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Moves prove beneficial

OTTAWA – A pair of athletes who went through some major changes a year ago have been named Canada’s top aboriginal amateur athletes for 2009.

Brigette Lacquette, who moved from her small Manitoba community and joined an elite hockey program in Kelowna, British Columbia, was selected as the country’s top female athlete.

Ammon Crowfoot, an Alberta teen who switched high schools primarily to further his sporting career, was chosen as the top male athlete.

For their athletic endeavors in 2009, both Lacquette (Saulteaux) and Crowfoot (Blackfoot/Saulteaux/Mohawk/Oneida) will be presented with Tom Longboat Awards at a June ceremony in Ottawa. The awards, named in honor of the late aboriginal running legend, are annually presented by the Aboriginal Sport Circle.

Lacquette, a 17-year-old who plays defense, helped Canada win the silver medal at the women’s world under-18 championship held in Germany in January 2009.

Lacquette’s father Terrence nominated her for the Tom Longboat Award.

“My dad told me about (the nomination). I thought it was kind of sweet.”

And Lacquette was even more impressed when she found out she captured the national award.

Photo courtesy Cedo Kucinar Ammon Crowfoot, an Alberta teen who switched high schools primarily to further his sporting career, was chosen as the top male athlete.

“It means a lot to me because this is a pretty big award. I felt pretty good about myself. And I thought, wow, they actually noticed me.”

Canadian national team officials certainly know all about Lacquette.

She was once again a member of the national under-18 squad this year. That team captured the gold medal at its world tournament, which concluded in early April in Chicago. Lacquette and her teammates edged the United States 5-4 in overtime in the championship.

Lacquette has also been invited to try out for the Canadian women’s under-22 squad this summer. Tryouts for that club will be held in Toronto in early August.

Lacquette has become rather accustomed to travelling. She’s from a rural Manitoba area called Mallard, which has a population of around 100. But this past September she moved to Kelowna, primarily to play with the Pursuit of Excellence girls’ hockey squad.

That team compiled an overall mark of 53-3 during the 2009-10 season; and won six of the seven tournaments it entered throughout Canada and the United States.

As for this coming season, Lacquette will attend the University of Manitoba and play for the women’s squad there. She’ll also be reunited with her older sister Tara, a goaltender, who recently completed her first year at the university.

Crowfoot still lives in Dewinton, Alberta, but the 11th grade student, who attended a high school in Okotoks for two years, transferred to Calgary’s Western Canada High School.

“It was mainly for sports,” Crowfoot said of the switch. “I wanted to go somewhere where they took their sports seriously.”

Though he had primarily focussed on basketball, Crowfoot also decided to suit up for the Western Redmen cross-country running team this past fall. He surprised even himself by placing second in his provincial championship race.

“It was actually surprising,” he said of his finish. “My start wasn’t very good.”

But now he plans to keep up with his running career.

“My dad thinks I’m better at running than basketball.”

Crowfoot’s 2009-10 basketball season with the Redmen was a memorable one. The 5-foot-10 point guard led the club to a provincial title at the highest calibre AAAA level this past March. It was believed to be the first time in 50 years that Western captured the Alberta crown.

The Redmen posted an overall mark of 31-3.

Crowfoot’s parents nominated him for the Tom Longboat Award. He admitted he didn’t know much about Longboat or the award but was rather impressed upon doing some research.

“I was pretty overwhelmed and shocked. It’s a pretty amazing honor.”

Courage Bear and Gloria Hendrick-Laliberte have been announced as the winners of the 2009 National Aboriginal Coaching Awards.

Bear coached the Saskatchewan boys’ team to its second consecutive National Aboriginal Hockey Championship title in 2009. Bear then helped the club win its third straight title this year.

Hendrick-Laliberte, who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, was honored for her numerous coaching positions with hockey, soccer, baseball and track and field teams over the years.