MARS HILL, N.C. - The Mars Hill University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) put together their second annual Lions' Choice Awards that saw academic and athletic achievements recognized Wednesday evening in Moore Auditorium.
Kicking off the evening, the academic achievements of the student-athletes were on display. Softball's Casey Stanek and Baseball's Troy Hall took home the Female and Male Highest GPA awards while the women's swim team claimed the Team Highest GPA award. Stanek was also named Female Athlete of the Year later in the evening. The senior tied a school-record this past season with 15 wins.
Women's Track and Field's Kylee Peck won Female Newcomer of the Year while Javonte' Cooke of the men's basketball team won the Male Newcomer of the Year award. Heading into the first intermission, a new award was presented. Winning the inaugural Most Supportive Team award was Kristina Llanes' led women's lacrosse team.
Providing entertainment for the second year in the row was the Mars Hill University West African Percussion Ensemble with yet another lively, exciting performance that elevated the energy in the room. SAAC Co-Presidents Leah Hairfield (women's soccer) and Jayson Moorman (men's lacrosse/soccer) introduced another new tradition to the Lions' Choice Awards; the Paper Plate Awards. The Paper Plate Awards were personalized awards created by the university's teams for their respective coaches.
Returning to the slate of events, the event saw its first repeat winners in the "Make It Yours" Community Engagement Award and Faculty/Staff Supporter of the Year Award. Both the Mars Hill baseball team, led by Aaron Rembert, and Dr. Craig Goforth won their respective awards for the second straight year. Another debuting award, Caleb Strother took home the Athletic Trainer of the Year Award.
Craig Rucker earned two awards on the evening, including the First Team Sports Performance of the Year Award for his five touchdown performance versus Limestone in September, setting a South Atlantic Conference and school record. Fueled by that performance and consistency throughout the year that earned the junior wide receiver numerous post season accolades, Rucker was also named the Male Athlete of the Year.
Claiming the biggest prizes of the evening, Man and Woman of the Year, was football's Jake Sell and softball's Jordan Harris. Both Sell and Harris will advance to the South Atlantic Conference ballot. Last year's Man of the Year winner, baseball's Zac Brown, was named the SAC Man of the Year in its debut.
Wrapping up the evening was a passionate, inspiring speech by President Tony Floyd, where he recounted incredible performances from this past year and encouraged the Lions to ride the momentum and carry it over into the 2019-20 campaign.
To view the full show, please click here. For a full list of award winners, please see below:
Female Highest GPA: Casey Stanek (softball)
Male Highest GPA: Troy Hall (baseball)
Team Highest GPA: Women's Swimming
Female Newcomer of the Year: Kylee Peck (track and field)
Male Newcomer of the Year: Javonte' Cooke (basketball)
Most Supportive Team: Women's Lacrosse
"Make It Yours" Community Engagement: Baseball
Faculty/Staff Supporter of the Year: Dr. Craig Goforth
Athletic Trainer of the Year: Caleb Strother
First Team Sports Performance of the Year: Craig Rucker vs. Limestone (football)
Female Athlete of the Year: Casey Stanek (softball)
Male Athlete of the Year: Craig Rucker (football)
Man of the Year: Jake Sell (football)
Woman of the Year: Jordan Harris (softball)