Joanna Alphonso & Kaion Julien-Grant named StFX student-athletes of the year
On the evening of Thursday, April 4, members of the StFX Athletics community were honoured as guests to the annual athletic banquet. The banquet is held each year to celebrate and honour the accomplishments of the StFX athletic department. This includes the accomplishments of not only athletes, but also coaches and staff including athletic therapists and managers.
The banquet was held the the Charles V. Keating Memorial Centre, where guests took part in a cocktail hour, a nutritious dinner (chicken with the sauce), a number of entertaining sketches by the hosts, and compelling speeches by many highly regarded members of the community.
To begin the athletic banquet ceremony was an amusing video featuring the two hosts, Joanna Alphonso of X-Women Rugby and Albert Banahene of X-Men Football. In the video, the hosts parodied a bunch of popular late night game segments, such as Cash Cab, Carpool Karaoke, and Spill your Guts or Fill your Guts. The contestants of the games were noteworthy athletes and familiar faces to the StFX sports community.
After the video, Alphonso and Banahene proceeded to the stage to introduce themselves, crack some jokes and lead guests through the night ahead. The funniest of jokes was when Alphonso announced that the football and rugby teams would be hitting the buffet first, only to psych the teams out and have them go last for the sake of having enough food for everyone else.
All rookies to have used their first year of eligibility were each given a pin to recognize their new achievement. These pins also serve as a rite of passage for these rookies as new members to StFX athletics.
Afterwards, teams whose accolades included winning an AUS banner were honoured. Countless Wooden Trophies each carved in the shape of “X,” were distributed to every winner of AUS in 2018-2019. This included the massive football team, X-Men Cross Country, and X-Women Rugby.
X-Women Rugby members were not only honoured with the classic wooden trophies, but were also finally given their National Championship rings. Early in the academic year, the women clinched gold at the 2018 U SPORTS Women’s Rugby Championships. Members were finally given their flashy rings to celebrate this incredible accomplishment. The rings featured a large centered blue X, and engravings of the game’s final score (41-24 against Guelph Gryphons), players’ last name, StFX Rugby, and lastly, the team’s motto going into the tournament, “Kill the Bird.”
There was also a large volume of awards granted to many well deserving and hard working members of StFX athletics. Of the various awards were StFX Female Student-Athlete of the year, StFX Male Student-Athlete of the year, StFX Female Community X-Cellence award, and the StFX Male Community X-Cellence award. The winners of these awards were Joanna Alphonso herself, X-Men Football receiver Kaion Julien-Grant, X-Women Soccer player Kelsey Ellis, and Track & Field athlete Riley Jennings respectively.
Alphonso was named the StFX Female Student-Athlete of the Year. She is in her first year of education and her fifth year of eligibility. Throughout her time as prop on the StFX Rugby team, Alphonso was an exemplary leader, dedicated teammate, and hard worker. From Ajax, Ontario, Alphonso was an AUS All Star for all five years of her career. She has also been an U SPORTS All-Canadian for four straight years. As X-Women Rugby brought home its sixth national championship banner, Alphonso brought home her third. Alphonso achieved U SPORTS All-Star status this year for her second time, and she is the sixth overall highest scorer in AUS Women’s Rugby history. This placement is behind four StFX rugby alumni, including Olympian Ghislaine Landry, Courtnay Malcolm, Magali Harvey, and Sabrina McDaid.
X-Men football receiver Julien-Grant received StFX Male Student-Athlete of the Year honors. Julien-Grant is a fourth year human kinetics student. Reigning from Toronto, Ontario, he is one of StFX’s most highly recognized receivers of all time. Julien-Grant led the AUS conference with 49 receptions this season, yielding an average of 6.1 receptions per game. His receiving yards came to a total of 638, and had five receiving touchdowns this year. Julien Grant has been they key cog in X-Men Football’s three AUS wins in the last four years. He has been honoured as AUS conference MVP and a conference all-star as both receiver and kick returner. Not only that, he also claimed U SPORTS first team all-Canadian honours for his third year in both offense and special teams. Julien Grant is the StFX Football leader in all-purpose yards with 4,563, which puts him at sixth from the top in the AUS.
The StFX Female Community X-Cellence award was awarded to Kelsey Ellis of X-Women soccer. Ellis is a fourth year human kinetics student from Ottawa, Ontario. Ellis has a remarkable array of accomplishments that made her an excellent candidate for this award. She was co-president of the StFX chapter of Obesity Canada, volunteer at L’Arche Antigonish, volunteer at StFX Fit 4 Life, volunteer at St. Martha’s hospital, coaching young boys soccer, and assisted with the Motor Activities at X program. While taking on these roles, Ellis championed the “OneTeam” initiative, a program for varsity athletes to work with local athletes with disabilities and promote peer mentorship. As an assistant at the Motor Activated at X program, she provided programming for an adult with lower neuron disease. On top of all these responsibilities and commitments, Ellis was able to remain a U SPORTS academic All-Canadian for her three years of study, and be honoured as a U SPORTS second team all-Canadian and an AUS first team all-star.
Riley Jennings from X-Men track & field was the winner of the StFX Male Community X-Cellence award. Classmate to both Ellis and Julien-Grant, Jennings is also a fourth year human kinetics student. He is in his third year of eligibility as a thrower for StFX track & field. From Debert, Nova Scotia, Jennings has involved himself in an impressive and commendable amount of activities in the community. Like Ellis, Jennings also volunteered with the Motor Activities at X program. He also contributed to the Autism learn to skate/swim program, and volunteers at StFX Fit 4 Life and Fit 4 Tots. He also coached throwing to local high school athletes within the community, was facilitator for the Antigonish Multisport program and assisted with the creation of the inclusive sledge hockey program at StFX. In track & field, Jennings won silver at AUS championships and set a new StFX record. He placed fifth at the AUS championship in shot put. Jennings is recognized as a Leader of Distinction by the StFX Leadership academy.
In addition to athletic awards, student therapists, strength & conditioning interns, and student managers for all teams were presented with plaques to show appreciation for their contributions this successful 2018-2019 season. The hope is that 2019-20 will be filled with even more banners!