By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110
SALEM, Ore. -- The 2017 Bearcat Awards Show was held at Hudson Concert Hall in the Rogers Music Center on Thursday, April 27. Awards were presented in a variety of categories. The top athletes and underclassmen were celebrated, along with outstanding moments, great individual performances, exceptional community service, and academic achievements.
The presentation of the J.H. Booth Award and the Jean Williams Award concluded the evening. Other top honors included the Julie Abendroth, Ed.D. Professor of the Year Award, Alumnus of the Year Award, and Sue J. Rauch Distinguished Service to Athletics Award.
J.H. Booth Award
The J.H. Booth Award is presented annually to the senior male student-athlete who most excelled in all areas of his career at Willamette by exemplifying and demonstrating outstanding leadership, scholarship and athleticism.
Alika Masei (Sr., Salem, OR/West Salem HS) from the men's swimming team was selected to receive the J.H. Booth Award. During his Willamette career, Masei set school records of 1:53.82 in the 200-yard backstroke and 3:31.35 as a member of the 400-yard medley relay team. He is on Willamette's top 10 lists in the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley.
Masei, who is majoring in Sociology as well as Women's and Gender Studies, is completing a minor in Asian Studies and has a 3.73 cumulative grade point average. He helped the men's swimming team earn Scholar All-America Team honors four times from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA). He has received multiple academic grants.
He is a member of the Order of Omega Greek Honor Society. He was selected as a presenter at the Lewis & Clark College Gender Studies symposium. Masei has completed quantitative and qualitative research on campus, and created a documentary on Oregon LGBTQ and College Students. He was involved in the President's task force on equity and inclusion at Willamette. Masei is a Mosaics Mentor, an Ohana Jumpstart Leader, and an executive member of the Asian Coalition for Equality Club.
Other Finalists: Christopher Barnes, men's soccer; Nikk Ryan, football; Clark Wilson, men's golf
Jean Williams Award
Presented annually to the senior female student-athlete who most excelled in all areas of her career at Willamette by exemplifying and demonstrating outstanding leadership, scholarship and athleticism.
Olivia Mancl (Sr., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS) from the women's cross country and women's track and field teams was chosen to receive the Jean Williams Award. Mancl has earned All-America honors twice in cross country after placing second at the NCAA Division III Championships in 2015 and taking 13th place in 2016. She competed at the NCAA Championships all four years.
Mancl won Northwest Conference individual championships in cross country in 2015 and 2016. She received First Team All-NWC honors all four seasons and was the NWC Runner of the Year twice. She was named All-West Region four times. She holds second place on Willamette's list at the 6-kilometer distance with a time of 20:53.8 in 2016.
In track and field, Mancl is ranked second all-time at Willamette in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 16:46.99 in 2016 and is third in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:30.85 in 2016. She was the NWC champion in the 1,500 in 2015. She has competed the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships twice, earning ninth place in the 1,500-meter run in 2015 and placing 19th in the 5,000-meter run in 2016.
Mancl is a Biology major with a 3.73 cumulative GPA. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. She has earned multiple grants at Willamette. She has been a team captain in 2015-16 and 2016-17. She is a co-president of the Zena Farm Club. She volunteers at the Minto Island Growers Farm.
Other Finalists: Alexa Dowdell, volleyball; Mallory Asaro, softball; Alex Wert, women's basketball
Men's Individual Performance of the Year
Awarded to a male student-athlete for a single play or performance that made the most impact on the competition, regardless of the outcome.
Trent Jones (So., Kenmore, WA/Shorecrest HS) from the men's golf team was named the winner. During the second weekend of March, Jones shot 11-under-par to win the Whitworth Invitational with a score of 133. He shot a career-low 65 in the first round and a 68 in the second round. He helped Willamette win the tournament by 19 strokes with a team score of 560 (287-273).
Other Finalists: Alan Hernandez, men's soccer, versus Linfield on Oct. 8; Perry Van Eckhardt, baseball, versus Lewis & Clark on April 5; Taylor Wyman, football, versus Puget Sound on Oct. 1
Women's Individual Performance of the Year
Awarded to a female student-athlete for a single play or performance that made the most impact on the competition, regardless of the outcome.
Ashley Evans (Jr., PG, Canby, OR/Canby HS) from the women's basketball team was selected as the winner. She tied a Willamette school record by hitting nine 3-point baskets in the season-opener against Warner Pacific College on Nov. 15. In addition, Evans scored a career-high 29 points, helping the Bearcats earn a 90-70 win.
Other Finalists: Mallory Asaro, softball, versus Puget Sound on Feb. 25; Alexa Dowdell, volleyball, versus Pacific Lutheran on Sept. 16; Olivia Mancl, women's cross country, at NWC Championships on Oct. 29.
