Creativity, collaboration, and continued progress shine bright among 2019-20 C.H.A.M.P. Award winners

Photo by Gar FitzGerald
Photo by Gar FitzGerald

Burlington, Ont. – After recognizing the talented individuals and groups who took to the playing field earlier in the month, the time has come to shine a light on the incredible behind-the-scenes work from across the conference. Initiated in 2015, these awards are a means of celebrating and honouring achievements in marketing and promotions, and as the creativity, innovation, and talent continues to grow in these areas, so too does the spotlight placed on what Ontario University Athletics (OUA) has to offer. The OUA is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019-20 C.H.A.M.P. Awards.

Best G1 Championship – Guelph Gryphons, 109th Queen’s Cup

Thanks to both a record-setting performance on the ice and a top-tier set-up behind the scenes, the 109th edition of the Queen’s Cup – the Best G1 Championship of the 2019-20 season – proved to be one of the most memorable of all-time.

A capacity crowd of 1,600 fans packed the Gryphon Centre to witness a thrilling triple-overtime 2-1 win by the host Gryphons over the Ottawa Gee-Gees. But whether it was before, during, or beyond the 100+ minutes of hockey, it was an elevated experience for the fans. The Guelph Gryphons executed a pre-game panel with GryphVision host Scott Fraser and former Gryphons player Michael Stevens. The arena was erupting with professional lighting and fan noise, all surrounding a stage set with OUA signage and the coveted Queen’s Cup at the centre. One of the true highlights of the event, meanwhile, came when the winning goal found the back of the net. Not only did the boisterous crowd explode in celebration, but the play-by-play crew of Klarke Braaten and Mitch Christopher offered up a call for the ages, even being featured on Sportsnet’s Tim & Sid the following week.

When it comes to delivering a memorable G1 Championship experience, the stage, the drama, and the execution served up by the men’s hockey finale went unmatched in the 2019-20 season.

Best G2 Championship – McMaster Marauders, Swimming

Over 300 student-athletes dove head-first into the state-of-the-art Toronto Pan-Am Training Centre in Scarborough for the 2020 OUA Swimming Championships, which was named the year’s Best G2 Championship. The three-day event saw a jam-packed schedule of both preliminary and final rounds each day, with the host McMaster Marauders bringing together ten other universities for a finale to remember.

Backed by an incredible seating gallery of more than 2,200 seats, the energy, intensity, and passion that the student-athletes displayed each day was unmatched, creating an electrifying spectacle for all those in attendance and watching online. To add to the impressive stage was a strong presence of OUA pageantry, as well as a videoboard that broadcast real-time results for individual and team events. Alongside a terrific online stream, commentary, and social media updates, fans remained well-informed across the championship schedule both within and beyond the venue.

Topped off with a first-time alumni event, bringing together past participants from all the institutions, the 2019-20 Best G2 Championship, hosted by the McMaster Marauders, was a spectacle to behold.

Best G3 Championship – Toronto Varsity Blues, Golf

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues made the most of their hosting duties on the links, turning the 2019 OUA Golf Championships into the year’s Best G3 Championship. Beyond the time spent on the course, which featured two rounds of play, the event also included a championship dinner that consisted of a gold-in-the-dark chipping contest, an Instagram cut-out selfie station, and more.

This highlight of the G3 slate provided an outstanding experience for the golfers. Across the facility, the conference brand was well-represented, including a championship tee flag at each hole, an OUA championship towel for each participant, and a welcome package for the teams. Not only was it a top-notch experience for those on the course, but those tuning in as well, with live results being provided both online and on clubhouse televisions. To further highlight the participants themselves, the Varsity Blues also provided photographs and videos of the student-athletes across the two-day competition, in addition to a pair of feature videos of the women’s and men’s champions.

For the 115 golfers who took part, the 2019-20 Best G3 Championship was a hole-in-one effort from the host Toronto Varsity Blues.

Photo of the Year – Gar FitzGerald, Guelph Gryphons

The jaw-dropping Photo of the Year for the 2019-20 OUA season was taken by Guelph Gryphons photographer Gar FitzGerald. The visual perfectly captures the incredible athleticism that is often on display in university wrestling, with this particular moment coming from standout Guelph rookie Xavier Gaines.

While competing in the men’s 61kg weight class, the Brampton, Ont. native is seen in the photo performing an amazing take down against his opponent, McMaster’s Kais Al-Khalid. In just this solitary moment alone, the photo exemplifies strength, flexibility, and the level of competition the sport of wrestling has to offer. Gaines continued on to receive a bronze medal in his respective weight class and earned himself a trip to this year’s national championships.

