The 37th annual Night of the Dino was kind of like my high-school graduation. This time, however, the people were taller, there were more awards and I wasn't graduating.
After a rather inspired toast to the coaches and grace, the crowd was given permission to eat. The food was a standard Calgarian roast beef buffet and was not bad for free food. The bar on the other hand wasn't free, which was probably a good thing. This detail did not deter some not-to-be named athletes from engaging in substantial pre-award ceremony celebration though.
The tension started to mount about halfway through dessert. A five minute countdown sent players and coaches alike to stock up on cookies and cakes--I guess the Night of the Dino is as good time as any to ignore proper nutrition.
But enough about food.
After an hour long bombardment of awards, scholarships and acknoledgments with numbers too large to list here, it was time for me to give the Gauntlet "Extra Effort" Awards. This year, they went to Nathan Kendrick and Jill Friend for going above and beyond the call of duty--it seriously scared the crap out of me, so I'll speak no more of it here (you can read more on page 12).
First of the big awards was the Bill Popplewell Rookie of the Year award. The proud female recipient was wrestler Laura McDougall who had stellar placements and earned Rookie of the Year status in both Canada West and Canadian Interuniversity Sport competition. Footballer David Gruninger--who is the youngest player in CIS football to hold a starting position--took the honours for the men.
The stars of the night, however, were the Dr. Dennis Kadatz Athletes of the Year Joanna Niemczewska and Chad Murray.
Niemczewska's year couldn't have ended any better. As a member of the national champion Dinos women's volleyball team she earned both Canada West and CIS Player of the Year honours--receiving similar honours on this evening just seemed to make sense. Nonetheless, she was shocked, amazed and genuinely thrilled at the outcome of the award.
"I was kind of shocked because of who I was up against," beamed Niemczewska, grinning ear to ear. "I was just sitting back and enjoying the ceremony, I didn't think I'd be getting it--it's great."
Equally deserving of top honours was Chad Murray from the Dinos swim team. He absolutely dominated Canada West and CIS competition, winning nine gold medals altogether and CIS Male Swimmer of the Year. To top off an already stellar year, Murray has a good chance of representing Canada at the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
It wasn't long before the party headed Denwards, but that is a tale not meant for these pages.