Red Deer Polytechnic Athletics announces Harrison as Queens Basketball Head Coach
Red Deer Polytechnic Athletics has named Avery Harrison the new head coach of the Queens Basketball program.
“We are extremely excited to add Avery to the Red Deer Polytechnic coaching staff. He brings decades of experience, a proven championship mindset, and the ability to harness the potential in each student-athlete,” says Randy Stewart, Manager Athletics and Student Life. “In addition to being an excellent coach and mentor, Avery has the innate ability to develop a winning culture and to be successful at the highest level.”
The five-time Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year has helped to guide his teams to five ACAC Championships and three Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) titles over 23 years as a head coach in the league. Harrison has led his teams to the national championships 10 times, which is the most for an ACAC Women’s Basketball Head Coach. Harrison was also an ACAC Assistant Coach for 11 years.
In this role, Harrison worked with legendary SAIT Trojans Head Coach Phil Allen, who is an ACAC Hall of Fame Coach and a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, and a major influence on Harrison’s coaching career. Together, they led the Trojans to four ACAC Championships and one CCAA gold medal.
Harrison has had post-secondary coaching stints at Mount Royal College, Lethbridge College, SAIT, and most recently at Olds College from 2017 to 2020. During his tenure in Olds, Harrison built the Broncos into both ACAC and CCAA Champions in 2019.
With Harrison’s leadership, 46 of his players have earned spots on ACAC All-Conference teams and 12 student-athletes have been recognized as All-Canadians.
Harrison is looking forward to coaching and sharing his expertise with the Queens, who qualified for last year’s playoffs for the first time since 2009/2010.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to join the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens Basketball program as their new head coach,” he says. “We have a great mixture of veterans and I think one of our first goals is to establish a winning culture in our locker room. We need to create an on-court identity that the team can be proud of, so we can go out and give our best effort every night.”
This past season, the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens (7-9) finished fifth in the south and then were downed by the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in a playoff division quarter-final.
Looking to the 2022/2023 season, the returning players and new recruits will all benefit from Harrison’s leadership.
One key returning student-athlete to the Queens is Amy Szymanek, who has been a leader on the team and within RDP Athletics. The team MVP and co-chair of the Polytechnic’s Student-Athletes Advisory Council (SAAC) is entering her fourth season. She led the Queens with 15.1 points per game last year. The Bachelor of Education student’s talent, leadership, work ethic, and impact on the game resulted in a 2022 ACAC Women’s Basketball Second All-Conference team selection. Sophie Melin (12.6 points per game), Lauren France (10.6), Heena Sidhu (7.7), and Keanna Richards (6.1) are also expected to return for the 2022/2023 season.
Harrison will immediately step into his head coaching duties at the Polytechnic.
More information about Queens Basketball, including the roster and schedule, will be available in the fall at: rdpolytechathletics.ca.
Cayden Nickel and Makayla Willows first ever CCRA champions from Red Deer Polytechnic
RDP Royals Rodeo team excels at Canadian Collegiate Rodeo Association finals
Makayla Willows and Cayden Nickel of the Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP) Royals Rodeo team finished as the top competitors at the Canadian Collegiate Rodeo Association (CCRA) Finals May 19-21 in Brooks.
“Makayla and Cayden had an outstanding weekend,” says Trina Carroll, RDP Royals Program Lead. “They put in the work and were rewarded. I want to send a huge shoutout to all competitors and the CCRA Board of Directors, including Jamie Kuzma, who was our main contact at the CCRA.”
Buck Lake’s Willows earned the prestigious honour of 2023 CCRA Cowgirl of the Year by accumulating the most points among female competitors at the Silver Sage Community Corral over the weekend.
“I am thankful for the support from the RDP Royals Rodeo team, our wonderful coaches, and my family,” says Willows, who is graduating with an RDP Social Work Diploma in June. “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have been able to compete in the CCRA Finals. After working hard throughout the season, it was rewarding to complete my last year in College Rodeo as the Heeling Season Leader along with qualifying for the finals in Barrel Racing, Breakaway Roping and Pole Bending.”
As heeler in Team Roping, Willows consistently demonstrated her expertise in roping steers by their hind feet after the header – who was Nickel – roped the front of the steer.
“For being recognized as the High Point Cowgirl of the Year alongside my Team Roping partner Cayden, we were each awarded a beautiful saddle and buckle as Cowgirl and Cowboy of the Year,” adds Willows. “It is a very humbling honor and an amazing way to end my final College Rodeo experience.”
