Athletic banquet awards excellence

Monday evening more than 300 student athletes, administrators, coaches and guests were in attendance for the University All Sports Awards held in the Jake Gaither Athletic Center.

Hosted by Victor Duncan, of 96.1 FM’s morning show “Your Man In The Morning,” the award ceremony kicked off at 6 p.m. and began with words from Alvin Hollins, head of the Sports Information Department.

With more than 18 sports at FAMU, and more than 300 athletes receiving recognition, the athletic staff was given the opportunity to show its appreciation by acknowledging the 2006-2007 Rattlers.

The awards given included the Academic Scholar Award to the Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, Sportsmanship Award and Rookie of the Year.

Although these are the most prominent awards, there were additional categories from each sports team.

Athletic Director Nelson Townsend presented the trophies alongside head coaches who showed their appreciation to students for their valued hard work.

“It’s just a great event,” Townsend said. “It gives us the opportunity to recognize the power of student athletes academically and physically.”

Melissa Oliphant, a freshman physical education student from Florida, N.Y., who was awarded Rookie of the Year for the softball team, burst past her teamates after the announcement. Oliphant said she was very honored and surprised she was nominated for the title.

“(There are) six other freshmen on the team and a lot of competition between us,” Oliphant said. “I’m still kind of shocked to be receiving this award, but I will say that I am thrilled.”

Oliphant, who averaged .200 at bat in the 2007 season, said the Rookie of the Year award was a symbol of her dedication and represented how hard work helped her overcome even the greatest of challenges.

Both the women’s and men’s tennis teams achieved the All-Star Academic Award over all teams with the best GPAs combined- 3.4 for the women’s team and 3.15 for the men’s team.Star linebacker Vernon Wilder, a 21-year-old elementary education student, received the Defense MVP award.

The red shirt sophomore, who received the Freshman of the Year award in 2005, said he was looking forward to an award but wasn’t quite expecting MVP.

“Anyone could have received it, but it feels good (because) the coaches chose me,” Wilder said.

Wilder said next year he plans on receiving the All-American Award while helping to lead his team in tackles for both the MEAC and the nation.

“This was good, but next semester they can expect even better,” Wilder said.

Women’s Track and Field head coach, Maicel Malone, said she appreciated the fact that the students were being recognized and said she hopes it strikes a fire in the athletes’ future performances.

“I hope this lets the students know that when you work hard on the field and in the classroom, they will be recognized by (their) peers and coaches. It’s a great honor for the student athletes,” Malone said.

SGA President Phillip B. Agnew and Vice-President Monique Gillum were also in attendance and gave recognition to the players. SGA gave out a total of six awards to athletes in honor of their commitment.

Dinner was served later in the evening but not before Athletic Marketing Director W. Earl Kitchings led the audience in a moving prayer.

Omari Crawford, 21, a political science student, took home the Academic Scholar award for the men’s track and field team and the Sportsmanship award for the cross country team.

Crawford, who has a 3.5 GPA, said the evening was well-deserved especially after a hard year of performing in school as well as on the track.

“I can’t say anything bad about tonight,” Crawford said.

“Everyone in here deserved an award, but I am honored that my hard work was acknowledged.”

Townsend closed out the evening with a moment of silence for the students who were involved in the Virginia Tech tragedy.

“Even in the midst of our joy, we send our condolences to the University and our heart goes out to V-Tech,” Townsend said.

The All-Sports Award concluded the occasion with the singing of the Florida Song lead by softball head coach Veronica Wiggins.

Townsend said he looks forward to the event next year.