Pete Tolbert Night of Champions Honors Jaguar Student-Athletes

Photo of the Moulton Tower dedication Friday Oct. 8, 2010. | Photo credit Press-Register/Victor Calhoun

Photo credit Press-Register/Victor Calhoun

South Alabama honored student-athletes Monday at the sixth annual Pete Tolbert Night of Champions at the Mitchell Center. The event recognizes the achievements, both in competition and academically, of the nearly 400 individuals who comprise the University of South Alabama athletics program.

Kaitlyn Griffith (Softball from Centre, AL) and Daniel Leitner (Men’s Tennis from Neiderfischbach, Germany) were named the Jaguar Female and Male Student-Athlete of the Year respectively, honoring the most outstanding Jaguars based on scholarship, athletic ability and citizenship.

Griffith, a senior shortstop for the softball team is hitting .296 with a team-high 11 home runs, with 38 RBI, 25 runs scored and helping the team to a 33-9 record thus far and a top-25 national ranking throughout the 2015 season. She is a three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America Scholar Athlete and is set to receiver her degree in May in exercise science. She has a 3.82 cumulative GPA.

Leitner, a senior, is the reigning two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in men’s tennis. He earned the award this spring after amassing a 28-5 overall record in singles play and a 22-6 record in doubles play. He was named to the first-team All-SBC in both singles and doubles, and as the highest-rated individual in the conference, will earn a berth to the NCAA Singles Championships in May. He will graduate with a 3.89 GPA in exercise science in May.

A pair of Griffith’s teammates on the Softball team also earned awards.

Farish Beard was chosen at the school’s NCAA Woman of the Year Nominee with Blair Johnson earning the Jimmy Taylor Scholarship.

Beard, who currently has a 3.39 GPA, was selected as the nominee for that goes to a varsity letterwinner completing her intercollegiate eligibility by the end of spring sports season, who has excelled in academics, athletics, service and leadership with a minimum of a cumulative 2.5 GPA. She is also a finalist for both the Senior CLASS and 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year awards. This season she is 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 71 innings.

Johnson earned the award going to a student-athlete who holds a minimum of a 2.5 GPA, has completed their NCAA eligibility and with the assistance of the fund will graduate from USA within two consecutive semesters. She has earned All-SBC honors twice during her career and this year she is batting .254 with 12 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, and 14 walks to only eight strikeouts.

Sophie Haywood from Hull, England, earned the Auralia Crowell Freshman Scholar Athlete Awards given to the most outstanding freshman based on excellence in academics and athletics. She was named First-Team All-Conference after posting 19 points on seven goals and five assists in helping the Jaguar soccer team tow in the conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament. She has a 4.0 GPA as an exercise science major.

Adam Ballew of the baseball team was awarded the Denny-Gottfried Scholarship Award that is presented to the student-athlete who has exhausted their eligibilty, maintained an outstanding GPA and achieved athletic accomplishment. In his final season at USA, he has helped the Jaguar baseball team to a 29-16 record thus far while batting .275 with five extra-base hits, 26 RBI and eight stolen bases. He is an exercise science major with a 3.38 GPA.

Derek Westbrook from Diamondhead, MS, received a pair of awards. He arned the Shirley Holt Scholarship Award as well as the Male Jaguar Athletic Fund Award. The former is given to a student-athlete who exemplifies outstanding “Team Spirit” and who has shown great character and concern for his or her fellow student-athletes. The latter recognizes overall support of Jaguar Athletics. Both awards exemplifies Derek’s contributions to South Alabama Athletics and also marks the second-consecutive year that he has garnered the JAG Award honors.

Caroline Beebe earned the Female Jaguar Athletic Fund Award. Which marks the second consecutive year that both she has earned the JAF Award as well.

Hunter Colemani was awarded the Tom and Barbara Corcoran Scholar-Athlete Endowed Scholarship Award which is given to a USA Junior who most excels in sports while maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA. The right handed pitcher has a 4.0 GPA in biomedical sciences in the classroom while on the diamond he has a 1-0 record with a 0.59 ERA with 14 strikeouts and 15.1 innings of work.

Jimmie Gipson III was awarded the Wilson Durgin Memorial Scholarship Award which goes to a minority student-athlete who has excelled in both the classroom and competition. Nikki Gittens was awarded the Female Perseverance Award after she suffered a stress fracture in her tibia that forced her to redshirt in 2013, she then returned and ranked third on the volleyball team with 243 kills and led the team with a .250 attack percentage and 83 total blocks while helping the Jags qualify for the SBC tournament despite tendinitis in her knee and hitting shoulder.

Ucambre Williams earned the Male Perseverance Award after undergoing three separate surgical procedures and requiring over six months of rehabilitation. After surgery on his right knee in September he returned in just 15 days and would go on to start 11 consecutive games while posting a team-best 90 percent overall grade and being named to the second-team All-SBC and helped the Jaguars play in its first-ever postseason bowl game.

Brandon Bridge was awarded the Mayer Mitchell Quarterback Endowment Fund Award as the Jaguars starter last fall. Matt Bolger earned the Clifton Inge Endowed Baseball Award. David Knapp earned the Forrest W. and Beverly B. Crowder Endwoed Scholarship for baseball. Mark Watts earned the McKinney Family Endowed Scholarship Fund for Track and Field. Emily Newton earned the George Smith Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund for Track and Field as well.

Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Operations Greg Keel was selected for the Matt Smith Award which goes to a member of the athletics staff who consistenly goes the extra mile, has the spirit of commitment, a strong work ethic, and a deep sense of pride in their job. The award is named in memory of former USA Sports Information Director Matt Smith who passed away in December of 2004.

Each sport program also presented awards at the event. The winners of those honors were:

  • Eddie Stanky Award (baseball), Bolger
  • Goldie Ungar Heart of Gold Award (men’s basketball), Dionte Ferguson
  • Jaguar Women’s Basketball NCAA Award (women’s basketball), Breanna Hall
  • Female Distance Award (women’s cross country), Nicole Durham
  • Male Distance Award (men’s cross country), Christoph Graf
  • Jim Yance Heart of a Jaguar Award (football), Jesse Kelley
  • Heath Slocum Award (men’s golf), Tyler Klava
  • Beth Barry Award (women’s golf), Ingrid Hagen
  • Lindsay Rogers Award (soccer), Alyssa Mayer
  • Extra Mile Award (softball), Stephanie Pilkington
  • Lubel Family Award (men’s tennis), Leitner
  • Marilyn Lubel Award (women’s tennis), Laura Matuskova
  • Most Outstanding Women’s Track & Field Student-Athlete Award (women’s track and field), Kaitlyn Beans
  • Most Outstanding Men’s Track & Field Student-Athlete Award (men’s track and field), Jan-Louw Kotze
  • Jaguar Volleyball Award (volleyball), Gittens

Prior to the naming of the Jaguar Student-Athletes of the Year, 46 current and former student-athletes who will graduate at the conclusion of the semester received gifts from the department.

Congratulations to all the award winners as well as all of the student-athletes who will earn their degrees. Thank you for representing the University in each of your respective sports with honor and character. Once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar.

Comments

Leave a Reply




%d bloggers like this: