Monday, July 20, 2009

Saluting the Most Superlative

I'll admit, there are a lot of honors, awards, and lists out's fair to say that many superlatives get handed out in sports, both before and after seasons--best this, most that, top-of-the-other...but with that said, here are two titles that should get your attention: Athlete of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

The winners of THESE awards have been recognized as the top performers across all the Big South teams in all of the Conference sports. They have proven themselves as the best in competition and in academics, and deserve their moment of applause, so let's do it.........

Let's start with the men (the reason will be evident in a moment):

Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Aaron Linn, Gardner-Webb men's basketball. An ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-American in 2009, Linn graduated from Gardner-Webb with a 4.00 grade-point average (!) in finance. Linn earned All-Conference Second-Team honors in 2008-09 and ranked among Conference leaders in free throw percentage (5th, .780), steals (4th, 1.97), field goal percentage (10th, .425), and assists (11th, 3.00). He scored in double figures 16 times in his last 18 starts of the season. There's no doubt Aaron Linn was a stellar contributor on the court and in class, and we congratulate him on this honor.

Howard Bagwell Male Athlete of the Year: Sam Chelanga, Liberty men's track/cross country. In a year with several outstanding candidates (other finalists included Rashad Jennings, Martin Sayer, Artsiom Parakhouski, and Cody Wheeler), Chelanga outran the field. His accomplishments in distance running, both in track & field competition and in cross country, are almost too numerous to list (for all the details, read the article here), but let's give the summary version: a multiple All-American, national runner-up at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championship and also in the 5K final at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship, NCAA 10K record-holder (27:28.48 on 4/24/09), and record-holder many times over at the school and Conference levels. He was voted the Big South Men’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year and was the Conference’s Cross Country Runner of the Year. Chelanga captured individual Big South titles in cross country, the indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500 and 5K. And yes, that really is the short version--such an outstanding year for this brightly-burning Liberty Flame! With Chelanga following Josh McDougal, that's four years running (pun intended) for LU winning the Bagwell Award.

Okay, NOW to the women's honors...and an extra-special salute, because the top Athlete and the top Scholar-Athlete are one and the same: Megan Frazee, Liberty women's basketball. What can you say about an athlete who has proven herself the best among her peers in athletic competition and a remarkable leader in academic endeavors? On the way to earning back-to-back Athlete of the Year awards, Frazee was voted both the Big South Women’s Basketball Player of the Year and the Tournament MVP for a second consecutive year. In addition, she was a First-Team All-Big South selection for the third-straight year, and capped her senior season by being named an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American. Frazee was one of just three players in the nation to rank in the Top 25 in both scoring and rebounding, and she scored in double figures in a school-record and nation-leading (at the time the streak was broken) 68 consecutive games. She is currently playing in the WNBA for the San Antonio Silver Stars after being selected with the No. 14 pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft. All that, along with graduating from Liberty University with a 3.92 average in kinesiology to demonstrate her classroom acumen, makes Megan Frazee one of the Big South's great student-athlete performers--not just from this year, but from Conference history.

We offer hearty congratulations and a major SHOUT-out to Aaron Linn, Sam Chelanga, and Megan Frazee! Bravo!

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