Lena Wenke's remarkable journey back to the basketball court has garnered her one of the country's most esteemed awards for university sport.
Wenke, the third-year Winnipeg Wesmen forward from Goettingen, Germany, was named the national U SPORTS winner of the Tracy MacLeod Award during a national championship awards ceremony Wednesday night in Regina.
The Tracy MacLeod Award has been handed out annually by the national governing body of university sport in Canada since 1997 and is awarded to a women's basketball player who shows courage in the face of adversity.
Wenke was the victim of a vicious assault inside her Winnipeg home in May 2017 and was placed on life support for 24 hours following the attack. Police told reporters following the attack that her life was saved by a Good Samaritan who happened upon the scene and intervened. Doctors at Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre worked diligently in the following days and weeks to save Wenke and help in her recovery.
Wenke suffered numerous horrific injuries, but her dedication to returning to her studies, and ultimately to the game she loves, proved an inspiration to all who surrounded her.
Wenke returned to her schooling as a Psychology major at U of W in the fall and rejoined the women's basketball team in November. She would appear in her first game Dec. 1 against the MacEwan Griffins and, by season's end, appeared in nine conference games and four playoff games, averaging more than 15 minutes per game in that span.
"She's full of courage and I don't know anyone stronger than her," head coach Tanya McKay said.
"Lena's been a pillar of strength considering what she has been through and where she is now. When I look at what Lena's done this season to return back to action and work through what she's been through, she is a pillar of strength."
Wenke is just the second Wesmen to win the Tracy MacLeod Award. Heather Thompson was awarded the honour in 2003-04.
The award is named after former Brandon Bobcat Tracy MacLeod, who suffered what appeared to be a career-ending knee injury in a game in 1993. Complications ensued during multiple surgeries after that and MacLeod would eventually have her leg amputated below the knee. MacLeod returned to the Bobcats the following season, training with the team just a few weeks after her amputation.
"I'm honoured to be recognized for the Tracy MacLeod Award," Wenke said. "Tracy MacLeod made the impossible possible by stepping back on the court only months after her lower-leg amputation. Receiving this award inspires and motivates me to continue to move forward with my healing."
U SPORTS also announced Wednesday that fifth-year Wesmen guard Antoinette Miller was named a first-team all-Canadian for the second straight year.
Miller, who was named the Canada West women's basketball player of the year as well as the conference's defensive player of the year, led the nation in scoring (25.9 points per game) and steals (3.9), and shot 39.7 per cent from the three-point line, which was second in Canada West and seventh in U SPORTS. Miller also averaged 9.1 rebounds per game, sixth in Canada West and second among guards.
Miller was the first player in Canada West history to win both the player of the year and defensive player of the year in back-to-back seasons.
"I am very fortunate to be recognized first-team all-Canadian," Miller said. "To me it means that all my hard work and dedication towards this sport has paid off. I feel really good about what I contributed to my team and I hope my legacy will continue years from now. I made my mark and it is a really good feeling to leave the way I did."