Sport Newfoundland and Labrador (SportNL) is excited to share that 10 recipients were presented with their 2022 Provincial Annual Awards which took place on Saturday, April 29, 2023, at the Sheraton Hotel.
“The Provincial Annual Awards event is a true celebration of sport in our province and each of the 10 award recipients demonstrate the collective strength of our sport community,” said Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s Board President Chris Schwartz. “The athletes, coaches, officials, teams, volunteers, and administrators who have been selected for this year’s honour have helped shape their respective sports in so many ways – they have strived to excel, to push their physical boundaries, and contributed their time in an extraordinary way to create opportunities for others.”
The Provincial Annual Awards celebrates the sporting successes and contributions of those people in the sports community from our province.
“While our awards celebrations were presented virtually for the last three years, it was great to be able to present the awards in person,” shared Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s Executive Director Troy Croft. “The awards confirm the importance of sport in our province and the accomplishments and contributions of each recipient to sport are undoubtedly inspiring. Congratulations to all the recipients.”
The recipients for each of the 10 categories and their biographies are listed below.
Junior Female Athlete of the Year (Margaret Davis Memorial Award)
Jaida Lee – Baseball
Jaida Lee had a historic season on the baseball field in 2022. An inspiration for young, aspiring female athletes, Jaida played with Team Newfoundland and Labrador as the first female to play baseball at the Canada Games in Niagara. She also dominated on the mound and at the plate at the 16U Nationals where she finished with a .294 batting average, 2 home runs and 6 Runs Batted In (RBI) along with a 1-0 pitching record and 19 strikeouts. She was named the Top Pitcher of the Tournament. Her successes, poise, and professionalism on the field earned her an invitation to the Baseball Canada Senior Women’s Identification Camp where she was the focus of the teams coaching staff for future selection on the national team. For her excellence in athletics and academics Jaida was presented with a Team Gushue Award.
Junior Male Athlete of the Year (Joseph P. Mullins Memorial Award)
Chris Weeks – Swimming
Chris Weeks enjoyed incredible success in the pool with his Mount Pearl Marlins club in 2022. Provincially, Chris dominated in his age group by breaking five Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Records in swimming and being named the Top Achiever for 15–17-year-old males at the Swimming NL Provincial Championships. Chris made his name known across the country in 2022 reaching the podium at multiple national events and being scouted by Swimming Canada for national development opportunities. Consistently ranked as one of the top age group swimmers in Canada he achieved Swimming Canada “On Track Times” in 2022 in the 50m freestyle which secured him a spot in all Swimming Canada Junior Development Team initiatives. The highlight of 2022 for Chris was his history making achievements at the 2022 Canada Summer Games. Chris garnered 1 gold and 2 silver medals for Team Newfoundland and Labrador, the first gold medal won by a Newfoundland and Labrador swimmer at the Canada Games since 1993.
Executive of the Year (Graham Snow Memorial Award)
Melissa Gale – Artistic Swimming
Melissa Gale was not only successful in coaching and judging, but also serving as a board member in 2022. The sport had sweeping rule changes on the international scale that were implemented for the 2022-2023 season and Melissa was involved early with Canada Artistic Swimming to help facilitate those changes. She attended many calls and meetings and then disseminated the information to the executive and clubs as updates became available. Melissa also helped draft and update both the Provincial rulebook and the Atlantic Regional rule book to reflect these changes and make sure they aligned with the extensive new rules. Some of her stand out accomplishments during her time on the board include rebranding of the sport to Artistic Swimming as well as maintaining and updating several rulebooks and running sessions to teach the registration system and scoring system to coaches, clubs and volunteers. Melissa stepped into an interim President role when it was needed most, while maintaining all of her own VP responsibilities. She ensured that athletes did not feel the impact of what was happening on the Executive side of the sport.
Volunteer of the Year (Frank W. Graham Memorial Award)
Thomas Walsh – Ball Hockey
Tom Walsh is a driving force behind the sport of Ball Hockey in the Province which has seen continuous growth island-wide. Presently he holds the position of President with the Newfoundland and Labrador Ball Hockey Association. He can be found volunteering his time many ways including working countless hours organizing and facilitating zoom meetings, training and coaching athletes at the grass roots U7 and U9 jamborees, and at Minor Provincial Tournaments and National and International competitions. His contributions led him to be chosen as Head Coach of the U15 NL Selects Ball Hockey Male Team that competed in the Canadian Nationals in Winnipeg, Manitoba. With a strong fourth place performance, his team saw several members get selected to Team Canada East U16. Named as an Assistant Coach with Team Canada East U16, he will represent the country at the World Championships in the Czech Republic for his third time.
