Berger, Harrison top Vikings athletes
Women's soccer player Tara Berger was named University of Alberta-Augustana Female Athlete of the Year at Colour Night on April 3. File photos/Camrose Canadian
Tara Berger went into Colour Night not knowing what to expect and left making history.
The 23-year-old striker became the first soccer player to be named the University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings Female Athlete of the Year. Golfer Michael Harrison was named the Male Athlete of the Year.
Women's soccer has only been an ACAC sport at Augustana for four seasons, and it has been a struggle for success on the field. This year, despite a third season with only two wins, they started to find some traction in the second half. Much of that was due to the foot of Berger who scored nine of the team's 15 goals and was named to the all-conference team.
"I was really excited to show the school that soccer is a part of the school and we do bring out just as good an athlete as every other sport," she said.
Berger actually started her ACAC career at Red Deer College, but after suffering a torn ACL injury in her first game with the Queens, she transferred to Augustana looking for a fresh start in her second season. With the Vikings she found herself as part of a major building project and led the team in scoring every season.
"It was a really good leadership opportunity for me, and plus the community at Augustana is a lot nicer," said Berger. "I went to RDC my first year and you don't really know people there, you don't really talk to people, everyone kind of keeps to their cliques. Here I found it was easy to make a lot of friends."
As she graduates with a kinesiology degree, she says the Vikings are in a good position to move forward with top young players like Taylor Olson an Demi Vermeer.
"We've spent a long time building the program … and even just the little bit (of success) we got here will help the girls next year," said Berger. "This is a great group of girls here ... this is the best group of girls I've had the opportunity to play with in all my years of soccer … this is a great place to play."
Her goal now is to become an athletic trainer with a sports team but will be looking to gain experience in her first few years as she moves to Calgary.
Harrison still has another year left in his time at Augustana. The Camrose golfer was dominant in his third ACAC season as he was named the top college golfer in the province, played well at nationals and became the first Viking to be invited to the U Sport Championship from May 29 to June 1 in Chilliwack, B.C.
"All of the work that we put in in the gym and playing tournaments over the summer and preparing for the fall really paid off," said Harrison.
Harrison won the individual ACAC championship this year, was named a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association academic all-Canadian, and the golf team captured this year's highest GPA award at colour night with a 3.4 average.
He is as proud of the academic accomplishments as his on-course achievements.
"You try to balance (studies and golf) as much as you can, you bring your text books on the weekend that you're away for tournaments," said Harrison. "You're always working on one or the other in all of the time that you have."
The U Sport championships offer an intriguing challenge for Harrison. With snow still covering local courses he is having to play virtual reality golf to knock the rust off of his irons and wedges.
"There's not much you can when there's snow on the ground, but I'm really excited going into that tournament," he said. "The short game is the biggest concern, but even playing here in the spring you're dealing with temporary greens or winter kill. I'm just hoping to get on grass as soon as possible."
Colour Night is a long standing tradition at the university, and for the first time they combined their awards night with the students union for their Leadership Awards.
It was a busy year for the athletic depart who for the first time hosted two sets of provincials – women's volleyball and curling – in consecutive weeks. Highlights included the Harrison's performance, a strong push by the hockey team in playoffs that came up just short of the final, a provincial bronze medal by the men's curling team, and big improvements made by the volleyball and basketball programs.
"This is a chance for our athletes who see each other in the hallways to get a chance to celebrate each other's accomplishments, which we don't do enough of," said athletic director Greg Ryan. "It also gives us a chance to celebrate coaches … and that's a real important part of the evening."
Other athletic awards handed out included Community Coach of the Year David Ritz (hockey), Coach of the Year Roger Galenza (curling), The Dean's Award for Leadership in Vikings Athletics Connor Gusdal (men's basketball) and Rebecca Bates (women's volleyball), Dr. Roger Epp Scholarship Athletes of the Year Annika Olesen (Nordic and cross-country running) and Gusdal, Male Rookie of the Year Joe Tambasco (hockey), and Female Rookie of the Year Jessica Haenni (women's basketball).