April 23, 2012
TUCSON -University of Arizona Wildcat Athletics celebrated the work of its student-athletes at a banquet Monday night where awards were given out based on academics, community service and athletic achievements.
Arizona will graduate 78 student-athletes during the 2011-12 season with seniors taking part in graduation activities during the winter, spring and summer commencement ceremonies. Additionally, the 188 student-athletes who earned a grade point average of 3.0 or higher during the 2010-11 school year were also acknowledged for their achievements. Also in 2010-11, 17 student-athletes earned a 4.0 GPA. The men's and women's cross country squads were recognized as the male and female teams with the highest combined GPA. Hanna Henson of women's cross country and track and field and Sarah NeSmithof soccer were named this year's valedictorians.
Cory Chitwood(men's swimming and diving) was given the Sapphire Award, honoring the top male senior student-athlete. In 2012, Chitwood became Arizona's third male swimmer to win three or more national titles with his victory in the 200 back at the NCAA Championships, defending his title two times over. He garnered 14 All-America honors in four years and has the second-fastest times in the 100 back, 200 back and 200 IM in Arizona history. In addition, he has been named to the Pac-12 All-Academic teams all four years and served as the team captain in his senior year.
Alyssa Anderson (women's swimming and diving) and Katie Matusik(gymnastics) earned the Ruby Award, given to the top female senior student-athlete. Anderson garnered 16 All-America honors in her four years as a Wildcat. She is the school-record holder in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:34.34 and has the second-fastest 200 IM in school history. She earned a Pac-10 individual championship in 2009, was a U.S. National team member for two seasons and served as a team captain in her senior campaign. In addition, Anderson received honorable mention honors on the Pac-12's All-Academic team in 2012.
Matusik finished third in the balance beam and earned All-America honors at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships this past weekend. She is a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 honoree on the balance beam while holding collegiate bests of 9.875 on bars, 9.925 on beam and 9.875 on floor. She was also the beam champion at the 2012 NCAA regional meet in Seattle and earned the 2011 Pac-10 Sportsmanship award.
Nick Ross(men's track and field) was named Male Junior Student Athletes of the Year. Ross had a remarkable indoor track and field season. In his second meet of the year and his first-ever collegiate heptathlon, he tied the world record in the heptathlon high jump competition. He later went on to win the MPSF title in the event and became the first male NCAA High Jump Champion in school history. He also earned his third-straight All-America accolade and already has one of the NCAA's top high jumps for outdoor competition. He is set to challenge for the Pac-12 and NCAA high jump titles during the outdoor season.
Brigetta Barrett(women's track and field) earned Female Junior Student-Athlete of the Year accolades. Barrett did not lose a single competition during the indoor season. She won five high jump competitions, including her second-straight MPSF Championship and her second-straight NCAA Championship. She also claimed the school record in the high jump and was named the MPSF Female Athlete of the Year and earned the USTFCCCA West Region Female Field Athlete of the Year award. She already has the top NCAA high jump for outdoor competition and will challenge for the Pac-12 and NCAA high jump titles during the outdoor season. Barrett, the reigning U.S. Champion, has also met the Olympic "A" Standard for the outdoor season and is currently tied for the top mark in the world.
Lawi Lalang(men's cross country and track and field) was named the Male Sophomore Student-Athlete of the Year. Lalang tore through the cross country season, winning all six of his races and setting four course records. He was the first ever Pac-12 Cross Country Champion and won the NCAA West Regional race and the NCAA Cross Country Championship. He was named the USTFCCCA National Men's Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Indoors, he set school records in the mile, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters and holds the all-time collegiate top-10 times at all three distances, including the collegiate record in the 5,000 meters. He was also the MPSF Champion in the 3K and won the NCAA Indoor titles in the 3K and 5K. He was named the MPSF Male Athlete of the Year, USTFCCCA West Region Male Track Athlete of the Year and the USTFCCCA National Men's Track Athlete of the Year. Outdoors, Lalang has continued his success by already meeting the Olympic "A" Standard in the 5,000 meters. His time of 13:18.88 at the Mt. SAC Relays is the second-best time in school history. Additionally, Lalang's 1,500-meter time of 3:41.65 is sixth-best mark in school history.
Margo Geer(women's swimming and diving) earned the Female Sophomore Student-Athlete of the Year award. Geer was the NCAA runner-up in the 50 freestyle and the 400 medley relay. She had an NCAA bronze finish in the 100 free style and 800 free relay, and helped paced the squad to new Arizona school records in both. She earned a team-high seven All-America honors at the NCAA Championships this year.
Kevin Cordes (men's swimming and diving) was named the Male Freshman Student-Athlete of the Year. Cordes was the NCAA Champion in the 100 breast stroke with an American and school record-setting time of 51.35. He is the first Arizona freshman to win a national title since Hall of Famer Simon Burnettin 2003. In addition, he was a part of the NCAA Champion 200 medley relay team with a time that set a new American and school record. He also earned All-America honors with a third-place finish in the 200 breast stroke.
Manon Gidali (women's golf) and Shelby Pendley (softball) shared the Female Freshman Student-Athlete of the Year award. In her first collegiate tournament, Gidali won the Wildcat Invitational with rounds of 67, 66 and 71 for a three-round total of 204 (-12). Her rounds of 66 and 67 rank tied for No. 2 and tied for No. 6, respectively, all-time at Arizona. Her three day total is a new school record over 54 holes, replacing Lorena Ochoa'sprevious best of 206 (-10) from 2001. On the season, she has two wins and seven rounds played at or below par and was named Pac-12 Golfer of the Month for February.
Pendley leads the team in home runs (17) and RBI (45), which rank sixth and 27th nationally. She also leads the team in batting average (.357), total bases (103), slugging percentage (.817). She plays phenomenal defense at shortstop where she is second on the team in assists (86) and has 11 multi-hit and multi-RBI games. Among Pac-12 players, she ranks fifth in RBI and second in home runs.