Nickel, who is from Evansburg, was named the CCRA Cowboy of the Year and CCRA Tie Down Roping Champion. He just completed his first year of a Bachelor of Kinesiology and Sport Studies Degree at RDP.
“It was such an awesome experience,” says Nickel about competing in the CCRA Finals. “We had a lot of fun and I can’t wait for next year.”
In addition to Willows and Nickel placing first overall in the CCRA, they made Red Deer Polytechnic history.
“In 10 years of competing in the CCRA Finals, this is the first time that RDP students have achieved the High Point Award in both the Cowboy and Cowgirl categories,” explains Carroll. “We are so proud of Makayla and Cayden.”
The next CCRA season will begin in Fall 2023.
About Red Deer Polytechnic Royals Rodeo: RDP Royals Rodeo is an elite post-secondary sports program that provides opportunities for students to compete outside of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC), of which the RDP Kings and Queens are members. Since its establishment in 2013, the RDP Royals Rodeo program has grown from three student-athletes up to 40 members. The Red Deer Polytechnic Rodeo team has consistently been competitive in the CCRA, qualifying for the finals every year over the past decade. The 2022/2023 RDP Royals Rodeo team consisted of 12 dedicated student-athletes.
For more information about RDP Royals Rodeo, please visit: facebook | instagram
Reflecting on a historic year inside RDP Athletics
It was an incredible and historic year inside Red Deer Polytechnic Athletics. Five championship banners were hung up in the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre rafters. Four of these titles were won by women’s teams. Back in October, the Queens Soccer team won its first-ever Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) championship title in program history. In March, the Queens Basketball team achieved great success by winning their first gold medal in more than 30 years. Continuing on in March, the women’s hockey team won their second gold medal in as many years and the Queens Indoor Track team was victorious for the first time in their program history.
Randy Stewart, Manager of Athletics and Student Life, explained it was a historic season at Red Deer Polytechnic.
“Seeing women’s soccer and women’s basketball win their ACAC Championships was huge and a long time coming. Women’s Indoor Track was also very impressive.”
The lone men’s team to win a championship was the Kings Hockey team as they swept the NAIT Ooks in the playoff finals to go on to win their first gold medal in 29 years and their ninth in program history.
Kings Basketball started off the season with four straight losses but bounced back to complete the 2022/2023 schedule with a 13-8 record which was good enough for fourth place in the ACAC South Division. They managed to win their first play-in game against the Medicine Hat College Rattlers, who defeated them in back-to-back games at home in November. But in a very close matchup against the St. Mary’s University Lightning, the Kings came up just short of moving on to the ACAC Championships hosted by Ambrose University in Calgary.
All-Conference Eduardo Crespo (Academic Upgrading) averaged 19.7 points-per-game, 7.7 rebounds-per-game and 3.6 assists-per-games which were all top 10 finishes in the ACAC rankings. In his rookie year, Jose Mauro (Academic Upgrading) snatched 11.3 rebounds-per-game and shot 58 per cent from the field which were both top 5 finishes in the rankings. Guards Josh Jean (Open Studies) and Bernardo Moller (Academic Upgrading) displayed deadly accurate three-point shooting while fellow teammate Payton Baltzer (Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences) was known throughout the league as the premier defensive stopper.
The Kings will look to improve on their impressive second half of the season starting this October as they just graduated one player, veteran Kevin Szymanek (Business Administration) and will return most of their core players for the upcoming year.
It was a rough start for the Queens Basketball program as they went 4-6 in the first half of the season. But their final win of the 2022 year happened to be the biggest turning point of the season under their new head coach Avery Harrison. They defeated a tough Lethbridge College Kodiaks 70-50 in November which started a 12-game winning streak. The Queens would win three more in a row to extend it to 15 games which led to their first championship title since the 1991/1992 team.
The women’s team would move on to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Women’s National Championships in Hamilton, ON. The Queens would finish in fourth place with a 2-2 record.
Head Coach Avery Harrison said for the Queens Basketball team it was a year of stepping out and realizing the potential the team had.
“I think all the pieces to the puzzles were there last spring, we just had to rearrange them a bit and find the best fit. The intensity they displayed and their trust and caring for each other carried the team far beyond what people expected.”
Guard Amy Szymanek (Bachelor of Education) was the lone Queen named to the South Division All-Conference team. But at nationals, guard Sophie Melin (Bachelor of Arts in Psychology) was named a second-team all-star.