And just like a feat such as that will be long-remembered for Gaines, the perfect moment captured by FitzGerald in this year’s top photo will be memorable for years to come.

Best Video Feature – York Lions, Believe

Believe is a remarkable video that was captured over a four-week period, chronicling the entire playoff run of the York Lions women’s hockey team, and the end result for the detailed piece was recognition as the Best Video Feature for the 2019-20 season.

The video, which was produced as a special episode of the previous web series, Overtime, was filmed, directed, and edited by York student-volunteer Kenneth Edwards. Edwards has been following the group consistently for the past five seasons, and he was able to tell the engaging tale of a team that, after years of rebuilding, were able to clinch a playoff spot and make a run to the McCaw Cup final. Through interviews, game footage, OUA.tv commentary, and candid shots, Believe explores how the team overcame adversity, thrived on the provincial stage, and had to bounce back and believe in the themselves after a championship loss to rival Toronto Varsity Blues.

Thanks to the artistic and professional story-telling of the emotional journey it takes to believe in a team, the now award-winning feature is a must-see from this past season.

Outstanding Promotional Video – Carleton Ravens & Ottawa Gee-Gees, Basketball Capital

The stage was set for the women’s and men’s U SPORTS Basketball Championships, as the final eight teams prepared to #ChaseTheGlory at TD Place in Ottawa. The excitement, however, began earlier when the co-hosts – Carleton Ravens and Ottawa Gee-Gees – released this year’s Most Outstanding Promotional Video, sparking even greater hype and elevating the emotion even higher.

The schools presented the Basketball Capital video as the introduction of the award banquet, highlighting all 16 participating teams for the weekend’s festivities. By featuring championship moments, important plays, and exciting feats from the hardwood, the video set the table for the competition that lied ahead. In addition to the sport and teams playing a starring role, the host city did as well, as the video began with clips from TD Place, the Parliament building, and a true sense of the nation’s capital as the ideal backdrop for top-tier basketball.

Basketball Capital, which was the end result of a season’s worth of work, was a strong opening chapter to the national championship and thanks to the story it told and the anticipation it sparked, the collaborative effort made for an award-winning promotional piece this season.

Best Webcast Production – Guelph Gryphons

Fans were able to see plenty of top-tier talent on their screen when tuning in to oua.tv this season, but when it came to shining behind the camera, the Guelph Gryphons and their GryphVision crew took home the crown as the 2019-20 Best Webcast Production.

This season’s webcast from GryphVision produced 80 varsity events and three OUA championships – the 109th Queen’s Cup, the Field Hockey Championship, and the Wrestling Championships. Throughout the year, the Guelph webcast accounted for 8.6% of viewing hours across the entire league, which featured high quality action and slick supplementary graphics. Each game consisted of at least three different cameras, and used four on average, to capture every play possible. Guelph also teamed up with NewBlue Effects for their score bug, player graphics, lower thirds, and more, bringing even further professionalism and eye-catching appeal to their online stream. Between the action, the Gryphons also incorporated both conference and school-driven commercials to place a further spotlight on the student-athletes, the school, the OUA, and their various other stakeholders.

The GryphVision team takes great pride in representing the school and the league, and the 2019-20 Best Webcast winner has once again found ways to raise the bar in their online offering.

Best Webcast Announcer – Matt Bonomi, Brock Badgers

Matt Bonomi dedicated this season to becoming one of the most exhilarating play-by-play commentators across the OUA. With his dedication and ability to keep the viewers engaged, Bonomi has not only become a proud face of the BrockTV broadcasts, but the winner of the inaugural Best Webcast Announcer award for the 2019-20 season.

Bonomi has spent the past three years commentating for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, but is consistently prepared to get involved with any sport when needed. Bonomi has taken the time to grow with the teams and build connections with the players, staff, coaches, and officials, all of which has helped to increase the broadcast quality. His passion for the craft leads to the creation of an exciting atmosphere for all fans to get engaged and cheer from the comfort of their own homes. This passion has also led to work beyond the games themselves, including BrockTV’s new series, Crease to Crease, which consists of an interview with student-athletes while walking the court end-to-end and wrapping up with a trick shot from the interviewee.

Bonomi made sure that every broadcast involved high-quality production and his award-winning contributions have helped to truly elevate BrockTV’s offering for this season and beyond.

Best Social Media Account - @gryphonsguelph, Instagram

The Guelph Gryphons have formed a fantastic fan base on social media over the years, and on the heels of their U SPORTS-leading 15,600 followers on Instagram, they take home the year’s Best Social Media Account award.

