By Rob Schabert, Assistant A.D. for Sports Information & Broadcasting
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It had all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood's biggest night, a live webstream production from Tennessee Tech's Eblen Center as Athletics hosted the first Golden Wings Awards Show Tuesday night.
An event to recognize excellence by Golden Eagle student-athletes, the night was a video-based production featuring more than a dozen new awards and honors that reached each of Tech's 14 teams.
The timeframe of the awards period was the 2015-16 season for every team except three – because baseball, softball and outdoor track still have so much of their seasons ahead, those three squads from the 2015 spring campaign were eligible. The current baseball, softball and outdoor track teams will be included in the 2017 Golden Wings Awards.
The biggest prize of the night closed the show when Tech announced the 2016 Team of the Year, an award that actually was shared by co-winning squads.
The first team announced was the 2015 Golden Eagle softball team, which made a run through the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to capture the championship and advance to the NCAA tournament. Coach Bonnie Bynum's team shared the award with the 2016 Golden Eagle tennis team, which rolled through the conference season with a perfect 9-0 record and added the OVC Tournament title last weekend. Coach Kenny Doyle's team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament in May.
The night included Male and Female winners of Freshman of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Breakthrough Athlete of the Year.
On the women's side, the indoor track team grabbed two of those honors with Na'Asha Robinson being named Freshman of the Year and Sarah Brandt selected as Newcomer of the Year. The Breakthrough Athlete went to Olivia Bennett of the softball team.
For the men, the basketball team also grabbed two awards. Ryan Martin was tabbed as the Newcomer of the Year and Aleksa Jugovic was named the Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. The Male Freshman of the Year honor went to Guillermo Nicolas of the tennis team.
Academic success was also recognized, with winners announced as the large team and small team Academic Team of the Year awards. The large teams included the teams with rosters of 15 or more, while the definition of small teams was squads with rosters of less than 15 athletes. The winners were determined by the highest percentage of the roster to be included on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll in each of the past two semesters.
In the large team's category, the soccer team took first place, followed by softball and indoor track. Among the small teams, the winner was tennis, with men's golf second and women's golf third.
An Inspiration Award was presented, going to volleyball senior Cody Dodd, whose story was documented in a video. In it, she explained how her teammates, and all of the friends she has on other Golden Eagle teams as well as the entire Athletics community have become her "family" following the loss of her father during her high school career and her mother's passing away prior to Dodd's senior year.
The Comeback Athlete of the Year award went to senior linebacker Tra'Darius Goff, who returned from a season-ending injury in the 2014 season to have a record-setting, all-OVC season in 2015.
Two more individual honors included the Play of the Year and Performance of the Year. The Play of the Year honor went to soccer's Karigan Owens for her overtime, 40-yard game-winning goal over Austin Peay. The Performance of the Year recognized Brock McCoin's incredible night against Houston that included nine catches for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
The softball team's OVC Tournament Championship Game win over SIUE last May was selected as the Game of the Year.
Tech named soccer's Steve Springthorpe as Coach of the Year for taking a team that had extremely low expectations from the conference and capturing second place and setting a record for most conference victories.
A Community Service Award was also presented, recognizing teams for their finish in a t-shirt collection competition. That award was claimed by the softball team.
One other set of honors was the Golden Eagle Awards, an award created by members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Each team voted to select one member of the roster who they would hold up with pride to represent the team, who is always positive and giving 110 percent, supporting their teammates, win or lose, and serving as the "heart" of the team, no matter whether they were a star or a seldom-used backup. Each winner was announced by a teammate, who explained via video why the winner was selected.
The awards portin of the night followed a gala "Purple Carpet" reception in which student-athletes (and staff) clowned around at photo booths and celebrity interviews were filmed.
Male Freshman of the Year: Guillermo Nicolas, Tennis
Female Freshman of the Year: Na'Asha Robinson, Indoor Track & Field
Inspiration Award: Cody Dodd, Volleyball
Large Academic Team of the Year: Soccer
Small Academic Team of the Year: Tennis
Female Newcomer of the Year: Sarah Brandt, Indoor Track & Field
Male Newcomer of the Year: Ryan Martin, Men's Basketball
Community Service Award: Softball
Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year: Aleksa Jugovic, Men's Basketball
Female Breakthrough Athlete of the Year: Olivia Bennett, Softball
Game of the Year: Softball
Coach of the Year: Steve Springthorpe, Soccer
Play of the Year: Karigan Owens, Soccer
Comeback Athlete of the Year: Tra'Darius Goff, Football
Performance of the Year: Brock McCoin, Football
Teams of the Year: Softball & Tennis
Golden Eagle Awards:
Baseball – Connor Goodspeed
Men's Basketball – Savonte Frazier
Women's Basketball – Samaria Howard
Men's Cross Country – Collin Gwaltney
Women's Cross Country – Sarah Brandt
Football – Zach Malone
Men's Golf – Mitch Thomas
Women's Golf – Hollee Sadler
Soccer – McKenzie McCloud
Softball – Amity Brown
Tennis – Alex Arovin
Track & Field – Na'Asha Robinson
Volleyball – Kennedy Wade
Photo by Jim Dillon