Kuruvita, Munzar share top athlete award

Two highly-motivated girls who’ve shared similar paths and compete in sports that don’t always receive a lot of attention are the co-winners of the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial’s Cowichan Valley Youth Athlete of the Year Award.

Wrestler Maegan Kuruvita and triathlete Maya Munzar were announced as the award recipients during a luncheon Sunday at Shawnigan Lake School, honouring the top 20 of 2012.

“I never expected it at all,’’ said Munzar, a Grade 12 student at Frances Kelsey Secondary. “Obviously, I knew I worked hard, but I never expected to be up here.’’

Kuruvita, a Grade 12 student at Cowichan Secondary School and a Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club member, echoed those sentiments.

Both athletes not only had an outstanding 2012, but have enjoyed a great run through their high school years. It was the third straight year for Munzar and Kuruvita in the top 15.

“My past year’s been really good,’’ said Kuruvita. “Provincials, I was really close to first. I’m working hard this year so hopefully first at provincials.’’

Kuruvita did extensive fundraising in order to attend the World championships in Azerbaijan.

“Worlds was amazing,’’ she said. “It was a great experience. I didn’t do as well as I thought. Training and all that was difficult since we didn’t have a lot of places to train. But the experience was really good.’’

It’s been a long journey from the beginner ranks to the highest level of competition for Kuruvita and her coach Nick Zuback. He was obviously very proud to see Kuruvita at the top of the awards podium after she was the runner-up last year.

“It was a really nice event you guys put on,’’ said Zuback. “Everything was just Class A production-wise.

“I was just happy to see Maegan move up one spot. She’s worked so hard.

“It’s definitely humbling. You don’t expect all the other accolades. You go in there with the work ethic. Being recognized by your peers and those in the community, it’s great to see.’’

Munzar attended the World XTerra off-road triathlon championships in Maui for the second year in a row in 2012.

“You’re a little bit more comfortable, you know the course a bit better the second time,’’ she said. “You kind of know what to expect the second time.’’

Munzar, who trains with Kelly’s Kids in Victoria and throughout the year on her own, was thrilled to be racing alongside professionals in the Maui race.

The rest of the top 20 featured an amazing group of athletes in a wide variety of sports inside and outside of the mainstream.

Track-and-field and volleyball star Agnes Esser of Frances Kelsey was No. 3, Shawnigan Lake School rugby player Oliver Nott No. 4, Brentwood College basketball player Jordan Charles No. 5, Brentwood rower and hockey player Nick Ridenour No. 6, Kelsey track and field star Mary-Kate Cross No. 7, Cowichan Secondary School basketball player Jerod Dorby No. 8, Quamichan Middle School hurdling phenom Chicago Bains No. 9, Kelsey track and field sensation Tia Baker No. 10, Brentwood rower and volleyball player Spencer Manton No. 11, Cowichan Secondary rugby player Sam Jory No. 12, Duncan Christian School basketball and volleyball player Josh Klassen No. 13, Cowichan Secondary downhill mountain bike racer Mark Wallace No. 14, exceptional water skier Jed Leech No. 15, Shawnigan rugby player Randall Barton No. 16, Cowichan Valley Capitals’ hockey player Steen Cooper No. 17, Cowichan Secondary field hockey standout Stefanie Langkammer No. 18, the Lukas judo twins — George and Kristal — No. 19 and all-around lacrosse player Brennan Stothers No. 20.

Some of the athletes have already cemented their futures with scholarships south of the border. Manton is going to Indiana University and Stothers to Ohio Valley in the fall while Cooper will attend Minnesota State starting in the 2014-15 season.

Others are sure to follow.

The incredible dedication of the athletes knows no bounds. Bains and Cross both took advantage of track and field coach John May’s appearance at the luncheon to go for a workout immediately afterwards.

“That’s the type of kids they are,’’ said May, who lives in Black Creek and works with the athletes whenever he can.

“All those four track and field girls competed at nationals last year,’’ he pointed out. “That further shows the depth, what’s going on down there in sports.’’

May is a big proponent of the luncheon to honour the young athletes.

“I thought it was fantastic,’’ he said. “I really enjoyed it. The way you put it on is superb.The format, I would change nothing.’’

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