Claire Aspenes was a leader on the basketball and volleyball courts during her high school career with the Stettler Wildcats.
It was fitting, then, that the female athlete of the year led the students’ organization of the 44th annual Colour Night ceremony last Tuesday honouring athletes from William E. Hay Composite High School.
Aspenes is the head of the school’s athletic board, which is made up of representatives from high school sports.
“I’m the president of the athletic board, so we put a lot of work into (Colour Night),” she said. “The entire board did — not just me.
“It was a good time.”
The format was changed this year to make last week’s ceremony exclusively for the sports crowd, while students from drama and arts activities will be honoured separately this week.
“It worked out better for everybody, because it was more focused on just the athletes,” said Aspenes, who hosted the evening program along with athletic board vice-president and fellow senior student Austin Cherewko.
Student-athletes mingled with friends they’ve made through their participation in school sports. Those relationships extend far beyond the wins and losses and the foul lines.
“Most of my friends, I’ve played sports with,” said Aspenes, 18. “It was a really fun experience.
“I would definitely say that sports was a key highlight of my high school years.”
Aspenes participated in a yearbook full of sports — basketball and volleyball through all of her high school years and badminton (Grade 11) and track and field (Grade 10) for one year each.
She was named the MVP of the senior girls’ basketball team and earned the Sally Bishop Award as the female athlete of the year (while Morgan Loshny received the Bob Stewart Award as the male athlete of the year).
“It was nice to be recognized for being able to handle school and sports at the same time,” Aspenes said. “I felt honoured.”
She was part of the senior girls’ volleyball Wildcats, who won the inaugural team academic award at Colour Night. Her father, Warren, coached that club.
Aspenes is off the University of Alberta Augustana Campus to study education.
After two years in Camrose, she plans to transfer to the main U of A campus in Edmonton for the final two years of that program.
For now, at least, she’s stepping back from competitive sports.
“I’m probably not going to play anything, actually, just the way it worked out,” Aspenes said of her Augustana timetable. “I would have played basketball, but they aren’t losing very many girls, so just the year it is, it just doesn’t work out for me to play.”
Coming from an athletic family, though, she plans to continue to practise an active lifestyle.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” she said.
Warren Aspenes, a teacher and the athletic director at William E. Hay, believes the new Colour Night format proved popular.
“The idea behind that was to try to, No. 1, get more participation from our athletes and coaches on an event that would have more of a personalized feel to it,” he said.
“We had more than 200 athletes and parents. We had close to 80 per cent of our athletes participating. And out of those 80 per cent, about 50 different students got awards.”
One of the new awards saluted classroom achievement as the senior girls’ volleyball club earned academic distinction.
“The team academic award is to honour a broader range of students, but also to recognize the importance of student-athletes,” said Aspenes, who coached the senior girls’ volleyball team.
A couple of staff members, Joe Thibeau and Dave Morris, received the Larry Wilson Founders’ Award.
“Joe for the time he spends coaching, primarily basketball, and Dave for all the work he does in photography for all of our sports,” Aspenes said. “We rely on him being there, whether it’s football, basketball … all the different sports.”
Fresh off a provincial junior girls’ gold medal in long jump, Grade 10 student Dacia Gramlick earned the Dana Roberts Memorial Award for all-around excellence and dedication in track and field.
For cumulative points based on participation and commitment in high school athletics, 13 students received Block S awards. Two seniors, Claire Aspenes and Tyler Stewart, were awarded Bar S honours for their extensive involvement.
More photos from the ceremony in this week’s Independent.