Harrison added he will be looking forward to the 2023/2024 year as several key members of the 2023 ACAC Championship team will be back and they will be looking to add some critical pieces to compete at the CCAA level.
Kings and Queens Cross-Country and Indoor Track
The Kings and Queens Cross-Country and Indoor Track teams met or exceeded the pre-season expectations that the coaching staff set out for the teams at the beginning of the year. In Cross-Country the Kings finished in second place in the ACAC, just behind the tough SAIT Trojans. Daniel Szucs (Bachelor of Business Administration) led the Kings finishing in the top five of every Grand Prix race he competed in while earning a spot on the All-Conference team. The men finished in fourth place in the country.
On the women’s side, the Queens showed great depth but were led by Jenica Swartz (Bachelor of Science) who is this year’s Red Deer Bottling Female Outstanding Athlete of the Year recipient. Swartz won the ACAC Grand Prix Individual award and capped her season with a fourth-place finish at nationals in Medicine Hat, which earned her All-Canadian status. The Queens would cap off the top 10 at the CCAA level in what was a competitive year in the women’s division.
Moving on to the indoor events that took place in the winter semester, the Kings had a very good season even though they ran into injury troubles in the weeks leading up to the ACAC Championships. The men finished in fourth after the two-day event, just four points behind the Concordia University Thunder. Ethan Duret (Business Administration) showed great versatility as he earned himself an All-Conference award while competing in four individual events and in both the relays.
The Queens were once again led by Swartz, who won three of the five individual events along with a silver finish in her fourth event and helped both relay teams come out on top in the ACAC. After winning another All-Conference award, Jenica was named the ACAC Female Runner of the Year and was a part of the first-ever female Indoor Track team at Red Deer Polytechnic to take home the gold medal. The team also came away with an ACAC record in the 4 x 200m relay, beating the old record by about six seconds.
Head Coach Douglas Spicer explained the progress that he saw from the rookies near the end of the cross-country season will make for a promising 2023 season.
“As the cross-country season progressed it became clear that even though we would likely be losing some of our veterans to university transfer or graduation, the first-year athletes were developing at an impressive rate. This growth has put us in a good place for the start of the 2023 season, where we expect to be in the top 3 of all ACAC schools.”
Spicer later added he feels good about the chance that both teams will qualify for cross-country nationals in Nova Scotia in the upcoming 2023 season.
Queens and Mixed Curling
It was a bit of an up-and-down year for both the Queens and Mixed Curling Clubs at Red Deer Polytechnic. The all-rookie Mixed Polytechnic Curling Club finished with a 6-3 record and a first-place finish after the Fall
and Winter Regionals. They would lose a last rock heartbreaker in the semifinals at the ACAC Championships in Vermilion but managed to regroup and rebound to finish with a bronze medal around their neck. They were a bit disappointed due to the fact they had beaten both of the team’s who finished higher than them on the podium. Lead Reegan Cox (Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences) was named to the ACAC All-Conference Mixed team at the championship banquet. Two of the curlers from this team will be returning next year.
The RDP Queens finished with an 8-2 record and a first-place finish after the two bonspiels. A short-staffed team finished fourth at the championships. The team attended the CCAA Nationals in Sudbury, where they finished tied for fourth after the round-robin and eventually placed fifth overall. Lead Jaycee Bourke, Third Cuyler Desourmeau and Skip Kaylee Raniseth were all named to the All-Conference Women’s team.
Head Coach Brad Hamilton said he hopes to be fielding a competitive men’s and women’s team next year.
“Three of the four women are returning next year plus we have a couple of good recruits that should result in us fielding a very competitive women’s team. It looks like we will field a strong men’s team as well although
they might be short on experience.”
Hamilton later announced that numbers will determine whether they will have enough curlers to have a mixed team or perhaps compete in the mixed doubles division.
Entering the 2022/2023 season, the Kings were in the midst of a two-year rebuild as they had 23 first or second-year players on their 26-man roster. But this did not stop them as they stormed out to a first-place
lead that they never gave up through the entire season.
Finishing the regular season in first place with a record of 17-6-1, the Kings got to have home-ice advantage throughout the post-season. The men recorded five wins and only one double-overtime loss on their way to
sweeping the Finals and claiming ACAC Men’s Hockey Gold which is the program’s first championship since the 1993/1994 Kings.
