Top 10 Native Sports Stars of 2015
Native athletes and teams had their share of successes in 2015. Here is a Top-10 list of those who made local, national or international headlines and graced the pages of ICTMN during the past 12 months.
White made history in July as he became the first Native American to compete in a NASCAR race. White, who lives on the Mohawk First Nation of Kahnawake, near Montreal, participated in the 5-Hour Energy 301 race, which was held in Loudon, N.H. White, who finished 39th in the 43-car field, should be commended simply for completing the race as he drove the final 220 laps without air conditioning.
The Arrows, a Junior A lacrosse squad, captured their division’s Canadian championship, called the Minto Cup, in August. The Arrows have now won four national titles but this marked the first time they prevailed at home. The Six Nations side hosted the national finals at its home facility, the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Ohsweken, Ontario. British Columbia’s Coquitlam Adanacs provided the opposition in the final. The Arrows won the best-of-seven series in six matches.
The Blackhawks, a Washington-based high school basketball team, capped off a 27-0 season in March by winning a state championship. The Lummi Nation side became the first Native team to win a state title in Washington. The Blackhawks defeated another Native club, the Makah Tribe’s Neah Bay Red Devils, in the state 1B final. For their efforts, the Lummi Nation ballers were selected as the Team of the Year by Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Lacrosse star Lyle Thompson had a pair of prestigious accomplishments in 2015. For starters, Thompson, a member of the Onondaga Nation, was the first pick overall in Major Lacrosse League’s Collegiate Draft held in January, selected by the Florida Launch. Thompson, who played attack for the University of Albany, went on to have a stellar collegiate campaign. In May he was named recipient of the Tewaaraton Award, for the second straight year, for being the top NCAA lacrosse player. He was a co-winner of this award in 2014 with his brother Miles.
This Navajo rodeo participant became a world champion in December. Tsinigine, who is from Tuba City, Arizona, captured the world roping title at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, an event featuring the top cowboys from around the globe. The 29-year-old fulfilled a boyhood dream by winning the world crown. And it turned out to be a rather lucrative payday as well as Tsinigne took home slightly more than $225,000 for his victory at the competition, held in Las Vegas.
The Iroquois Nationals captured some sweet hardware at a historic lacrosse tournament. Members of the men’s team once again had to settle for the silver medal at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships held in September. Canada won the gold medal of the 13-team tournament. The Canadians have captured gold in all four runnings of the quadrennial event, with the Iroquois Nationals the runners-up each time. Though the final was in Syracuse, the majority of the WILC matches were on the Onondaga Nation, making it the first time a world championship was held on Haudenosaunee land.
Montreal Canadiens star goaltender Carey Price won some rather prestigious awards this year, but perhaps his biggest accolade came in mid-December, when it was announced that Price, a member of British Columbia’s Ulkatcho First Nation , was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Lou Marsh Award, for being Canada’s top athlete in 2015.
Price, a 28-year-old who is in his ninth NHL season, had a stellar 2014-15 campaign. He won four major trophies at the NHL awards night, staged in Las Vegas in June. His hardware haul included winning the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Schimmel, best-known for her basketball career at the University of Louisville, was also thrust into the spotlight as she was the moderator of a discussion at the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference. Schimmel, who grew up on Oregon’s Umatilla Indian Reservation, had an unexpected guest join her. President Barack Obama, who traditionally first addresses those at the conference, surprised all when he showed up early and sat on stage to help initiate the panel discussion involving Native youth.
Robinson, from Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, proved you can indeed go home. Or at least back to your alma mater. Robinson, who starred at the University of Nevada-Reno before embarking on a pro basketball career overseas, returned to the school this past spring, when she was added to the coaching staff of the Wolf Pack women’s basketball team as a graduate assistant. Robinson, the first Native American drafted into the WNBA, is also pursuing her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at the school.
Athletes from Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation received some national exposure from a 5-mile race they participated in. The 11-person team (eight men and three women) competed in The Spartan Race, which was held in Montana in the spring. During this race, competitors face numerous obstacles, including climbing over walls and carrying logs or gravel up steep hills. The team’s efforts in this race, which took more than three hours to finish, were featured in an hour-long broadcast on NBC Sports.
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