Sierra Murphy, third from front, is pictured with her Isfeld Ice teammates at the AAA volleyball provincials in Powell River. She received a Premier’s Award for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport. Dene Belyk photo

I·SPARC recognizes three Comox Valley student athletes

Three Comox Valley students are among eight outstanding youth athletes from Vancouver Island recognized by the Premier’s Awards for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport.

Cameron Christison of the Beaver First Nation, a Grade 12 student at Highland Secondary, excels in volleyball, basketball, hockey, and track and field.

Knowlton Griffiths of the Selkirk First Nation, a Grade 10 at Highland, is a snowboarder.

Sierra Murphy of Métis Nation BC is part of the Mark Isfeld senior girls volleyball team that placed eighth at the B.C. triple-A championships in Powell River. The 17-year-old Grade 12, who plays middle, is among a core of about eight players on the Ice. Sierra is one of coach Kurt Stushnoff’s most valuable players as the other middle opposite Michelle Belyk.

“When I coached her last year, she was timid and a little awkward on the court but still a very capable player,” Stushnoff said. “Midway through the season this year, I witnessed a huge shift in her level of play. In fact, if there was an award for the most improved player she would get it. I think it was mostly a shift in her attitude. She decided to be the best player she could be for herself, and that really came out on the court.”

Though middles are not known for their defensive playing ability, Stushnoff said Sierra was constantly hitting the floor to pick up loose balls, and setting up other hitters when given the opportunity.

“She has really come into her own as a hitter and blocker as well. She was really connecting with the setters later in the season, and was a dominant offensive force. With her blocking, she is an aggressive player and loves to get up and reject opposing hitters. I love her enthusiasm when she celebrates a hit or block. It’s so elevating to the rest of the team.”

The awards were presented Nov. 27 at a celebration at the Wei Wai Kum First Nation Thunderbird Hall in Campbell River.

“I’m very proud to support these awards, which provide much-deserved recognition for our top young Indigenous athletes,” Premier John Horgan said in a news release. “It’s great to see these young champions achieving top results in such a wide variety of sports.”

Vancouver Island was the sixth and final region of the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (I·SPARC) to honour Indigenous athletes through this unique, province-wide awards program. Following a nomination process, 47 regional recipients were selected. They automatically serve as nominees for 12 provincial award winners — six boys and six girls — who will be selected in January. These recipients will be honoured at the Gathering our Voices: Indigenous Youth Leadership Forum in Port Alberni in March.

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