Kelly VanderBeek, Scott Stevens, Dana Ellis, Lennox Lewis, and this year, quite possibly, West Montrose’s Lisa Hutson.
Because of her feats as a mountain biker this season, she finds herself on a list of nominees for Kitchener-Waterloo’s athlete of the year, organized by the Kitchener Sports Association.
Hutson was pleasantly surprised when she learned of her nomination.
“I was looking at the list of past recipients … these are pretty amazing athletes that have been nominated from our area, who have been past winners,” she said.
“It [feels] strange – I don’t even know anything about this award or the nomination process, so it’s kind of out of the blue.”
The West Montrose athlete did, however, catch the attention of the volunteer organization that honours athletes hailing from the Kitchener, Waterloo and the townships of Woolwich, Wilmot and Wellesley.
“We look at a wide and varied range of sports, and Lisa’s performance was just outstanding in 2008 in that she was the gold medalist for all of the Ontario Cup Mountain Bike series, as well the gold medalist in her category and age group for the Trek Cross Country Canada Cup,” said athlete of the year program chair Jean Howitt.
“We continued to do research: that kind of performance was just outstanding,” Howitt added, noting that Hutson’s nomination marks the first time a mountain biker is on the shortlist.
What was most surprising for Hutson was the fact that no one in her family submitted an application on her behalf. Her efforts, on their own, merited the organization’s attention.
“We go through quite a rigorous process,” said Howitt, noting that committee members sifted through countless newspapers and other media to come up with some 180 worthy local candidates. Eventually, a separate committee narrowed the list to eight.
In the past, the organization has recognized a wide range of athletes, men, women, disabled, youngsters and seniors.
Nominees are judged according to specific and rigid criteria, said Howitt. Athletes must in some way (perhaps through their formative years) be connected to the local area, excel in their sport and have competed in international tournaments or tournaments involving international contestants.
Hutson, who started biking 15 years ago, had a stellar season in 2008, winning each of the seven mountain bike races she entered. The most prestigious of those wins came when she earned top honours in her division racing against 30 other women at the provincial championships in Midland last September.
Over the winter, Hutson stayed in shape training anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a week mostly indoors. With spring now in full tilt, she is eager to hit the trails and this weekend will do just that at her first competition of the season at the Mansfield Outdoor Centre, north of Orangeville.
After a long and cold winter, Hutson is eagerly anticipating the start of yet another season of mountain biking.
“I just love it, the technical combined with the aerobic fitness – it’s a huge thrill. With a really big competitive side, it’s a really good outlet to test yourself against other people.”
The eleventh annual athlete of the year ceremony will take place on May 13 at RIM Park in Waterloo.