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Regional, national Tom Longboat winners named

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Sam Laskaris, Sage Writer, Miramichi, N.B.







Page 17

A track and field competitor who has excelled at various competitions and a star volleyball player have been honoured as Saskatchewan's top Aboriginal athletes for 2004.

Charmane Naytowhow and Alwyn Piche were chosen as regional winners of the Tom Longboat Award.

"There was a number of quality athletes that were nominated," said Shirley MacDonald, the director of Sports, Culture, Youth and Recreation for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

But Naytowhow, who is Cree and lives in Montreal Lake, and Piche, who is Dene and a resident of La Loche, stood out among the nominees.

"They both have succeeded at a provincial and national level," MacDonald said. "That helped in our decision."

Naytowhow's accomplishments in 2004 included winning a gold medal in javelin and a silver medal in the discus throw at the Saskatchewan high school track and field championships.

Naytowhow also captured a pair of medals at national meets. She won a silver medal in the javelin at the Royal Canadian Legion's national championships in Sudbury, Ont. And she brought home a bronze medal from the javelin event at the Canadian junior track and field meet held in Saskatoon.

Piche was a member of the Saskatchewan club that won the gold medal at the 2004 juvenile boys' national volleyball tournament. Piche was selected as the most valuable player of that tournament held in Saskatoon.

Piche also won various other all-star awards from various tournaments while representing his high school squad, the La Loche Lakers.

MacDonald believes selecting Naytowhow and Piche as Tom Longboat Award winners was justified.

"We believe it was a good choice," she said.

As regional winners, both Naytowhow and Piche were in the running for national Tom Longboat Awards-alongside eight other male and eight other female athletes from across the country-but neither athlete ended up winning that accolade.

The national winners were Laura Mussell, a member of the Canadian ultimate Frisbee team, and Richard Peter, who plays for the national men's wheelchair basketball team. Both Mussell, 30, and Peter, 32, are British Columbia residents. They received their national awards at a ceremony held in Miramichi, N.B. on April 21.

Mussell, a member of the Sto:lo Nation, was the captain of the Canadian squad that won the world ultimate Frisbee team championships in Turku, Finland this past August. About 30 countries sent teams to the world tournament, which is held every four years. Mussell, a member of the national squad since 1998, had also helped Canada win the world crown in Germany in 2000.

As for Peter, a member of the Cowichan First Nation, he helped Canada defend its title at the Athens Paralympics this past summer in Greece.

Peter and his Canadian teammates had also won the gold medal at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.

Peter has been a member of the national men's squad since 1994.

Meanwhile, another pair of individuals was also honoured with Tom Longboat Awards in Miramichi.

Kara Jan Willie and Faron Asham were named as the country's top Aboriginal female and male coaches, respectively.

Willie, a member of the Musgamagw-Tsawatainuek First Nations in B.C., was an assistant coach with the Malaspina University Mariners women's soccer team last year.

Asham, who is Metis, is a baseball coach from Manitoba. Last year he led the Manitoba Youth Selects, an under-17 boys' provincial baseball club, to a bronze-medal finish at the Baseball Canada Cup tournament.

Willie and Asham were selected from among the 12 regional coaching winners. Saskatchewan did not have any coaches awarded regional Tom Longboat Awards for 2004.

The Tom Longboat Awards are named in honour of Tom Longboat, a member of Six Nations of the Grand River who in the early 1900s made a name for himself as a long-distance runner, competing in races across North America and Europe and setting new records wherever he ran.

The TomLongboat Awards are given out each year by the Aboriginal Sports Circle as a way to recognize and celebrate the achievements of gifted Aboriginal athletes and coaches who embody the spirit, determination and deciated demonstrated by Longboat almost a century ago.