Female Coach of the Year
Duffy Earle – Swimming
In 2022, Head Coach Duffy Earle lead the swimming team into the history books at the Canada Summer Games. Years of planning and swimmer development culminated with the most successful outcome for a Team NL team in Canada Summer Games history. Duffy created a competitive training environment for the Team NL swimmers that enabled them to shine on the national stage. Duffy’s team garnered 8 medals at the 2022 Canada Games; a feat not accomplished before. Duffy is a nationally respected, two- time Canada Games Head Coach with a lifelong passion for competitive swimming and swimmer development. Duffy’s commitment to provincial programming is unparalleled and the success of swimming at the 2022 Canada Summer Games illustrates her dedication.
Male Coach of the Year (John Drinkwater Memorial Award)
Jeff Thomas – Curling
Jeff Thomas reached the pinnacle of his coaching career in 2022 after almost 40 years of commitment to the growth and development of curling in Newfoundland and Labrador. For the first time he would have the opportunity to be part of the Olympics to represent Canada with Team Gushue at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games as their coach. At the Olympics he earned a bronze medal with the team. In 2022, Jeff also coached Team Young to their first Tim Hortons Brier appearance. Jeff shows an unwavering commitment to the growth of curling provincially and nationally by coaching teams and individuals and is a resource for other coaches. Not only does he coach skills, but he also exemplifies honour and sportsmanship on the field of play, making him a role model for our athletes.
Team of the Year (Edward P. Browne Memorial Award)
Team Gushue – Curling
Team Gushue has continued to establish themselves as one of the premier curling teams both nationally and internationally. In 2022, they solidified their position as one of the best curling teams by earning a bronze medal at the Winter Olympic Games held in Beijing. A few weeks later, despite having only three players on the ice, the team won their 4th Tim Horton’s Brier title. This remarkable achievement is now regarded as one of the most epic stories in curling. In addition to these great successes, Team Gushue have consistently finished within the top 3 in the majority of their Grand Slam of Curling events played, capping off an exceptional year for the team.
Official of the Year Award
Kearney O’Keefe – Softball
Kearney O’Keefe enjoyed a successful year on the softball diamond at the Local, Provincial, Eastern Canadian and National levels. On the field, Kearney worked games in the Senior Men’s and Intermediate Men’s Leagues, while also taking on the assignment of scheduling umpires for both Leagues. She also worked League Tournaments, as well as other tournaments such as the Pre-Canada Games Tournament, Lloyd Poirier Tournament and Women’s Canadian Fastpitch Championship. Kearney was the Umpire- in-Chief for the U15 Female Eastern Canadian Softball Championship and worked 11 of 19 games at the Master Men’s Canadian Fastpitch Championship. Off the field, Kearney helped run Umpire Clinics in person and online and helped to form the new Umpire Development Committee with the focus on the recruitment and retention of umpires. It was Kearney’s performance at the 2022 Women’s Canadian Fastpitch Championship in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and the recommendation from the events Umpire-in-Chief and Deputy Umpire-in-Chiefs that the Softball Canada Board of Directors approved her Nomination for Level V Fastpitch Umpire Certification in the Softball Canada’s National Officials Certification Program. Kearney is the 1st Female Umpire and 8th Umpire Overall in the Province to Obtain Level V Designation. Kearney was named the 2022 Softball NL Umpire of the Year.
Senior Female Athlete of the Year (Elizabeth Swan Memorial Award)
Kate Bazeley – Athletics
Kate Bazeley started 2022 off strong by training for the Boston Marathon, the most prestigious elite World Major Marathon. She was one of 40 women internationally selected to run and finished 24th overall with a time of 2:38:25. In October 2022 she won her 6th Tely 10 title in a time of 56:05, battling with a group of three men for the 3rd overall spot. She also won the 2022 Provincial Cross-country Championships held in Bowring Park in November 2022. At the Athletics Canada cross-country championships in Ottawa, she would finish 4th in the women’s race which would qualify her to compete at the NACAC cross-country championships in January, a running competition for athletes representing member nations of the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association. Her fourth-place finish would also earn her a place on Team Canada at the World XC Championships in Australia.
Senior Male Athlete of the Year (Ferd Hayward Memorial Award)
Colin Walsh – Softball
Colin Walsh enjoyed a successful fastpitch softball season on the Local, National and International diamonds in 2022. At the local level, Colin turned in two MVP performances leading 3 Cheers Pub Miller Lite to two Championships during the regular season with a 15-4 record and the playoffs with a 7-3 Record. He also captured several awards for his performance during the regular season including Top Batter, eight pitching wins, All-League Team (Utility) and Player of the Month honours for September/October. On the National level, Colin captured Gold with Galway Hitmen at the Men’s Nationals and was named to the All-Star Team as an Outfielder. On the International level, Colin captured two Silver Medals with the Men’s National Team at the Pan American Championship and the World Cup. For his performance this past season, Colin was named the 2022 Softball NL Senior Male Player of the Year.