennis)
Junior Sportswoman of the Year: Isobel Ryan (swimming) – WINNER; Maysie Scott (rowing); Olivia Ollerenshaw (duathlon).
Junior Sportsman of the Year: Joel Meikle (motocross) – WINNER; Max De Geest (basketball); Josh Tonkin (table tennis).
Sportsperson of the Year: Johannah Kearney (rowing) – WINNER; Connor Sandri (downhill mountain biking); Emma Paton (table tennis).
Supreme Award Johannah Kearney (rowing) – WINNER; Joel Meikle (motocross); Isobel Ryan (swimming); Emma Paton (table tennis); Val Muskett (long-distance and ultra running).

By James Ford