Men's Student-Athlete Service Award
Awarded to a male student-athlete who has embodied the Willamette University motto "Non nobis solum nati sumus -- Not unto ourselves are we born." He has exhibited selflessness in his service to others on campus and in the community.
Jason Bayang (Sr., Wahiawa, HI/Hoala School) from the men's swimming team was named the winner. During the past four years, Bayang has been a volunteer coach for the Special Olympics swimming program in Marion and Polk counties. He also has completed 600 hours of service with two different non-profit organizations as a member of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps.
Other Finalist: Alika Masei, men's swimming
Women's Student-Athlete Service Award
Awarded to a female student-athlete who has embodied the Willamette University motto "Non nobis solum nati sumus -- Not unto ourselves are we born." She has exhibited selflessness in her service to others on campus and in the community.
Margo Coxon (Jr., Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) from the women's swimming team was chosen as the winner. She participates in the Willamette Community Service Leadership program. She plays in a key role in organizing the group's major event. She also leads members on field trips.
Other Finalists: Mallory Asaro, softball; Racyne Parker, women's track and field; Morgan Webster, volleyball
Men's Bearcat Spirit
Awarded to a male student-athlete who has embodied the experience of being a Willamette Bearcat. He displays Bearcat pride and supports not only his own team, but aso the other teams and the Athletics Department as a whole.
Jett Gallagher (Jr., RHP, Santa Cruz, CA/Santa Cruz HS) from the baseball team was selected to receive the award. He gathers his teammates and encourages them to attend as many Willamette athletic events as possible. He is a leader when it comes to bringing people together to support the Bearcats.
Other Finalists: Jason Bayang, men's swimming; Peter Mitzel, men's golf; Paimon Jaberi, football
Women's Bearcat Spirit
Awarded to a female student-athlete who has embodied the experience of being a Willamette Bearcat. She displays Bearcat pride and supports not only her own team, but also the other teams and the Athletics Department as a whole.
Taylor Lum (Sr., MH/OH, Honolulu, HI/Maryknoll HS) from the volleyball team was named the winner. She organized theme nights for several of the home volleyball matches. She promotes games and encourages students to attend Bearcats events. She has attended many events -- both home and away -- often with her teammates and other student-athletes.
Other Finalists: Steffany Dunn, softball; Riley Fawcett, volleyball; Jewell Sparks, track and field
Men's Moment of the Year
Awarded to the men's team or individual with the most memorable moment of the year. The moment centers around a point in a competition or a season that leaves an impact when you look back and reflect on the athletic year.
Cole Pursell (So., C, Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) from the baseball team was selected as the winner for his leadoff home run in the bottom of the 14th inning against Whitman College on March 11. His homer over the left field fence ended the longest game in Willamette baseball history and sent the Bearcats to a 4-3 victory.
Other Finalists: Men's Golf at Whitworth Invitational; Brendon McCullough, men's basketball, versus Pacific; Derek Ludwig and Mark Yuvienco, men's swimming, at NWC Championships
Women's Moment of the Year
Awarded to the women's team or individual with the most memorable moment of the year. The moment centers around a point in a competition or a season that leaves an impact when you look back and reflect on the athletic year.
Shanna Keil (Fr., M, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) from the women's soccer team was named the winner. She scored her first Willamette goal with 48 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Bearcats a 1-0 win at Lewis & Clark on Oct. 6.
Other Finalists: Women's Basketball versus Warner Pacific; Taiana Creekmur, softball, versus George Fox; Cassie Tallman and Ashlyn Witherwax, women's swimming, at NWC Championships
Men's Underclassman of the Year
Awarded to a male freshman or sophomore student-athlete who excelled and showed exceptional potential for his upcoming years as a Bearcat.
Trent Jones (So., Kenmore, WA/Shorecrest HS) from the men's golf team was chosen for the award. Jones placed in the top six in seven of his 10 tournaments. He took first place at the NWC Fall Classic with a par on the first playoff hole. He also won the Willamette Cup and the Whitworth Invitational. Jones led the team with a 74.00 stroke average during the season and was named First Team All-NWC.
Other Finalists: Connor Bailey, baseball; Jordan Jenkins, men's basketball; Michael Montague, men's cross country/men's track and field
Women's Underclassman of the Year
Awarded to a female freshman or sophomore student-athlete who excelled and showed exceptional potential for her upcoming years as a Bearcat.
Darian Gibson (So., LF, Newport Beach, CA/Calvary HS) from the softball team was chosen as the winner. She finished second on the team with 99 at bats, 20 runs scored and 37 hits. Gibson was third on the roster with four home runs, a .566 slugging percentage and a .374 batting average.
Other Finalists: Niki Kates, women's swimming; Shanna Keil, women's soccer; Jennifer Lane, volleyball
Men's Athlete of the Year
Awarded to a male student-athlete based on the culmination of his yearly stats and athletic accolades.
