Delta names its champions - Surrey Now

Mark Booth The final accolade for Jeff Francis' remarkable 2007 season comes from his hometown. Francis was named Male Athlete of the Year by the Delta Sports Hall of Fame and was honoured Saturday at the Banquet of Champions at the Best Western Tsawwassen Inn. The 26-year-old from North Delta helped the Colorado Rockies advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The southpaw finished with a 17-9 regular season record and also won two games in the National League championship series. He became the first-ever Canadian pitcher to start in the World Series. He also made the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine during the Rockies' playoff run. Earlier, Francis finished second to Sydney Crosby for the 2007 Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year and received the Best of B.C. Award at Sport B.C.'s athlete of the year banquet in March. Other award winners included: FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR A ticket to Beijing this summer highlighted an outstanding 2007 for softball standout Jennifer Yee. The Delta Heat product thrived at the collegiate level playing for Georgia Tech University, setting a new team record with an 18-game hitting streak and finishing second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in hits. She helped Canada win gold at the World University Games in Thailand and, last fall, was named to the Olympic women's softball team. Yee was inducted into the Delta Heat Hall of Fame last month. MALE YOUTH ATHLETE OF YEAR Evan Van Niekerk has established himself as one of the top young water polo players in the country. The Grade 12 student at Sands secondary helped Canada's junior team win gold at the Pan Pacific International Tournament last June and silver at the Pan Am Games. He is currently a carded athlete and will be touring in Europe this summer with the national development team before attending the University of Calgary next fall where the senior team is based. Runner-up for this award was Tsawwassen's Brandon McMillan. FEMALE YOUTH ATHLETE OF YEAR Soccer player Julie Armstrong burst onto the national scene this past year and is a good bet to be playing for Canada at the FIFA U20 Championships. The Grade 12 Delta secondary student also made an impressive debut with the senior national team at the Four Nations Cup in January. She will be suiting up with the Vancouver Whitecaps this spring and eventually will be heading to the University of Oregon on a full-ride scholarship once her U-20 team commitments have finished. Sharing this award with Armstrong is field hockey standout Jackie Trautman. She helped Team B.C. win silver at the U19 nationals and would later earn a spot on Canada's U23 team. The Grade 12 student at Sands secondary will train with the national team this summer before heading to the University of Alberta where she earned a academic and athletic scholarship. MASTERS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR Tsawwassen's Elizabeth Smith enjoyed another record-breaking year in the pool, setting several new marks at the provincial and national levels for her age class. The Winskill Otters Swim Club member won five gold medals at the provincial championships and did even better at the nationals, capturing seven gold and five silver, including relay events. Smith edged out track standout Malcolm Smillie who successfully defended his titles in the 800 and 1500 metre races at the provincial championships. He has won these events for eight straight years, covering two age categories -- 40-44 and 45-49. BUILDER AND OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR As vice-president of education for the Western Association of Basketball Officials, Al Haynes is responsible for assigning games, conducting clinics an preparing scorers and timekeepers. Haynes is also a board member for the Basketball B.C. Officials Association and is responsible for the direction of officiating. SPONSORS OF THE YEAR Lehigh Cement has historically been a strong supporter of minor sports and other community activities throughout Delta, and their continued contribution in 2007 was no exception. It is their support of such events as the Tour of Delta that makes them so successful. Since 1978, Bill Dixon, Owner/Operator of Big O Tire, has sponsored baseball teams in North Delta. During this time, he has also acted as coach. He has also coached and sponsored girls' fastpitch. TEAM OF THE YEAR A pair of local teams will be collecting more hardware for their outstanding 2007 seasons. The South Delta Rams and the Ladner Nationals have been named co-winners of the Delta Sports Champions' Team of the Year award. The Rams capped another perfect minor football season with their second straight bantam division provincial title -- thanks to a 36-30 win over the Abbotsford Falcons. They have now gone 39 games without a loss. The Nationals made history as the first-ever team from Ladner Minor Baseball to advance to the Canadian Championships thanks to a win over cross-town rivals North Delta in the provincial final. Ladner then nearly returned home as the best in the nation -- losing to Quebec in the gold medal game. The result snapped a remarkable 13-game win streak in the post-season. The outstanding work of the Rams' Ron Schippling and the Nationals' Gerry White didn't go unnoticed. Both were named runners-up for Coach of the Year -- finishing just behind Vancouver Giants head coach Don Hay, who guided the Ladner based Western Hockey League team to the Memorial Cup title last spring. © Surrey Now 2008

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