BOULDER — A dozen major awards were presented here Tuesday night as the University of Colorado honored its best at the 12th annual CUSPY Awards (CU Sports Performers of the Year).
Over 300 student-athletes, coaches, staff and C-Club members attended the year-end banquet at the Coors Events Center, organized by CU’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) to honor athletic accomplishments for the 2011-12 athletic season.
The Male Athlete of the Year Award was presented to sophomore basketball player Andre Roberson, who ranked third nationally in rebounding for coach Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes. Roberson broke the CU season rebounding record, snaring 401 on the season, breaking a 58-year-old record. He was the only Pac-12 player to average a double-double with 11.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. He earned first-team All-Pac-12, first-team All-Pac-12 Defensive and the All-Pac-12 Tournament Team. The Buffaloes won four games in four days to claim the Pac-12 Championship and crashed the Big Dance, topping UNLV and advancing to the third round before all was said and done.
The two other finalists were Richard Medina (cross country) and Rune Oedegaard (skiing).
Junior track phenom Shalaya Kipp earned the Female Athlete of the Year Award honor. Kipp led the Buffs in every race this season for the cross country team, helping the Buffs to an upset victory at the Pac-12 Championships, allowing CU to sweep the championships and claim the school’s first two conference championships in its new league. She won the Rocky Mountain Shootout with the 10th fastest time in course history and was fourth both at the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA Regionals, with the Buffaloes also won. She earned first-team All-Pac-12 and first-team All-Region honors.
Kipp, who ran the fastest collegiate time in the steeplechase just this past weekend, topped Erika Ghent (skiing), Chucky Jeffery (basketball) and Alex Stewart (golf) for the honor.
The selection committee does leave open the possibility that the Athlete-of-the-Year awards could be shared once the spring sport seasons are complete (golf, outdoor track, tennis) in fairness to those sports that still have important portions of their seasons ahead of them.
Women’s golf did have a winner even though the NCAA Championships lie ahead (CU hosts the West Regional next Thursday through Saturday, May 10-12) at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie. Emily Talley was honored with the Female Career Athletic Achievement Award for her four years of contributions in helping turn Anne Kelly’s team into a national power. Talley owns 35 CU records, including 16 career records, most of them that reside in the record book. She is CU’s career stroke average leader for players with 100 rounds by over two strokes per round. She has 30 top 20 performances, 10 more than any player in CU history, and 19 top 10 finishes, nine more than any other Buffalo. Last week she became the first CU player to break 70 in the postseason with her 3-under par 69 in the second round of the Pac-12 Championships.
The other nominees for the Female Career Athletic Achievement Award were Emma Coburn (cross country) and Katie Hartman (skiing).
The Male Career Athletic Achievement Award went to football player Rodney Stewart. He finished his career with 3,598 rushing yards, good for second on CU’s all-time list, and despite missing four games with a knee injury, set nine season or career marks his senior year: most career rushing attempts (809), most career all-purpose plays (919), most career all-purpose yards (4,828—3,598 rushing, 969 receiving, 261 returns), most career yards gained from scrimmage, both overall and minimum of at least 500 yards rushing and receiving (4,567), most career receptions by a running back (93), including the mark for a single season (45), and the most season (571) and career (969) receiving yards by a running back. He also finished 10th in rushing touchdowns (25), 11th in total offense (3,635 yards) and tied for 18th in scoring (150 points). He became the first player to lead the Buffaloes in rushing for four seasons, and was just the ninth to have done it for three years in a row, one of five to have done that with at least 600 yards all three seasons. His 16 career 100-yard rushing games were the second most in school history as he was the first player to start a game at running back in four different seasons since Eric Bieniemy did so from 1987-90.
The other finalists for male career athletic achievement were Austin Dufault (basketball) and Vegard Kjoelhamar (skiing).
The Male Freshman Athlete of the Year Award was captured by Adam Zika, who was the NCAA champion in the giant slalom, winning by the widest margin in 32 years; he was CU’s ninth GS champion and the first since 1995. He was also 10th nationally in the slalom, thus becoming a two-time All-American in the process. He had two wins on the season, with nine top 10 and six top five finishes overall in helping the Buffaloes to a third place finish at the NCAA’s.