While #GryphonPride has been predominant on the school’s Instagram page for some time, this season took it to a new level. With over 6.7 million impressions and a growth rate of 6.0%, Guelph reached the masses with their social content, all of which was created to reflect the passion and spirit of the Gryphon brand. Among the highlights of the 2019-20 season was a dedicated effort to deliver more than imaging, using the platform to provide fans every score, result, and write-up through Instagram Stories. The consistent updating allowed the Gryphons’ fan base and the community to stay in touch day-to-day with games, events, and schedules, and through this new way of delivering content, the Gryphons achieved a clickthrough rate of 86%.

With both stellar content and enviable engagement, the Guelph Gryphons truly stood out among the online elite to take home the 2019-20 Best Social Media Account.

Best Theme Night – McMaster Marauders, Pride Night

McMaster’s objective for this season’s Best Theme Night was celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and raising awareness through on-campus initiatives. Their second annual Pride Night, which took place during the February 1st basketball games against the York Lions, ensured that it would be a memorable experience for all, while also capturing this inaugural C.H.A.M.P. Award along the way.

Approximately 700 tickets were sold, making it the highest attended basketball event in the second half of the season for the Marauders, and it included hundreds of t-shirts given away (100 shirts for each colour of the pride flag). Both the female and male teams wore their shirts as warm-up jerseys to spread more awareness for the community, and with an active LGBTQ+ community within McMaster and the greater Hamilton area, actions like this held true to the pillar of inclusivity. This theme night allowed for a welcoming and safe environment for the community and was essential to create a memorable experience for all participants to enjoy.

The event, which was done in partnership with presenting sponsor RBC, was a great success, and the award-winning night put together by McMaster intends to be on the schedule once again for the 2020-21 season.

Best Mascot – Hunter the Ridgeback, Ontario Tech Ridgebacks

Whether pre or post rebrand, a consistent piece of the Ontario Tech puzzle is their affable Ridgeback, and the blue dog named Hunter has earned himself this year’s Best Mascot nod across the OUA.

When it comes to representing school spirit within a university and consistently creating a fun and enjoyable atmosphere in the friendly Ontario Tech confines, Hunter has developed a strong reputation across the conference. He is very active on campus, in the community, and even on social media where his personal Instagram account (@hunter_the_ridgeback) boasts over 1,100 followers. This online presence allows Hunter to remain in contact with students and fans at all times, even sending personalized messages to people through social media during the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Hunter the Ridgeback remains one of the best representations of school pride and positivity, and with the many ways he has demonstrated that during the 2019-20 season, the Ontario Tech standout has epitomized the Best Mascot moniker.

Best Fan Support Group – Carleton Ravens

The “BirdGang”, otherwise known as the Carleton Ravens fanbase, was as enthusiastic as they come this year, en route to earning the nod as Best Fan Support Group for the 2019-20 season.

Made up of students, athletes, coaches, staff, and alumni, these individuals flood the Raven’s Nest in waves looking to make their presence felt. Through loud cheers, pots and pans, and even vuvuzelas, the Ravens’ faithful have managed to take their fandom to a new level. The BirdGang has even developed a new tradition in the form of a pregame entrance before basketball tip-offs, with fans entering the gym waving flags, clanging noise-makers, and setting the table for an even more electrifying and supportive environment for their hoopsters. The award-winning fanbase all share the same pride and passion for the Ravens, coupled with an equally emphatic – albeit opposite – response to their crosstown rivals, which has further helped them standout in classic clashes like the Panda Game, Colonel By Classic, and Capital Hoops.

During these, and other events, the season’s Best Fan Support Group – which also shows up on Carleton’s social media accounts in the form of loudest moments, top dance moves, and more – have made it known that they are loud and proud of their Carleton crew.

The complete list of 2019-20 C.H.A.M.P. Award winners is listed below:

Best G1 Championship – Guelph Gryphons, 109th Queen’s Cup

Best G2 Championship – McMaster Marauders, Swimming

Best G3 Championship – Toronto Varsity Blues, Golf

Photo of the Year – Gar FitzGerald, Guelph Gryphons

Best Video Feature – York Lions, Believe

Outstanding Promotional Video – Carleton Ravens & Ottawa Gee-Gees, Basketball Capital

Best Webcast Production – Guelph Gryphons

Best Webcast Announcer – Matt Bonomi, Brock Badgers

Best Social Media Account – Guelph Gryphons, Instagram

Best Theme Night – McMaster Marauders, Pride Night

Best Mascot – Hunter the Ridgeback, Ontario Tech Ridgebacks

Best Fan Support Group – Carleton Ravens

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