It’s not just about being a great athlete at Lakeland College that gets you recognition. It’s about being just as good in the classroom and the in the community that you live in. Rustlers’ Braydon Bretzer and Lessa Eggum symbolized all three components this past year, and for it, both were recognized as the 2015 Athlete of the Year.
Both Bretzer and Eggum come from the soccer program at Lakeland College, while Eggum also played on the women’s basketball team as the colleges only dual-sport athlete this season.
For Bretzer, the award to him, while individual in nature, is still a complete team effort. After receiving the award last Wednesday night at the Rustlers awards ceremony, Bretzer looked back at the season that was and focused on what he wished the team could have accomplished, more so than his own personal award.
“It feels nice. It would have felt nice to finish off with a gold in futsal,” said Bretzer. “It’s definitely a team award. If it wasn’t for my teammates I wouldn’t have won the award. It’s a team sports, so it goes to them as well.”
Along with winning a silver in futsal, Bretzer was part of the bronze medal winning Rustlers men’s soccer team that missed out on a trip to nationals by one place. Away from Lakeland College, Bretzer put in hundreds of hours as a soccer coach, working with all ages of girls soccer players from U6 to U16, all while still practising with his own team and putting the work in the classroom where he finished with a 3.35 GPA.
“I’m very honoured,” said Bretzer. “Next year I’ll be coming back for my fifth year and we will be looking to build on what we have done this past year. We definitely had a good year and we are hoping for an ACAC championship in soccer. Getting to nationals is our goal.”
Also nominated on the men’s side were volleyball player Savana Walkingbear and basketball player Stephen Jones.
For Eggum, winning the award was a complete surprise, even despite her own success with a silver in futsal and being part of the women’s basketball team that finished with a team high, fourth-place at provincials.
Eggum was the captain of the women’s soccer team and an all-conference team member in both soccer and futsal. With a busy schedule playing on three different teams throughout the year, she still found time to coach in the Lloydminster soccer program centre of excellence from November to March.
“I was kind of shocked at first, I didn’t think I heard it right.” said Eggum. ” I think I grew as a person this year, just in the sense that in basketball and soccer seasons I had to push each other to really get to where we were.”
Also nominated for the women’s award was volleyball player Laura Popplestone.
This year to decide on the Athlete of the Year awards, Lakeland introduced a points system in order to take some of the emotion out of selecting a top athlete from either sport. However, as Lakeland athletic director Alan Rogan said, the decision was still tough to make because so many athletes stood out this past year.
“It was amazing how close it was with all the candidates,” said Rogan. “It was tough, even with the points system. Three good candidates on the guys side, three phenomenal candidates on the girls side. We would have loved to have given it to all of them.”
For coaches and administrators at Lakeland College, the student-athletes become family to them. Rogan and the rest of the college take pride in what their students are able to accomplish in the classroom, in the community and during competition, and he sees it getting better every single year.
“They are doing such great things in the community, such great things on the court, they are great ambassadors for Lakeland College, and that is what you expect of your kids,” said Rogan. “You are going to have the hiccups that come along every once in awhile that drive you crazy, but for the most part our student-athlete pool has been phenomenal. Every year it gets better and better.”