It was a night to honour, to celebrate and to remember as more than 400 people attended the Kinsmen Club/Prince Albert Raiders Sportsman and Athletes of the Year banquet on Saturday.
Katelyn Lehner, a Grade 12 student at St. Mary High School, was presented with the top female award, Graham Pedersen, a first-year student at the University of Saskatchewan, claimed the top male athlete honours and the Friday Night Lights Committee, which was formed to leave a legacy for a fallen friend, was honoured as the sportsman of the year.
Lehner’s accomplishments in the past year were simply astounding.
Beginning with the city high school track and field championships in May, Lehner put her stamp on not only the provincial scene, but she also gained recognition on a national level as well.
Lehner dominated the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association events she competed in and was named the top female athlete for her performance. During the summer she switched gears somewhat and entered the women’s heptathlon at the national junior championships in Winnipeg. Despite competing against competitors who were as much as two years older, she recorded six personal best results and finished in second place overall.
Lehner then represented Team Lakeland at the Saskatchewan Summer Games in Meadow Lake and brought home six more gold medals and to cap off the summer, she travelled to Prince Edward Island for the national youth championships where she won a silver medal in the long jump and gold in the 300-metre hurdles.
Colleges from around North America are now lining up to recruit Lehner, but she said on Saturday she is “keeping the doors open.” Her next major event is the Sled Dog in Saskatoon at the end of December and again she is going to try something new – the women’s pentathlon.
“This is such a great honour,” says Lehner. “It’s nice to know that all of this hard work has paid off. It means so much to me.”
The past 12 months have also been very busy for Pedersen as the 18-year-old excelled in three different sports – wrestling, rugby and football.
While at Carlton Comprehensive High School last year, Pedersen captained the Crusaders to the regional wrestling championship and later won a silver medal in his weight class at the provincial finals.
On the gridiron, Pederson once again was a dominant force as he gained a spot in the prestigious North/South game after a stellar season with the Crusaders. During that all-star game he was selected as the top lineman and as a result was recruited by the University of Saskatchewan Huskies where he spent this fall red-shirting with the varsity team.
Outside of school, Pedersen was captain of the North Saskatchewan River Dragons rugby team and after four years in that program became one of the premiere players in the province.
“This is amazing,” said Pedersen on Saturday. “To have everyone here and another high-calibre athlete like Katelyn along with the Friday Night Lights committee, I couldn’t be happier.”
“It shows that hard work pays off and if you keep working hard you get recognized,” added Pedersen.
The final award was the result of a tragedy in one sense, but the bonding of a community in another.
Friday Night Lights came about as the result of the death of Max Clunie, who died far too young in a plane crash in northern Saskatchewan in June, 2011.
Max was a vibrant young man who played football and hockey in the city and also had a fondness for the Professional Bull Riding circuit.
While playing football with the River Riders program, he had commented that it would be nice if Prince Albert could have games played under the lights and when his death occurred, the dream of installing lights at Prime Ministers’ Park was born.
Max’s close friends Lukas McConechy, Logan Usselman, Noella Broda and his sister Alyson Clunie put the cornerstone of the project in place with the initiation of “Max Power” and a committee was struck to ensure the project was completed.
Gord Broda, Randy Emmerson, David Thorpe, Mitch Holash, Ian Jensen and Max’s father Rusty raised awareness in the community and in a short time more than $650,000 was raised and the lights were installed.
On Oct. 19, prior to a game between the St. Mary Marauders and Carlton Crusaders, the lights were dedicated in Max’s memory and so was the main football field at Prime Ministers’ Park.
When introducing the Friday Night Lights committee on Saturday, Bruce Vance said this group “has entrenched in the city the name of Max Clunie.”
Following the awards presentations, a number of items were auctioned off with all funds raised from the auction, and other draws held during the evening, going to the Kinsmen Club and the Raider Education Fund.
Former NHL goaltender Curtis Joseph completed the evening’s festivities with a moving and enjoyable speech about his upbringing and hockey career and he commented in closing by saying, “Giving back to the community is so important.”
Prince Albert certainly gave back on Saturday.