A pair of teenagers from the same Thunder Bay high school were named as the top Aboriginal athletes in Ontario for 2008.
Eric Slipperjack, a football player at Sir Winston Churchill High School, was chosen as the best male athlete.
And Nancy Indian, a five-sport athlete at the school who specializes in volleyball, was picked as the top female athlete.
Both Slipperjack and Indian are 17. And both were named winners of a regional (Ontario) Tom Longboat Award for their athletic accomplishments this past year.
Penny Peters, a hockey coach who lives in New Lowell, Ont., won a regional female Aboriginal coaching Longboat award.
The Tom Longboat Awards, both the regional and national ones, are named in honor of the legendary runner from Six Nations. They are presented annually, first to regional winners and then to the national recipients, who are deemed to be the top Aboriginal amateur athletes.
Slipperjack, an Ojibway, shone on the football field this past fall. The Grade 12 student helped his school team advance to the Thunder Bay high school final.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder played defensive end and corner back positions this past year.
"I'm just honored to receive this award," he said.
"It's probably the best award I've won."
Though he didn't win the national award, Slipperjack said he was thrilled he was even considered for such an accolade.
"I was just happy that people were acknowledging what I was doing," he said.
Slipperjack will attend Thunder Bay's Confederation College this coming school year. He plans on taking the school's two-year Native Child and Family Studies program. And then after that, he's hoping to enrol in the University of Manitoba.
As for Indian, who is also in Grade 12, she played on five teams this school year: volleyball, basketball, soccer, tennis and badminton.
In March of 2008, she was the captain of her team that won the Thunder Bay high school volleyball championship.
Another '08 highlight for Indian, who is also Ojibway, occurred last summer when she served as the captain of the Team Ontario girls' volleyball squad that captured the silver medal at the North American Indigenous Games in Cowichan, B.C.
As for her regional Tom Longboat Award, Indian was happy she was able to add some hardware to her trophy case.
"It was pretty exciting when I found out I won," she said.
Indian said she was also told she had placed third in the voting for the national Tom Longboat female award.
"First place would have been nice," she said. "But third place is perfectly good."
Though she will be graduating in June, Indian is planning to return for at least one more semester of high school.
Peters, 30, had a golden experience in 2008. She was an assistant coach for the Ontario South girls' squad that captured the gold medal at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Peters has only been a certified hockey coach for two years, so she was surprised to win a provincial award for her coaching efforts.
"It means quite a bit to me," she said of her award. "But my feeling is that I haven't coached that much yet."
Peters had also been selected to coach at this year's NAHC, which was held in Winnipeg in early May. But she withdrew from that position after suffering a broken ankle in February.