April 29, 2013
CONWAY - The Coastal Carolina Department of Athletics took Monday evening to honor its top performers of 2012-13 at the Student-Athlete Excellence Awards, hosted by the members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at The HTC Center.
Coastal Carolina volleyball players Sam Skryd and Kindra Bailey served as the Master of Ceremonies and the program included remarks from Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek, an all-sports highlight video and a Chanticleer blooper reel. Afterward, Coastal recognized its academic successes, both individual and team.
To date, Coastal Carolina has produced seven Big South Championships (men's soccer, football, women's indoor track & field, men's tennis [regular season and tournament], women's golf and men's golf) and five teams have qualified for postseason play (men's soccer, football, men's tennis, women's golf and men's golf). Also, 10 Chanticleers have earned Big South Player of the Year honors, including Ashton Bennett (Men's Soccer Attacking Player of the Year), Kjartan Sigurdsson (Men's Soccer Defensive Player of Year), Erica Peake (Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year), Brittany Henderson (Women's Golf Player of the Year), Sebastian Soderberg (Men's Golf Player of the Year), Letitia Saayman (Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Year), Fia Jonsson (Women's Soccer Freshman of the Year), Libby Scott (Women's Tennis Freshman of the Year) and Jessica Gelibert (Women's Indoor and Outdoor Freshman of the Year).
A total of 256 Coastal Carolina student-athletes own a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 (through the Fall 2012 semester), including 95 with a 3.5 GPA or better and nine of those posting a 4.0 GPA. Moreover, Henderson was named the Big South's women's golf Scholar-Athlete of the Year, while Lily Yednock won the conference honor for lacrosse.
Brittany Henderson (women's golf) was named the Presidential Student-Athlete of the Year, presented each year to the singular Coastal Carolina University student-athlete who displays extraordinary achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
Henderson holds a 3.96 GPA with a major in business management, while also being a member of the professional golf management program. The senior is the 2012 and 2013 Big South Championship individual medalist, becoming just the third individual in conference history to win multiple championship tournaments. In addition, she is a four-time all-conference selection, a seven-time President's List honoree, and a three-time member of the Big South Presidential honor roll. Henderson will play in her fourth NCAA Regional later this month.
Palka will graduate in May with a perfect 4.00 GPA with a degree in biology. Palka was a four-year member of the Coastal Carolina volleyball team and appeared in 51 matches, including 18 this past season. She is a three-time member of the Big South Conference Presidential Honor Roll.
Like Palka, Creel will graduate in May with a perfect 4.00 GPA with a degree in biology and has been accepted to LSU Medical School. Creel is a two-year member of the baseball team. He served as the team's starting second baseman last season and is splitting time between first and second this year. He is a career .244 hitter with 66 base hits, including nine for extra bases. In all, Creel has saw action in 86 career games in a Chanticleer uniform, appearing in the starting lineup on 78 occasions.
Erica Peake (women's track & field) was named the Female Athlete of the Year and Ashton Bennett (men's soccer) was named the Male Athlete of the Year for their significant contributions to their teams and to Chanticleer Athletics.
Peake, a senior sprinter, is a 20-time all-conference performer at CCU over the past three seasons, including four all-conference nods in both indoor and outdoor this season. She was named the 2012 Big South Conference Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and was a Second Team All-American in the 200 meters this past indoor season. She currently ranks fourth in the 100 meters and sixth in the 200 meters in the NCAA East Division. Peake currently holds the Chanticleer record in the indoor 60 meters and indoor 200 meters and is part of the record-holding indoor 4x400 team and outdoor 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 teams.
Bennett, who was also named the Male Athlete of the Year for 2011-12, became the first Chanticleer to earn back-to-back first team All-American honors from the NSCAA after posting a 16-goal, nine-assist senior campaign. Bennett finished his Chanticleer career ranked sixth all-time with 39 goals, tied for seventh all-time with 94 points (39g, 16a) and ninth all-time with 184 shot attempts despite only playing 47 games in a Coastal Carolina uniform. He became only the second Chanticleer to be named a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist, garnering the honor in both 2011 and 2012. Additionally, he was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, given annually to those student-athletes that have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - classroom, character, community and competition. Bennett was selected by Toronto FC with the first pick of the second round of the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft.
The men's tennis team was awarded the Comeback Team of the Year. The Chanticleers posted a 15-5 overall record, going 8-0 in Big South play on their way to the program's first conference championship since 1994. The Chanticleers will make their first NCAA appearance riding a 10-match winning streak under the direction of the 2013 Big South Coach of the Year Chris Powers. Six of the nine players on the 2013 roster received conference awards, including all-conference singles honorees Yusuke Kusuda and Garik Yedigarian.
Football's Marcus Whitener earned the inaugural Comeback Athlete of the Year award. Whitener, a senior, played two plays in the opening game of the year before suffering a knee injury. He missed the subsequent five games before returning to the field against VMI, where he picked up 45 yards on seven carries. He went on to average 7.9 yards per rush over his final four games with seven touchdowns. He was named honorable mention National Running Back of the Week by CollegeFootballPerformance.com for his two-touchdown, 143-yard performance at Presbyterian College.
New to this year's banquet was the awarding of the National Strength and Conditioning Athletes of the Year, which recognizes collegiate student-athletes whose athletic accomplishments, in the opinion of the strength coach, reflect dedication to strength and conditioning. Justin Creel (baseball), Christina Stern (women's soccer), Cameron Griggs (men's track & field) and Meghan Laffin (volleyball) were the Chanticleer recipients of the award.
The Linda C. Vereen Academic Excellence Award was awarded to the Women's Golf team, as they represent the Coastal Carolina University Department of Athletics with the highest combined grade point average. The program posted a 3.572 GPA and has won this award in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Also, the team won the 2013 Big South Conference Women's Golf Championship while featuring the league's Player of the Year and championship individual medalist.
Dr. Brian Bunton, an assistant chemistry/physics professor in the College of Natural and Applied Sciences, was named this year's Student-Athlete Faculty Member of the Year as voted upon by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and presented by Ricky Garbanzo of the men's soccer team. The Student-Athlete Faculty Member of the Year award is given to the Coastal Carolina University faculty member who has supported student-athletes academically, athletically and personally.