Top sports people battle it out for awards

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On the mark . . . Waitaki Sports Awards sportsperson of the year finalist Nathan Smith in action for North Otago against Otago Country in December. PHOTO: HAYDEN MEIKLE

 

Winning chance . . . Rower Mark Taylor is in the running to be named sportsperson of the year at the Waitaki Sports Awards in March. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

Waitaki’s sporting finest will be revealed at next month’s Waitaki Sports Awards, with several categories offering up some intriguing battles for top honours.

The finalists for this year’s Network Waitaki-sponsored awards were named this week, with all nine categories well represented.

Three strong contenders – Mark Taylor (rowing), Nathan Smith (cricket) and Courtney Duncan (motocross) – were selected as finalists in the sportsperson of the year category.

Penny Keeling (swimming), Amber Cunningham (cricket) and Brylee More (touch) are all in the running to be named junior sportswoman of the year, while Taylor, Smith and Micah Hayes (swimming) all made the cut for the race to the junior sportsman of the year award.

Emma Paton (table tennis) and Steven Walker (bowls) are in the mix for the disabled athlete of the year crown, while Valerie Muskett (endurance running) and David Rush (cycling) will go head-to-head for the masters sportsperson of the year prize.

The coach of the year prize is also a two-horse race, between Narcis Gherca (swimming) and Ian Cathcart (basketball).

Three finalists were selected for the team of the year title – the North Otago men’s cricket team, the St Kevin’s 1st V basketball team and the Waitaki Boys’ High School colts rugby side.

Adair Craik is the sole finalist for the Denis Birtles memorial services to sport award, while the Stewart Mitchell award for an official in sport has Craik against Nicola Loe.

Category award winners will then enter the running for the supreme award.

Sport Waitaki co-ordinator Rhiannon McLean said there was a “tremendous response” when nominations were called for several months ago and said judges Hayden Meikle (Oamaru Mail editor) Trevor James (long-serving administrator), Diane Talanoa (Waitaki Community Recreation Centre manager), Terry O’Neill (broadcaster) and Mark Julius (Allied Press Oamaru manager) had a tough job when it came to selecting the finalists.

“As a community, we should be really proud of the high calibre of athletes, particularly in the junior and team categories, who come out of the Waitaki region each year .. we hope to see even more nominations next year, particularly for the service awards where we can have the opportunity to show appreciation for the commitment many Waitakians have to their sport and clubs.”

Award winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on March 6.