The other finalists were Spencer Dinwiddie (basketball) and Ammar Moussa (cross country).
Rachel Baptista earned the Female Freshman Athlete of the Year Award after earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in cross country. Her 14th place finish at the Pac-12 Championships was a key ingredient in the Buffs upsetting the field and winning the inaugural championship. Baptista bested Lexy Kresl (basketball) and Julyette Steur (tennis) in claiming the honor.
SAAC members selected several award winners, including the CU Sports "Moment of the Year." The winning moment was the double victory by the men’s and women’s cross country teams in the very first Pac-12 Championships sponsored by the conference last October. The sweep served to announce Colorado’s continued presence as a national cross country power by winning the titles in what is considered as the nation’s strongest running conference. Runner-ups were the women's golf team winning three tournaments and being on the brink of a top 10 ranking; junior Mary Rose’s fifth place finish under pressure to secure the ski team of a full 12-skier squad for the NCAA’s; and the men’s basketball team winning four games in four days to win the Pac-12 tournament and earn a bid into the NCAA tournament.
Craig Downing was recognized as the staff member of the year. A member of CU’s weight staff, Downing was cited for helping to contribute to make the weight room environment friendly and efficient. His dedication and understanding to the athletes is unmatched compared to previous interns in his position.
The Student Athlete Support Award was given to Compliance Office for the department’s hard work and dedication in the areas of eligibility and rules education; it’s the third time the office has been selected for the award by SAAC. The Herbst Academic Center (two-time winner) and the Operations Staff were the other finalists.
The prestigious Buffalo Award of Distinction, given to student-athletes of each gender for outstanding contributions to his or her team, their peers and the athletic department overall, were presented to Adam Salzmann (combined events, track) and Julie Seabrook (basketball). Both participated in several CU community outreach projects, including Buffalo Hugs, Read With The Buffs and the Holiday Angel Tree, as well as other community activities, and were also team leaders and solid role models.
The SAAC Distinguished Service Award, presented to senior members who contributed significantly to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, was given to 14 seniors: Ania Anuszkiewicz (tennis), Cameron Clayton (cross country & track), Eric Davis (skiing), Caroline Danneberg (soccer), Stephen Kasica (cross country & track), Kevin Kring (men’s golf), Seabrook, Taggart Spenst (skiing), Katie Stege (skiing), Meaghan Kari (women’s golf), Kirsten Wicks (track & field), Andy Wacker (cross country & track), Christian Thompson (cross country & track) and Eddie Taylor (track & field).
The Spencer Nelson Buffalo Spirit Award, originally known as the Athlete’s Choice Award but was renamed for the CU skier died in a tragic hiking accident in August 2010; it is presented to the student or students who demonstrated outstanding spirit, enthusiasm and leadership while overcoming adversity. This year’s was presented to Katie Dreher, a combined events performer on the track team; she lost her father, the Reverend Steven Dreher, when his private plane, a Cessna 337 in which he had logged over 500 hours of flight time, crashed due to engine trouble south of Alamosa last November 10. He was the longtime pastor at First Lutheran Church in Salida.
The Speed, Strength & Conditioning Awards for the “lifters of the year” were awarded to Dufault (men’s basketball), Dreher and Salzmann (track) and Alyssa Valentine (volleyball). The Super Iron Buffalo Award went to Eric Richter, a member of the football team.
Originally created in 2001, the annual event is one of the most popular among the athletes, as they have tailored the function to be the final social gathering solely amongst themselves for the last time before finals and summer vacation, if not for a longer period of time for those graduating. It is believed to be one of the only events in the country almost entirely organized by the student-athletes, and certainly was among, if not, the first.
CU’s SAAC would like to recognize and sincerely thank the food and beverage sponsors for the 12th Annual CUSPY’s; all items were donated:
Bank of the West
Chipotle Mexican Grill
CU Conference Services
RC Special Events
West End Tavern
White Wave Foods