Great athletes and even better people.
Grade 12s Mackenzie Neufeld and David Aiello earned the prestigious Coaches’ Choice awards for the Holy Trinity Academy 2019-20 athletic awards.
“Coaches’ choice is just that kid you want on your team,” said Knights co-athletic director Matt Hassett. “David, a lot of people talked about him. People who didn’t have him (on a team) like me, I taught him once and thought ‘man I wish I had a chance to coach him,’ because he’s such a nice kid.
“Mackenzie is an amazing young woman, she’s always got a smile on her face and will always help someone if they need it. Again, one of those unique individuals that work really hard, great character and an amazing athlete.”
The Coaches’ choice winners were teammates on the Knights’ cross-country squad in which Neufeld earned the sportsmanship award and plaudits for her leadership.
“That was one of the most fun teams that I was a part of,” Aiello said. “There’s something about just pushing yourself to the limit every day with the same group of people and it’s really where you get to find who you are and grow as a person and meet some great people.”
For Aiello, the Coaches’ Choice reaffirms the extra steps he took to be a good teammate while wearing Knights colours.
“I think it just validates all the work that I’ve done throughout the years,” Aiello said. “I’ve not always been the star of the team, but doing the little things – from working hard in practice, running an extra play, diving on a loose ball, that kind of stuff — I think it validates all that throughout the years.”
On the hardcourt, Aiello got the chance to live out a childhood dream playing three years on the varsity basketball coached by David’s father Sam.
“That was a dream come true,” David said. “I just remember as a little kid going to HTA to watch those games and just hoping one day that could be me. Those three years playing basketball were just the happiest times of my life. I lived for it every day.
“It drove me to do everything.”
The Knights basketball squad enjoyed a terrific season with a veteran-laden lineup, posting a 29-1 record while winning all six tournaments it entered.
The three-year members of the squad won three straight Foothills Athletic Council championships during their Knights tenure.
“It was really interesting because a lot of those guys, I’ve played with since seventh grade at JP II,” Aiello said. “It was really a sense of finality as the last year at HTA. We had a really good season, we had qualified for provincials and had a shot to pretty well there.
“I really wish we could have saw what we could have done, but it was just so much fun hanging out with those guys. It’s going to be sad to see them move on and go away."
Aiello has charted a course to the capital city as an engineering student at the University of Alberta.
He is a recipient of a $5,000 U of A Faculty of Engineering Leadership Scholarship.
A two-time provincial qualifier in cross-country, Neufeld — who was also the HTA Coaches’ Choice award winner in her Grade 11 year — will also be attending the U of A with a goal of becoming a professor after studying physics and philosophy as an undergraduate.
“In general, athletics made my high school experience for me,” Aiello said. “I don’t know if I would look back on it so fondly if it wasn’t for athletics.
“Most of my friends, I met through athletics, I met great people. And it was just something that I looked forward to, it made me look forward to coming to school every day.”