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Tom Longboat awards presented


Sam Laskaris, Windspeaker Contributor, Toronto







Page 24

One is a talented lacrosse player who has made his mark on the world scene. The other is a teenaged track star who has shone nationally and is hoping for glory outside of Canada some day.

Both share one thing in common. They were named the 2003 winners of the Tom Longboat Award.

Delby Powless and Deanna Sullivan were presented with their awards as the country's top Native athletes during the 31st annual Canadian Sports Awards. The event was staged March 23 in Toronto.

The awards are named in honor of Tom Longboat, a Native man from Six Nations, Ont. and one of the best runners the world has ever seen.

Powless won his award in large part because of his superb play at the inaugural world indoor (box) lacrosse championships, held at various southern Ontario locations last spring.

He led the Iroquois Nationals entry to the silver medal at the six-team world tournament. His efforts earned him a spot on the tourney's all-star team.

Powless, a 23-year-old who is also currently the captain of the New Jersey-based Rutgers University men's field lacrosse team, was thrilled to win the Tom Longboat Award for several reasons.

"It means a lot to me considering it represents my Native background," Powless said.

Previous winners of the award include Powless' great uncle Ross Powless, as well as Ross' son Gaylord, Delby's cousin. Both Ross and Gaylord died in recent years.

"Because both of them had won it before, it means a lot to my family to win this award," Powless added.

Another reason he was excited to win is because he also calls Six Nations home.

"It's something you learn about in school," Powless said of Longboat's career. "You learn about how he won the Boston Marathon and that he represented Canada in the Olympics."

Since he is on an athletic scholarship at Rutgers, despite the fact he is one of the better players in the world, Powless was not allowed to play professionally in the National Lacrosse League.

Various pro clubs have expressed interest in his services, but he would have been forced to give up his athletic scholarship had he played even one NLL game. As he is in his final year of college eligibility, Powless is now hoping to toil in the pro league starting with the 2004-05 season, which begins this December.

He'll undoubtedly be an early pick in the NLL draft held later this year.

As for Sullivan, she estimates she's about 10 years away from reaching her peak in her sport. The 15-year-old resident of St. Albert, Alta. excels in sprint events on the track.

Deanna Sullivan specializes in 200-metre and 400-metre races though she also occasionally enters 100-metre events.

"I think it's great to be recognized for your outstanding accomplishments," said Sullivan, who is a Grade 10 student at St. Albert high school.

Sullivan is hoping to eventually turn pro and make some money from running.

"In track and field you don't reach your peak until you're about twenty-five-ish," she said.

Sullivan, a member of the Fox Lake Cree Nation, became the youngest person ever to win the Tom Longboat Award. The annual award was first handed out in 1951, but there were some years when winners were not declared.

And the swift-footed teen also became the first Alberta resident to win the award.

Sullivan has been competing in track for the past six years. Prior to that, she placed second in her category at a cross-country running meet at her school.

That result convinced the Sullivan family that perhaps it was time to get Deanna into running.

"My dad saw an ad in the local paper," she said, explaining how she was introduced to track.

That ad stated the St. Albert Track and Field Club was seeking new members. Sullivan signed up and has been with the club ever since.

One of Sullivan's most memorable competitions was at the 2002 North American Indigenous Games in Winnipeg. She won four gold medals-in the 100 metre, 200 metre, 400 metre and long jump competitions-inthe bantam girls (14-15) category.

She's also participated in the Royal Canadian Legion's national track and field championships in each of the past two summers. She won a bronze medal in the girls 14-15 division in her 400-metre race at last year's meet in Waterloo, Ont. And she just missed out on another medal, placing fourth in her 200-metre race.

Though she didn't qualify for the finals, Sullivan took part in the Canadian junior nationals in Saskatoon last summer, competing in both the 200-metre and 400-metre races. That event primarily featured 18- and 19-year-old athletes, but Sullivan was allowed to take part since she had met the time standards required to compete at that meet.

Sullivan is hoping to garner an athletic scholarship from an American university.

"I'm kind of more interested in the States because there's a lot more interest in track and field down there," Sullivan said.

Tammy Martin and Dave Canadian were selected as the female and male Native coaches of the year and presented their awards at the Toronto banquet as well.

Martin, a member of the Cayuga First Nation, has coached fastball for the past eight years.

In 2003 she led her squad to a silver medal at the Ontario championships, the first time an all-Aboriginal team won a medal at the provincials.

As for Canadian, he's been a wrestling coach for almost 20 years. During recent years, he's been coaching the community team from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. His teams have won an impressive 15 consecutive Greater Montreal Athletic Association championships.

Over the years Canadian has also coached at the Canada Games. Four of his athletes have won North American Indigenous Games championships.