By Thomas Corhern
COOKEVILLE -- There aren't many athletes who do what Tacarra Hayes did for the Tennessee Tech women's basketball program or even in the athletics department, for that matter.
Over the course of her career, Hayes helped rebuild the Golden Eagles back into an Ohio Valley Conference power and the work shown is just beginning to pay dividends.
And with that, Hayes joins Diane Seng as the only three-time Tech Female Athlete of the Year. Seng also won the award a fourth time. Hayes won the award in 2010 and split the award with volleyball standout Leah Meffert in 2011.
"That's a tremendous feat for Tacarra personally to win it three years in a row," said Tech athletics director Mark Wilson. "It really is remarkable and I think that's a tribute to her and how hard she has worked as a student-athlete."
Hayes added, "I'm excited about this feat. It's something that has only been done once before and it's been a while since Diane did it. It's just a huge honor to be recognized once again. It's a great way to end my career."
Hayes beat out fellow women's basketball players Jala Harris and Molly Heady, as well as Rebecca Cline (cross country/track), Kelsey Gray (volleyball), Allison May (volleyball), Kerri Reid (soccer), Brittney Spaulding (softball), Holly Thomas (softball) and Brandy VanEtten (golf).
In the 18 years the award has been presented since 1994, 12 have gone to women's basketball with Taunya Lovelace (1995), Seng (1997-2000), Janet Holt (2001-02), Emily Christian (2005-06), and Hayes (2010-12) accepting the honors.
Every year, Hayes just seemed to find ways to get better and better and better.
"I felt like every summer I was putting the work in and stepping it up more," Hayes said. "I was just in the gym more and more each summer, elevating my game. It really improved my game."
In her senior campaign, Hayes continued to be a force for the Golden Eagles, leading the team in several categories: points (578 and a 17.0 per-game average), rebounds (214 total and 6.3 per game), assists (142 and 4.1 per game) and steals (47 and 1.3 per game).
Before the 2011-12 campaign started, the OVC named her the preseason player of the year, then, at the season's conclusion, was named to the first-team all-OVC roster for the third straight season.