April 14, 2009
TUCSON--NCAA champion sprinter Lara Jackson of the women's swimming and diving team and double-duty All-Pac-10 threat Mike Thomas of the Wildcat football team were named winners of the Ruby and Sapphire awards, respectively, at the athletic department's C.A.T.S. Senior Awards Banquet Monday night in McKale Center.
The awards go to top senior female and male student-athletes with an emphasis on competitive success. Jackson is a many-time All-American and 2009 NCAA champion in the 50 freestyle, along with a couple of American-record UA relay victories, while Thomas is the Pac-10's all-time receptions leader after his four-year Arizona career left him with 259 catches. He earned first-team all-league honors as both a receiver and punt returner in 2008.
The two awards were just several of many featured at the banquet, a mix of respect for scholarly and academic pursuits as well as a fete for athletic accomplishments and community service of the Wildcat student-athlete population of more than 500.
David and Edith Lowell were named winners of the Silver Anniversary Award given to former student-athletes who have made a significant community impact to their community, the UA and within their profession. David Lowell (UA'49) played football and Edith Sykes Lowell (UA '48 and '50) played multiple intramural sports to earn a UA letter. They are noted UA benefactors, among considerable community support.
Freshmen of the Year honors went to A.J. Tipton of men's swimming and Sarah Landsman of women's tennis, sophomore of the year honors went to nfootball tight end Rob Gronkowski and co-female winners in Ify Ibekwe of basketball and Tiffany Owens of volleyball, and the top junior student-athlete honors went to Jean Basson and Ana Agy, of men's and women's swimming and diving.
Jill Malina of softball and Craig Sheedy of men's swimming and diving were cited for their community service work as individuals who donated the most effort in the community. The women's gymnastics squad won the community service team honor.
The women's cross country squad and the men's tennis team received notice for accumulating the best overall team grada point averages in the classroom.
Sheedy also was cited along with track and field's Xeuhan Xiong as co-valedictorians for their 4.0 coursework. Sheedy's finalist status for a $24,000 NCAA Walter Byers scholarship to fuel his medical school studies also was mentioned at the banquet.
The banquet was hosted by students Fendi Obobun of men's basketball, Lindsey Kelly of swimming and diving and former UA athlete and current broadcaster Dave Sitton. Senior responses were given by Sarah Hays of women's basketball, David Bagga or men's basketball and Andrew Callahan from swimming and diving.
Additionally, seniors and others who participate on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council were recognized for service along with student-athletes who have been effective in the C.A.T.S. Life Skills program.