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Hay River's own number 18, Jeff Groenheyde takes a shot against the La Crete Lumberjacks Feb. 22. Photo by Sarah Ladik

Hay River’s own number 18, Jeff Groenheyde takes a shot against the La Crete Lumberjacks Feb. 22.
Photo by Sarah Ladik

The competition to be named for male and female athlete of the year award is fierce at sport-oriented Diamond Jenness Secondary School, but that didn’t stop one couple from winning together.

“I was pretty surprised to get it,” said Brooke Schaefer, who was presented with the female athlete of the year award at the convocation ceremony last week for her involvement in track and field, among other things.

“I know I worked hard at sports this year, but I guess you never expect to be recognized like that.”

Her boyfriend, Jeff Groenheyde, was named male athlete of the year for his involvement in sport, including years spent in minor hockey.

He told The Hub that getting the win with Schaefer made victory taste even sweeter.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “And I’m pretty excited to win it with my girlfriend.”

Both grads said the school was an easy conduit to sport, with many teams and extra-curricular activities offered, as well as a teaching staff tolerant of students missing class for away-tournaments.

“It’s easy to get involved,” said Groenheyde. “There’s always flyers and stuff everywhere and teachers encouraging you to get involved in sports.”

Schaefer noted that even if a student can’t afford to play on a team or go to events in other communities, the school is always fundraising to help get them there.

As influential as the school has been in their athletic development, both Schaefer and Groenheyde recognized their respective parents as the driving forces behind their success. In fact, 35 years ago, Groenheyde’s parents Quinn and Ginny won male and female athletes of the year at their own graduation.

“They’re both really active and I think that’s where I get it. They really help push me to do well in sports, no matter what it is,” said Groenheyde.
Schaefer agreed, adding that her parents have always made sure she had everything she needed to excel in athletics, including car rides to other communities for competitions and training. But Schaefer and Groenheyde naturally have one other person driving the other to train harder.

“We both really do push each other,” said Schaefer. “Sometimes, when we don’t feel like doing something, the other one is like, ‘you have to do it, come on.’”

This summer, Groenheyde is headed to Philadelphia to train and get in shape for the next hockey season. He said he plans to try out for some teams in the fall.
Schaefer’s summer will also be spent training, but for the North American Indigenous Games where she will represent the NWT in track and field. Despite being eager to take the next steps in their respective athletic careers, both grads were keen to recognize the people in Hay River who got them to this point.

“I want to thank all the teachers, coaches, and my parents for getting me this far,” said Groenheyde.

“Without them, we wouldn’t have ever have been able to win these awards at all,” added Schaefer.

-Sarah Ladik