Track, baseball, football stars in running for Bill Sturrup honour

The finalists for this year’s Golden Horseshoe Athlete of the Year have been narrowed to three.

Track sensation Christian Brennan, professional baseball relief pitching whiz John Axford, and university football star Kyle Quinlan are in the running for the Bill Sturrup Award which will be presented on March 1 as part of the annual CYO Celebrity Dinner.

Candidates for the award must be residents of Hamilton or Burlington. They can be professional or amateur athletes, with results at the provincial, national or international level. There is no age restriction and the athlete’s accomplishment can be as an individual or part of a team

Brennan, who turns 17 in March, made a shambles of youth records in track during the 2011 season. The Waterdown resident’s accomplishments in 2011 include:

Athletics Ontario Indoor Youth (Under 17) 200m and 400m champion; OFSAA Junior girls 100m, 200m and 400m champion (all OFSAA records); Canadian Interscholastic 200m record (23.56); bronze medalist, Canadian Senior Track and Field Championships (Canadian youth record, 52.49); silver medalist, World Youth Championships, 200m (23.47, Canadian youth record); silver medalist, World Youth Championships, 400m (52.12, Canadian youth record); bronze medalist, World Youth Championships medley relay (Canadian youth record); gold medalist, Canadian Youth Championships, 200m (23.43, Canadian youth record); gold medalist, Canadian Youth Championships, 400m, (53.11, Canadian youth record).

Her accomplishments at the World Youth Championships are without a doubt the most amazing feat by a Canadian athlete at any world championship event in track and field. Single-handedly, Brennan tied the medal count for the most medals ever at any World Youth Championships and the most ever by any individual athlete.

In Canadian circles, Christian was ranked No. 2 nationally in the 100m and No.1 in the 200m and 400m in the Youth age group.

Her times in the 200m and 400m rank her nationally No.5 and No.3 respectively in all age groups (Youth, Junior and Senior). As well, her best times rank her No.3 (200m) and No. 4 (400m) in the World Youth Rankings.

The Hamilton Olympic Club member was named the Athletic Ontario youth-aged Sprinter of the Year and she was named a member of the Pan-Am Track and Field Team which competed in Mexico in October (the youngest athlete ever named to the Canadian track and field Team at the Pan-Am Games where she contested the individual 400m and was a member of the 4 x 100m relay team.

At the pro sport level, Axford, who filled his roll as the Milwaukee Brewers go-to guy, compiled a record of 46 saves (from 48 opportunities) last season. The record by a Brewers’ pitcher tied him for first with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel in the National League.

The 28-year-old Simcoe-born native was 17th in the National League’s most valuable player voting (third on his team behind two position players). He was ninth in National League Cy Young voting, an award which usually goes to a starting pitcher.

In 2011, Axford struggled early with two blown saves in the first two weeks but did not blow a save until game five of the National League Division playoff series and even then his team rallied and he picked up the win to advance past Arizona. His regular season streak of saves in 43 consecutive opportunities will carry over to 2012. It’s the second longest active streak and the fifth longest in Major League Baseball history.

He was the DHL Delivery Man Award Winner in July.

Axford shared the 2011 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award with Cincinnati’s Joey Votto (of Toronto) who was an NL All-Star and Gold Glove winner. The award, voted on by the Canadian Hall of Fame and internet voters honours ‘Inidividual achievement while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.’

After a sensational season capped with McMaster’s first national football championship, Marauder quarterback Kyle Quinlan has been named a finalist for the Bill Sturrup Award.

Hailing from South Woodslee, Ontario, Quinlan was the 2011 OUA first-team all-star quarterback and was named a second-team All-Canadian. He capped off a tremendous season by being named the game MVP at each stage of McMaster’s post-season run, which included the Yates Cup, Uteck Bowl, and Vanier Cup victories.

“This is a huge surprise and a great honour for me to be nominated for this award,” said Quinlan at the announcement of the award finalists. “To even be mentioned in the same company as nominees like Christian and John is just awesome.”

Quinlan was recently invited to attend the Canadian Football League’s evaluation camp for draft-eligible players to be hold in March in Toronto.

Past Golden Horseshoe Award winners from McMaster include: Chelsey Gotell, swimming (2008); Jesse Lumsden, football (2004); Titus Channer, basketball (1998); and Joanne Malar, swimming (1995, 1999).