2010 a banner year for UBC Okanagan athletics

April 9 fundraiser key to building on varsity athletics achievement

Support for Canadian athletes helped propel Canada to a record-breaking 14 gold medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Growing resources that support student athletes are also helping UBC Okanagan Heat teams generate remarkable success in regular season action, B.C. provincial championships, and -- starting this week -- bids for 2010 Canadian national titles.

"We're enjoying an amazing year of success for our varsity athletics program," says Rob Johnson, Director of Athletics. "The men's volleyball team went 16-0 in league play, won the provincial bronze, and earned a berth at the national championships in Edmonton this week. The Heat women's volleyball team won the B.C. provincial championship last week after their perfect 16-0 regular season -- so they, too, are off to nationals to defend their 2009 CCAA title."

He adds that the Heat men's basketball team finished league play in third place with a record of 14-4 and captured a bronze medal in the B.C. championship last weekend.

The Heat women's basketball team went 16-2 during the regular season, and won the B.C. provincial title last weekend. And they'll host the CCAA Women's Basketball National Championships at UBC Okanagan Mar. 17 to 20.

"We know the success of our teams is a function of the incredible commitment and hard work of our student athletes and coaches," says Johnson. "But it cannot be overstated that our ability to attract and retain such high-level student athletes is a direct result of the many ways we're able to support students, including scholarships made possible through the Athletic Scholarship Endowment."

Over the past four years, the Valley First/UBC Okanagan Athletics Scholarship Breakfast -- which will be held on April 9 this year -- has raised more than 25 per cent of its $1-million goal for the endowment fund.

The fund is used to help attract and retain the exceptional student athletes so important to high-level varsity athletics programs.

This year, the breakfast brings the 2010 Olympic Winter Games experience even closer to home and offers a glimpse into the lives of Olympic and student athletes. Featured speakers include world champion para-alpine skier Josh Dueck, who will compete this weekend at the Paralympic Winter Games, and ski-cross sensation Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, who finished just out of the medals in 5th place at the Olympics in February.

"These Olympians inspire us, and we are thrilled that they will be joining us for the Athletics Scholarship Breakfast in April," says Steve Manuel, head coach of the UBC Okanagan Heat women's volleyball team and Chair of this year's fund-raiser. "Watching them reach the highest level of competition at the Olympics and Paralympics reminds us how important it is to support athletes -- it allows them to focus on achieving their best."

Dueck and Serwa will participate in a panel discussion guided by renowned Okanagan sportscaster Pat Kennedy, director of the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

UBC Okanagan student-athletes Dustin Luck, captain of UBC Okanagan's varsity soccer team, and world-class Nordic skier Cam Egan, will bring a UBC Okanagan student athlete perspective.

Buying tickets for seats or an entire table at the breakfast is one of the most effective ways for businesses and individuals to support UBC Okanagan athletes, as the university provides a matching gift for every ticket and table purchased, says Manuel, who was named the Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association's National Coach of the Year Across All Sports in 2009.

"Our Athletics Scholarship Endowment will provide the financial assistance needed to continue building on great successes -- by supporting our outstanding student athletes," says Manuel.

The 2010 Valley First UBC Okanagan Athletics Scholarship Breakfast will take place on Friday, April 9, at the Coast Capri Hotel Ballroom. Tickets are $1,000 per table or $100 per ticket and can be purchased online.

For more information visit www.goheat.ca/breakfast.

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