Athletics End of Year Celebration

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Bella Brown, Women’s Soccer, one of the winners of the M-Brace award

Noah Wright , Staff Reporter

The sports seasons are officially over for the teams here at CWU. With the end of playing comes the celebration for our school’s athletes. 

On May 27, the annual Welly Awards was held. Even though the event was much different than normal, and the athletes could not celebrate as they normally do, there were many highlights to the night, as well as a need for the awards to be held. 

“We started an end of the year recognition get together my first or second year,” said Dennis Francois, the director of Athletics. 

According to Francois, the Welly Awards was a creation made by associate director of athletics for external affairs Tyler Unsicker.  

“It is a way to get together to celebrate individuals and teams that had outstanding accomplishments throughout the year,” Francois said. 

As opposed to usual years, the Welly Awards was scaled back for 2021 according to Francois. 

“We usually have all the athletes and staff that we can attend the event,” Francois said. “It is a night where the student-athletes dress to the nines and we try to make it as fun as possible.”

This year however, there was a 200-person capacity limit for the event, which made things feel a bit off according to Francois. 

“After having the awards virtually last year, we were uncertain as to whether or not to have an in-person event,” Francois said. 

Francois said despite the initial uncertainty and lack of normality, there is still something to celebrate this year. 

“While we can’t truly celebrate the achievements of our athletic teams because this hasn’t been normal. I think it is important for us to try and get together to celebrate, if nothing else, getting through the year,” Francois said. 

With the lack of games and chances for athletes to interact with each other, Francois said the Welly Awards brings a sense of normality to what has been a struggling year. 

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) President Spencer Boldt said something similar about the importance of the 2021 Welly Awards. 

“The Welly Awards may feel a bit less important to some people because of the lack of season that many people had,” Boldt said, “but having the opportunity to come together after being apart for so long is something that should be taken advantage of.” 

This advantage has not been an easy one to take, according to Boldt. 

MCs Spencer Boldt, Women’s Rugby and Alex Cleary, Men’s Rugby

“[The SAAC] had been working for about a month to get it in-person,” Boldt said. “We had to submit a proposal plan for it to be in-person so that needed to be approved. And when it was approved we had to make plans for how to have students attend safely.”

Boldt said they were originally hesitant because of the recent COVID-19 outbreak that happened, but they went along with the plans to hold the awards in-person. 

“We applied to get the space at McConnell because there were so many restrictions on space and distancing. Then, we prioritized seniors and award winners before letting in the rest of the student-athletes,” Boldt said. 

According to Boldt, the initial reservation amount was low compared to expectations. 

“I think that people were assuming that the awards were going to be virtual again, because we were so late with getting everything out,” Boldt said. “But leading up to the event we saw a good amount of people reserving spots.”

Besides the new procedures, Francois said the 2021 Welly Awards saw a cut back in some of the usually important awards and the introduction of the new M-Brace award.

“It didn’t feel appropriate to have service or excellence,” Francois said. “There were not a lot of opportunities for our athletes to serve the community and most of our teams weren’t competing at full capacity.” 

As for the M-Brace award, Francois said this award was a scholarship courtesy of Steve Brace, for his father Martin. Hence the letter M.

“This signifies our leadership award that goes to one of our teams who really embraced the role of being a great leader,” Francois said, “however, this award goes to four people and each of them were given a $2,500 scholarship.” 

One of the award winners was Junior soccer player, Bella Brown.

Brown said, “it feels really amazing to win this award.”

Brown said she felt honored to be part of the first group of people to win the award and she is really thankful to the Brace family. 

“I am also thankful for my team,” said Brown, “They are my biggest support system here at CWU. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without them.”

Brown won alongside men’s rugby player Ivan Pula, women’s rugby player Lauren Odette and men’s basketball player Marqus Gilson. 

The four athletes were honored by quotes and speeches from their respective coaches, given by athletic faculty. 

The night of celebration was summed up by Boldt who said, “It is an excuse to celebrate your season and team, as well as come together as an athletic department. And for underclassmen it is a chance to experience what it is normally like without the pandemic.”