Winning a Canadian Interuniversity Sport individual award was a good sign of things to come for a pair of Guelph Gryphons.
Football linebacker John Rush and hockey goaltender Valerie Lamenta wrapped up their university sports seasons Thursday night at the Mitchell Athletics Centre when they were named the male and female athletes of the year at the annual Guelph Gryphons Athletic Banquet.
"Like I said before with the President's Trophy and all the other awards I've received this year, it really is a culmination of how well our team did and how well our coaches have come along," Rush said. "They've done such a good job over the past five years working with me, making sure I'm doing the right things at the right time, putting effort in with me, surrounding me with the best guys in the country. It's not just an individual effort. As much as it is an individual trophy, it's a complete team effort from the players to the coaches. It's an honour to win this award but really just represents how far this team has come and how good this team is."
Rush was the first Gryphon to ever win the President's Trophy as the top defensive player in Canadian university football. He led the country with 60 tackles during the regular season and 28 in the playoffs and also led the nation with four sacks in the playoffs. His play in his fifth and final season at Guelph helped the Gryphs win the OUA championship Yates Cup for the first time since 1996.
"I didn't even know I was up for this award until I got here," Rush said. "We have such phenomenal athletes at this school that to be even nominated for this award didn't even cross my mind."
Rush is the first football player to win the award since receiver Dave Irwin won it in 1994.
Lamenta's play between the pipes in her second season with the Gryphs was rewarded when she was named the top player in Canadian university women's hockey two weeks ago.
"It's a little overwhelming, but I'm going to take it in," she said of those awards. "I'm going to be thankful and I'm going to be so happy. I had a great year and I had a great team with me so it's incredible."
Lamenta had a goals-against average of less than a goal against per game as she stopped just over 95 per cent of the shots fired her way.
"I was not really looking at my numbers, I was just doing what I could to get better," she said. "I just kept playing for my team and the team was playing great in front of me as well, so it just made everything that much easier."
Lamenta is the first hockey player to win the award since two-sport athlete Meaghan Howat, who also played rugby, won it in 2007.
"This is definitely a great honour and I wasn't expecting it," she said. "There were some great nominees out there, some girls who have done some incredible things."
Among the other major award winners were runners Danielle Jossinet and Ben Workman as rookies of the year, hockey forward Kelly Gribbons and football running back Johnny Augustine as most improved athletes, field hockey player Allison Chute and swimmer Evan Van Moerkerke as sportspeople of the year and runners Katelyn Ayers and Charlie Sutton as student-athletes of the year.
First winner of the Gryphie for Gryphon sports moment of the year was basketball player Taylor Boers for his winning buzzer-beater shot that gave Guelph a one-point win over the Windsor Lancers Jan. 15.