Forward Jacob Kendall (Bachelor of Education) and defenseman Parker Gavlas (Business Certificate) were ACAC All-Stars while goaltender Arik Weersink (Bachelor of Business Administration) led the league in net,
posting an 87 per cent winning percentage in the games he started. Yet the strength of this team was reflected in the fact that the Kings led the ACAC in most goals scored (97) and least goals allowed (70) which is a tribute to the depth of talent and how all 26 players played a huge role in being the best in the conference.
Head Coach Trevor Keeper, who also is a Kinesiology & Sports Studies instructor at the Polytechnic, explained the Kings Hockey team was very focused and driven this year.
“Still not an older team by any means, the Kings showed exceptional maturity and leadership this year. We came out of the gates in first place and never gave it up all year.”
The Kings will be returning 23 of 26 players next season and, though they know it will be even tougher to win next year, the group is looking forward to taking another run at an ACAC Championship.
Queens Hockey finished the regular season with a record of 14 wins, four losses and two ties which placed them in second place behind the NAIT Ooks. The team finished in a tie for the lowest number of goals against for the season with just 30 goals allowed spread over the 20-game schedule. Goaltender Izzy Palumbo (Bachelor of Commerce) finished with the best goals-against average (0.84) and a save percentage of .955%.
Forward Avery Lajeunnesse (Bachelor of Education) and defenseman Alesha Santos (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) were named first-team all-stars and forward Madison Sansom (Social Work) snagged a second-team all-star award. Lajeunnesse, one of the Queens assistant captains, had eight goals and six assists in the season which does not include the golden goal that earned RDP back-to-back championships in Women’s Hockey. Santos had a career year, picking up 10 points, one goal, and nine assists. She also received the ACAC Hockey Academic All-Canadian Award. As for Sansom, in her final year with the Queens, she also had a career year that started out quite slow. But in the second half of the season, she went on a hot streak and finished the year with eight goals and six assists.
The team would go a perfect 5-0 in the 2023 playoffs and would sweep the Ooks in the best-of-five-game series to claim back-to-back championships.
Their regular season will start in October, but pre-season will be underway when the 2023/2024 academic year kicks off.
The Kings Soccer team went into this past season with a whole new coaching staff, a number of new players and a lot of unknowns. The team also had to deal with several injuries throughout the season and needed to adjust on a weekly basis. Hard work and commitment helped the Kings to finish in second place after the regular season. They won four, tied five and only lost one game.
This record secured them a spot to fight for one of two final spots at the ACAC Soccer Championships in Lethbridge. For the second weekend in a row, the Kings would battle with the Olds College Broncos and after drawing 3-3 on October 22, the Polytechnic would defeat the Broncos 3-1 on the following Tuesday to advance to the championships. But they came up short in Lethbridge as they were defeated 2-1 by the Keyano College Huskies in the quarterfinals.
Goalkeeper Jared St. Thomas (Kinesiology Fitness and Health), rookie striker Eduardo Crespo (Academic Upgrading) and midfielder Ajdin Sarcevic (Business Administration) were the three Kings student-athletes
that were named to the ACAC South Division All-Conference Team.
Head Coach Admir Sarcevic explained he is excited about the future of the program.
“It was a challenging, but rewarding season for Kings Soccer and we look forward to a bright future.”
The soccer schedule will kick off the 2023/2024 ACAC season in September.
It was a historic year for the Queens Soccer program altogether. But it did not start out too well for the squad as they were defeated 4-3 by the defending ACAC Champions SAIT Trojans in their season home opener.
The Queens went on to win every regular season game after that including a game at SAIT to clinch first place in the South Division which included a bye to the semi-finals at the ACAC Championships hosted by Lethbridge College.
With a spot in the gold medal match on the line, the Queens stormed out to a 2-0 lead against the Lethbridge College Kodiaks. In the end, they would squeak out a 2-1 victory to meet up with the Concordia University Thunder in the championship final. It was quite the tight matchup but it was the Queens who came out on top 1-0 to win their first-ever championship title in program history.
At the CCAA National Championship in Quebec, the Queens ended up finishing in sixth place which ended a truly historic and memorable season for the program.
South Division Coach of the Year Mahziar Peyrow explained that the team had high expectations for the season at the start of the year.
“Queens Soccer has met and exceeded all goals and expectations. We set our target on nationals at the beginning of the season which all the members of the team bought into the same vision and pushed themselves to get there.”
