Para-athlete among University Blues winners

02-Oct-2017 1:32 PM

A rising Paralympian star and an Olympic medallist were among the University of Auckland students honoured with Blues Awards at a gala event last Friday.

A University Blue is the highest accolade to be earned at a Tertiary level for excellence in a sporting code; arts and culture; and service and leadership.

This year, the Blues Committee introduced a new award category, the Para-Athlete Sportsperson of the Year. This award was presented to up-and-comer Keegan Owen Pitcher.

Keegan, 19, is a track runner and is in preparation to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020. He claimed two bronze medals at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London in the T36 400m and 800m, and holds the New Zealand record in 200m and 400m. Keegan has Ataxic Cerebral Palsy and is studying to be a Physical Education teacher.

Keegan says: “I want to thank the University of Auckland for everything that they do, for not only me but all the other students who are travelling the world for their sport while trying to study. Without all the support from you guys, nothing like this would be achievable.”

Keegan was presented with the new trophy for Para-Athlete of the Year at the Blues Awards Dinner by University of Auckland Chancellor Scott St John. The trophy of cast bronze was designed by current fine arts student Hannah Valentine, who was awarded an Arts and Cultural Blue.

Pole vaulting sensation Eliza McCartney, who is completing a Bachelor of Science degree, won the sportswoman of the year award for her incredible achievement at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, claiming a bronze medal for New Zealand.

Despite the demands of her sport Eliza is still enrolled in the University completing one science paper a semester.

She says: “It’s really important to have something else, outside of your sole focus, because it can get quite intense. I just think it’s phenomenal that all of the winners here tonight are able to achieve so much in all of their fields. A huge congratulations to everybody else, and a huge thank you to the University, especially the Science Department for all of their help.”

Eliza was joined by fellow Olympians Dylan Schmidt and Michael Brake. Business student Dylan won the award for Sportsman of the Year. He became New Zealand's first athlete to compete in Trampoline at an Olympic Games, finishing 7th in the individual men's category.

The Maori sportsperson of the year went to engineering student Michael Brake (Ngati Porou), who attended the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as part of the New Zealand rowing men's eight, which placed an impressive 6th.

University of Auckland Chancellor Scott St John congratulated all award winners and encouraged them to take up all future opportunities to be phenomenal in their fields.
“You’ve demonstrated real talent on some of the biggest stages in the world,” he said.

While a Blues Award has traditionally been a sporting accolade, the University of Auckland also recognises Arts and Culture and Service and Leadership.

The Most Outstanding Contribution to Service and Leadership went to Engineering student Lucy McSweeney, a passionate mental health campaigner. Lucy has been open with her own experience of mental illness in her advocacy. She delivered a petition with over 10,000 signatures to parliament in June calling for better guidelines, adequate training and funding for mental health education in the high school curriculum.

The Blues for the Most Meritorious Performance in Arts and Culture was awarded to dance choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull from the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries. Sarah has been awarded Creative New Zealand's highest honour for a choreographer, The CNZ Choreographic Fellowship. This fellowship provides her with $100,000 to pursue a rigorous programme of dance related events over two years, and to promote her creative work internationally.

In total 114 awards were bestowed at the event for activates such as architectural design, dance choreography, coaching sports at an international level, polocrosse and orienteering.

Media contact:
Danelle Clayton
Communications, Vice-Chancellor's Office
The University of Auckland
Email: d.clayton@auckland.ac.nz
Mob: 027 537 2580

Topic: General News

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