Dakota Collegiate athletes were the big winners when the Manitoba High School Athletic Association handed out a bushel of awards and scholarships last week.
Thirteen athletes were recognized for leadership, integrity and athletic excellence and four of the recipients were from the St. Vital high school.
Samantha Halvorsen received a $1,000 scholarship from the MHSAA and Red River Co-op for her all-around athletic achievements, while three hockey players — Natasha Esquivel, Krista Stuhldreier and Scott Rowswell — were also honoured.
"I was really honoured and surprised," said Halvorsen, who played volleyball, basketball, soccer and ran track at Dakota. "I just have always liked all sports. I love being active, and playing so many different sports you get to know lots of people and do lots of travelling."
Halvorsen’s focus will now turn to soccer. The captain of the Bonivital Flames under-18 team has been selected to Team Manitoba for the Canada Summer Games and will join the University of Winnipeg women’s soccer team in the fall.
Esquivel and Stuhldreier were two key members of the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League champions. Esquivel won a $1,000 scholarship from the Winnipeg Jets Alumni and Friends, while Stuhldreier received a $2,000 Alexander Josephson Memorial Scholarship, named for a St. John’s-Ravenscourt student and hockey player who died in a 2005 car accident.
Esquivel, a forward and team co-captain who had 33 points in 20 regular season games, said it was particularly exciting to receive an award connected to the local NHL team.
"It’s especially nice because the team is back now," said the winner of the WWHSHL’s most-sportsmanlike player award. "I didn’t think this would happen. I’m really happy everything I did this year worked out so well."
Esquivel didn’t just play for the Lancers. She was also a member of the AA Victorias, helped coach younger players, and refereed two or three games every week.
"It’s all about managing and prioritizing your time," she said. "You have to focus on what’s most important to you."
Esquivel plans to attend the University of Manitoba next year, and hopes to continue her hockey career in either a junior or women’s league.
Stuhldreier was thrilled with her scholarship, as she plans to study nursing either here in Manitoba or elsewhere in Canada.
"It’s a little bit crazy," she said. "I didn’t think I’d win something. This is a huge burden taken off for school next year."
A versatile player who was used as both a forward and defenceman, Stuhldreier was a nominee for hardest-working and most-sportsmanlike player and is highly involved with non-sports extracurricular activities at Dakota.
Rowswell not only received a trophy as the winner of the Ed Belfour Award, emblematic of the most outstanding player in high school hockey, but also a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey signed by Eddie the Eagle.
"I think it’s just awesome having (Belfour’s) name attached to the award," said Rowswell, who led the WHSHL with 39 goals and 59 points. "I just kept working hard for three years (with the Lancers) and finally something clicked. Around the middle of the year I knew if I kept it up it would be a big season."
Rowswell plans to attend the U of M next year while playing for the Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.