On top of the championship title, midfielders Sofia Quinteros (Bachelor of Arts in Psychology) and Estel Quinteros (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), and striker Sein Furuyama (Academic Upgrading) were all named to the South Division All-Conference team. Furuyama, who broke the record for the most goals in a single season with 29, also took home the ACAC South Rookie and Player of the Year Awards.
As the question about the future of the program came up, Peyrow mentioned they will have a lot of returning players. They also have a couple of great signings like McKenna Richelhoff, who will help achieve the team goals for the 2023/2024 season. The head coach finished off the interview by saying the Queens will definitely be a team to look out for come September.
RDP Kings Volleyball finished the regular season in first place in the ACAC with a 17-2 record. However, the Kings came up a little short at the ACAC Championships, losing a tight match to a very hot Briercrest College Clippers in the ACAC finals and finishing with the silver medal. The Clippers went on to win a CCAA bronze medal at nationals.
Fifth-year setter Maddux Greves (Business Administration) had another tremendous season with the Kings and was named to the ACAC South All-Conference Team, along with outside-hitter Colby Nemeth (Bachelor
of Commerce) and libero JJ Graham (Business Administration). Greves also went on to win the ACAC South Player of the Year and was later named a CCAA All-Canadian to cap off his impressive ACAC career.
Graham was a steadying force all year on serve receive and defense while Nemeth lead the conference in service aces in the 2022/2023 season.
Head Coach Aaron Schulha explained the team will be very solid again as he looked on to next season.
“We lose Maddux Greves, who completed his final year of eligibility this past season. This will be a large hole to fill but with the guys returning (Noah Carlson, Colby Nemeth, JJ Graham, Spencer Purdie, Dillon Gauci, etc.) and Tom Wass coming back to the program, we are looking forward to another strong year.”
The 2023/2024 ACAC Volleyball season will kickstart in October.
As the Queens Volleyball program entered this past season knowing there were a lot of starting roles to be filled, the goal was to put the team in the best position to win a championship by the end of February. In the first half, the Queens were able to win a couple of matches against some strong teams that were huge for the program. The second half saw a couple of ups and downs, but towards the end of the regular season, they were playing their best volleyball.
Head Coach Talbot Walton said this was a huge moral boost for the team as they entered championships.
“This gave us the confidence to go into Provincials and win a big quarterfinal match. We played well in the semi-final but came up short. We would bounce back with a huge win against the Kodiaks to finally win the bronze medal. We worked hard daily, saw steady improvement and learned to play authentic Queens Volleyball.”
The Queens had a 12-7 regular season record which placed them second in the South Division going into the championships. The team finished first in assists, second in total kills and third in aces. Outside-hitter Jaiden Ferguson (Business Administration), middle blocker Autumn Roos (Open Studies) and libero Francesca Sandini (Justice Studies) were all recognized as ACAC South Division All-Stars. Sandini was also named to the Championship All-Star team to cap off the 2022/2023 season.
As the program looks forward to next season where they will host the CCAA National Championships from March 6-9, Walton explained their focus has already shifted towards being a championship contender on the
“Our recruiting for next season has gone well, and our 2023/2024 roster will have a lot of familiar faces. The upside is that we are going to be a more experienced team than this past season and the knowledge and skill from this past season will allow the Queens to start at a higher level in the 2023 Fall Term. It is going to be an exciting season for Queens Volleyball.”
Some of those familiar faces will include setter Emma Letkeman and outside-hitter Emma Holmes. Letkeman played for the Queens from 2019-2022 and returns to the team after playing last season for the UofA Pandas. Holmes is coming off two years of experience playing for the Pandas but played for the Queens for two seasons as well from 2018-2002.
Stay tuned to the RDP Athletics website and social media channels for all the details regarding the 2023/2024 season.
About Red Deer Polytechnic Athletics: Red Deer Polytechnic has a historic athletics tradition. The Polytechnic Athletic teams and individual student-athletes have won 25 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) National gold medals, 182 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) team and individual titles. The student-athletes and coaches have received numerous individual honours, both for academic and sporting achievement. This year, Red Deer Polytechnic has more than 170 student-athletes competing in seven sports on 15 teams.
For more information on RDP Athletics, please visit: rdpolytechathletics.ca
Peavey Industries LP, the Red Deer-based retailer, has announced the acquisition of long-term partner and fellow Red Deer stalwart, Guy’s Freightways.
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