April 15, 2013
With graduation on the near horizon, the Vanderbilt athletic family gathered Monday evening to celebrate the school year and honor some special members at annual Black and Gold Banquet. The event is organized and conducted by members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the awards represent for the most part votes by the teams.
Basketball's Tiffany Clarke was honored as "Miss Commodore" and football defensive lineman Johnell Thomas was voted "Mr. Commodore", an honor for a graduating student-athlete that best represents their team, the student-athlete body and the campus community. Clarke was a first team All-SEC selection, a nominee for the Senior CLASS Award and has over a 3.0 grade point with a double major.
Thomas was a football co-captain and one of the team's top players. He had overcome many obstacles prior to arriving at Vanderbilt and continued to shine in becoming a respected leader on campus and an honor student.
Bowling's Kim Carper won the James A. Robins Award, Class of 1892, which has been presented annually for 51 years to the student-athlete that best exemplifies selfless devotion to learning, honor, service to youth and Vanderbilt - qualities that Mr. Robins, an avid sportsman, exhibited during his lifetime of teaching. Carper, a member of two NCAA runners-up teams, has been a leader on the Student-Athletic Advisory Committee's community outreach, a blogger for her sport on ncaa.com and has been admitted into Peabody's five-year graduate program.
Alyson Hasty earned the Dr. Jerry Reves Award, an annual presentation to the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average. Alyson is a pole vaulter who will graduate with a current grade point of 3.925 in Child Development. She plans to attend graduate school next year.
Tennis' Kris Yee and golf's Jenny Hahn were honored as Men's and Women's Newcomer of the Year. Hahn has been a strong performer on the Top 10 rated women's golf squad, playing every round with a stroke average of 75. Yee won a team-high 16 straight matches for the Top 20 rated men's team.
Ryan Lipman of men's tennis and Hannah Jumper of women's cross country were voted the Comeback Players of the Year. Jumper missed her first season with an injury and bounced back to win the Belmont Opener and was among the team's top four finishers in every race. She was the top freshman finisher at the SEC Championship and was the SEC's Freshman of the Year.
Lipman missed his true junior campaign with a hip injury but has returned to play No. 1 and lead the team to a national ranking that has been as high as No. 14. He is personally rated among the nation's Top 20 individuals and was the SEC's Player of the Week when he helped his team get impressive road victories over nationally rated Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Brionne Williams was awarded the women's "Play of the Year" and football's Chris Boyd won the men's "Play of the Year". Williams won for a six-foot high jump that placed her among the national leaders and allowing her to become Vanderbilt's first track athlete to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championship. Boyd, a wide receiver, made two spectacular catches that were featured by ESPN. The play that caught the eye of the voters was his touchdown reception in the closing minute of the victory at Ole Miss, helping pave the way for the team's second straight bowl invitation.
Paige Cahill of the lacrosse team was voted by her fellow Commodores for the Community Service Award. Cahill is a three-year starter and helped her team connect with Friends of Jaclyn, which sponsors children with pediatric brain tumors, has worked with local women to start new lives through "Renu" and was a driving force behind the recent "Commodores Compete for a Cause" which raised over $12,000 for local charities.
An award new to the banquet this year was the "Shining Star", presented upon vote of each team to a member of that team who is an unsung hero and embodies the spirit of Vanderbilt Athletics. Those winners included:
Baseball D.J. Luna
Men's Basketball James Siakam
Women's Basketball Nadine Ndip
Bowling Liz Saffold
Men's Cross Country Alan Ash
Women's Cross Country Kara Slavoski
Football Warren Norman
Men's Golf Carson Jacobs
Women's Golf Morgan Ransom
Lacrosse Courtney Kirk
Soccer Taylor Elliott
Swimming Erika Deardorf
Men's tennis Eric Maertin
Women's tennis Megan Gornet
Track and field Brionne Williams
Athletic Director David Williams and Senior Woman Administrator Candice Lee presented momentos to SAAC's senior members and the lacrosse team was announced as the winner of the Commodores Compete for a Cause competition after raising over $3,000 for charity.