Trent Jones (So., Kenmore, WA/Shorecrest HS) from the men's golf team was selected as the winner. He earned First Team All-NWC honors after winning the individual title at the NWC Fall Classic, placing second at the NWC Spring Classic, and finishing tied for fifth place at the NWC Tournament. He shot a season-low 133 (65-68) to win the Whitworth Invitational and led the team with a 74.00 stroke average for the year.
Finalists: Patrick Loftus, men's cross country/men's track and field; Matt Steindorf, baseball; Taylor Wyman, football
Women's Athlete of the Year
Awarded to a female student-athlete based on the culmination of her yearly stats and athletic accolades.
Olivia Mancl (Sr., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS) from the women's cross country team and the women's track and field team was named the winner. She earned All-America honors in cross country for the second year in a row by placing 13th at the NCAA Championships. She won her second straight NWC individual title in cross country and placed second at the NCAA West Regional.
Other Finalists: Alexa Dowdell, volleyball; Cassie Tallman, women's swimming; Kylie Towry, women's basketball
Academic Teams of the Year
Awarded to the men's and women's teams who collectively excelled in the classroom. The teams who attain the highest cumulative grade point average through the fall semester receive this award.
Men's Award -- The men's cross country team received the award with a 3.32 cumulative GPA.
Other Men's Finalists: Baseball, Men's Basketball, Men's Golf
Women's Award -- The women's cross country team received the award with a 3.61 cumulative GPA.
Other Women's Finalists: Women's Golf, Women's Soccer, Women's Track and Field
Senior Scholar-Athlete Awards
Awarded to a male and female student-athlete who excels through the rigors of Willamette Athletics. The male and female student-athletes who attain the highest grade point average through the fall semester receive this award.
Men's Award -- Gunnar Lee (Sr., Hilo, HI/St. Joseph School) was chosen for the award. Lee has a 3.83 cumulative GPA. He is a double major in Chemistry (Biochemistry track ) and Japanese Studies.
Women's Award -- Racyne Parker (Sr., Klamath Falls, OR/Henley HS) was selected to receive the award. She has recorded a 3.92 cumulative GPA and is completing a double major in Biology and Anthropology.
SAAC Bearcat Cup
Competition for the Bearcat Cup is designed to increase school spirit by Willamette student-athletes and to encourage participation on campus and in Salem. Points are awarded to teams for attending home and away games, participating in community service, attending campus events, providing sibling teams with a gift package, etc. The team with the highest point total wins the Bearcat Cup
The softball team received the award for its exceptional support of other teams and campus activities.
Julie Abendroth, Ed.D., Professor of the Year
In memory of Professor Julie Abendroth, whose dedication to Willamette student-athletes was not limited to the classroom. She was a mentor and a friend of our student-athletes.
Presented by the Willamette Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to a Willamette University professor demonstrating devotion to the pursuit of excellence by our student-athletes in both academics and athletics.
Dr. Kelley Strawn, faculty athletics representative, was chosen for the award. Dr. Strawn is an associate professor of sociology and is the chair of the Department of Sociology.
Alumnus of the Year
Presented by the Willamette University coaches in honor of an alumnus who demonstrates a lifelong connection and commitment to Bearcat Athletics, its coaches and its student-athletes.
Matt Benjamin CLA '02, MBA '05, was chosen as the award winner. He is a wealth management advisor at Northwestern Mutual. He played baseball and football from 1998 to 2002 before becoming an assistant football coach for the 2002-03 season. In 2001-02, he was the recipient of the J.H Booth Award and was as an Academic All-America selection for District VIII in football and baseball. He has been an Alumni Board Member since 2013, has hired over 60 interns from Willamette in the last 13 years, and currently employs three Willamette graduates. He has been an active mentor in the AGSM mentorship program since 2006 and volunteers his time to do mock interviews and resume reviews on campus. Since the SAAC career night was created, Matt has been an annual participant by volunteering his time to speak with our student-athletes about career paths.
Sue J. Rauch Distinguished Service to Athletics Award
Presented by the Willamette University coaches in memory of Sue Rauch, a dedicated member of the Willamette community, whose continuous support and commitment served a vital role in the success of the Bearcat Athletics Department, its coaches and it's student-athletes.
Robert Minato, WITS associate, was named as the award winner. He is the User Services Consultant for the Athletics Department. His duties are: "Provides assistance to administrative departments, offices and individuals with computers, software and other technology-related issues." He is much more than just a consultant. He fixes our minor to major computer issues, makes suggestions as to what can be done to prolong the life of our computers, and also orders, delivers and sets up new equipment. He always keeps us posted on when he will be over and always keeps his word. He is extremely patient and he graciously accepts, "Oh, hey Robert, while you are here could you …" from many of our staff members every time he appears and cordially prolongs his stay.