Star rusher, swimmer, three teams, year's best athletes

Mark Nohra, the UBC Thunderbird football star whose incredible season of rushing culminated in the team's Vanier Cup victory, and Olympic swimmer Sarah Evanetz, who won 20 Canadian university championship gold medals in four years, received UBC's top athletic awards at the 77th Annual Big Block Awards Banquet March 25.

The football team, and men's and women's swim teams shared the du Vivier Team of the Year Award.

Nohra, who last year won the Hec Crighton Award as Canada's most outstanding university football player, broke UBC and Canada West division records as the 'Birds charged to their first Vanier Cup victory in more than a decade. He received the Bobby Gaul Memorial Trophy, awarded to the graduating male athlete who displays outstanding leadership and sportsmanship.

Evanetz, a national team member who competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, won the Marilyn Pomfret Trophy. The trophy is awarded annually to a female athlete who has distinguished herself in university, national or international competition, exhibited the highest ideals of fair play and who, according to her peers, has contributed significantly to her team.

Evanetz recently won five gold medals and one silver at the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) championships. As team captain she led the women to their fourth national championship in five years.

The three teams that share the du Vivier Team of the Year Award each earned top spot among Canadian universities, bringing the university its 38th, 39th and 40th CIAU championship titles. The men's and women's swim teams, coached by Tom Johnson, both won CIAU championships this year with decisive point leads over their competitors. UBC swimmers dominated the national university swimming championships, winning 18 gold medals.

The dual victories marked the first time UBC's men and women have won simultaneous titles, and the first time in 33 years that the men's team has claimed top spot. The men won 10 gold medals and the women eight. The teams also won a total of 10 silver and six bronze medals. Evanetz and 1997 World Aquatic Championships medalist Mark Versfeld, who each won five gold medals and one silver in individual and relay events, led the attack.

The football team won the Vanier Cup for the first time since 1986 and the third time in the university's history. Coach Casey Smith led the team to victories in the Canada West conference and the Atlantic Bowl before the 'Birds rolled onto the field in Toronto's Skydome to hammer the Ottawa Gee Gees 39-23.

Also nominated for the Marilyn Pomfret Trophy were women's basketball team captain Laura Esmail and starting goalkeeper for the women's field hockey team Ann Harada, both Academic All-Canadians. Contenders for the Bobby Gaul Memorial Trophy included volleyball power hitter Mike Kurz, soccer team captain and national World Cup team hopeful Chris Franks, and hockey team captain Jamie Burt.

Big Block sweaters, which signify second-year status, were presented during the banquet to 132 athletes, coaches and trainers.

The UBC women's golf team won the 36-hole Colby Invitational Golf Tournament, which wrapped up in Santa Clara, Ca., March 25.

The win marks the first time a UBC women's team has won a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division one event.

UBC's Sarah MacCormack posted the second lowest score with a 12 over par total of 79-77--156. Maija MacCauley of UBC was fifth with 82-81--163.

The UBC team result, comprising the aggregate total of the best four scores of five golfers, was 656. Arizona was second with 658.