DAYS before Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen begin their Olympic dream, the foursome was honoured as Manitoba's top sports team.
They weren't the only athletes so honoured. Stanley Cup winning captain Jonathan Toews and speedy swimmer Breanne Siwicki also claimed top athlete honours on Sunday night, when the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association held its annual banquet at the Delta Hotel.
On the team side, the Jones rink was the runaway winner to claim the Maurice Smith Memorial Trophy. The foursome earned 25 first-place nods from 35 voting members, and collected 156 total points from the ballots. Another curling squad, Matt Dunstone's 2013 Canadian junior champions and world bronze medallists, were runners-up.
Other team finalists included the Steinbach Pistons, who mounted a ferocious MJHL campaign last year to win the 2013 Turnbull Cup, the Hardy Cup finalist Manitoba Bisons football squad, and the canoe-kayak duo of Hannah Guttormson and Stephanie Lowry, who won gold at the Canada Games.
Siwicki kicked her way to the top female award after she smashed the Canada Games record in the 1,500-metre freestyle by more than 11 seconds, on her way to winning a gold medal. Siwicki, who now swims for the University of Minnesota, also earned silver medals in the 200- and 400-metre butterfly, and added three bronze medals in the pool as well.
It was a tight race for the top female athlete award, as UBC volleyball star Lisa Barclay, biathlete Megan Imrie, Manitoba Bisons volleyball leader Taylor Pischke, and top softball player Hailey Unger also on the ballot as finalists.
Meanwhile, as Toews was busy being beaten by the Winnipeg Jets in Illinois, the Chicago Blackhawks captain and soon-to-be repeat Olympian was announced as Manitoba's male athlete of the year. It's the third time for Toews, who clinched the honour on the back of a 23-goal performance in last year's truncated season, en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
University of Manitoba Bisons star running back Anthony Coombs came in as runner-up. Other finalists on the ballot included Portland Winterhawks forward and Nashville Predators prospect Brendan Leipsic, who tied with Jets prospect and teammate Nic Petan for the WHL's scoring lead last year, light-heavyweight boxer Andrew Gardiner, and University of Manitoba Bisons golfer Josh Wytinck.
The MSSA also honoured influential hockey agent Don Baizley, who died last year, with the Dallis Beck Memorial Good Guy Award.