Andrew Wilkins says he will never forget the five years he spent at Lakehead University.
The Thunderwolves hockey forward received a fitting parting gift, being named the university’s male athlete of the year in his final stint in Thunder Bay.
“It’s very humbling and something I wasn’t expecting,” Wilkins said after the school’s annual athletic awards celebration, held on Saturday in the Patterson Auditorium in the Lakehead Faculty of Law building.
“I honestly think when you look at guys on the ski team and (basketball player) Dwayne Harvey and what they accomplished they probably deserved the award but it’s an honour to win it with that kind of company.”
Wilkins, the Thunderwolves captain, finished second on the team in regular season scoring with 26 points. His contributions, however, extended far beyond the stat sheet.
The 25-year-old from Pickering had proven himself as one of the elite penalty killers in the OUA throughout his Thunderwolves tenure and established himself as one of the team’s top defensive forwards.
He led a squad that had some significant question marks at the beginning of the season to coming one win short of qualifying for the CIS University Cup national championships for the first time since 2010.
Acknowledging the hurdles the group had to overcome with many new faces under first year head coach Bill McDonald, Wilkins said the honour is a testament to every member of the locker room and is shared by the whole team.
“These are team awards and I’m just the beneficiary of that. It means a lot to our team,” he said.
“This year was a good year. I think a lot of people doubted us and our abilities, not only in Thunder Bay but in the league.”
Fourth-year runner Danielle Thiel claimed the female athlete of the year award after a banner campaign that netted her recognition at the national level.
The product of Regina excelled throughout the cross-country season and capped it off by earning second team All-Canadian honours with a share of 14th place at the national championships.
The manner in which she accomplished the feat is something that she will always remember.
“About 100 metres into the race I lost my shoe and ran six kilometres without it and it came down to a photo finish with myself and a girl from Manitoba and they ended up awarding it to both of us,” she said.
“It was quite a way to go out on my cross-country career.”
Thiel also holds the Lakehead school records in the 3000m and 5000m distances on the indoor track.
Nordic skier Jennifer Jackson was named the female rookie of the year after a pair of dominating performance en route to winning the national individual title. She was also an OUA all-star and All-Canadian.
The hockey program’s Cody Alcock was named the male rookie of the year after leading the club in regular season goals scored with 14. Alcock caught fire in the playoffs, recording six goals and 13 points in only six postseason contests.
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