April 14, 2009
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Several hundred Vanderbilt student athletes gathered Monday evening for the annual Black and Gold Banquet, in which honors a variety of Commodores for achievement on a variety of fronts.
The Tolbert Cup is awarded to the team with the best combination of winning percentage, community service and cumulative grade point average. This year's winner was the men's cross country team, which possessed the highest overall team grade point average of 3.755 among the 2008 NCAA Division I programs and combined for over 1,500 volunteer hours of community service.
The team finished third at the Belmont/VU Opener to kick off their season, and followed that performance with a win at the Commodore Classic. The 'Dores were also 13th at the NCAA South Regional.
The Jim Robins Award was presented to basketball's Christina Wirth. It is given annually to perpetuate the memory of James A. Robins, class of 1892, whose life and teaching exemplified selfless devotion to learning, to honor, to participate in sports and service to youth and Vanderbilt. It is awarded to the senior student-athlete in whose life these virtues are most evident. A plaque hangs on the 1st floor of the Sarratt Student center beyond the baseball glove lounge to celebrate this award and honor the legacy of Jim Robins.
Wirth led the Commodores in scoring at 16.6 points per game and pulled down nearly six rebounds per game. Her team went 26-9 this season, advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16. She was named the Most Valuable Player of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which the Commodores won for a sixth time. In addition, she was recently the 19th pick in the WNBA draft. Off the court, Tina was the 2009 SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, a member of 2009 SEC Community Service team, and involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Tina was also a SAAC representative for the Women's Basketball Team.
The Community Service Award went to cross country's Rob Whiting, a leader to his fellow student-athletes by his tireless work to make a difference. A four-year letter winner, Rob is double majoring in economics and East Asian studies. He is an Ingram Scholar, which is Vanderbilt's most prestigious award and is based on academics and commitment to service. Since coming to Vanderbilt, Whiting has worked tirelessly in the Nashville community and around the world. On campus, Whiting was an active member of SPEAR (Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility) before starting Vanderbilt Students for Students, which provides college mentoring as well as a scholarship for a deserving local high school student.
For the past three summers, Rob has been spending time in China teaching English to underprivileged areas while immersing himself in the language and culture. He was also named a finalist for the Wooden Cup, an award given to a collegiate or professional athlete who has made the greatest positive influence in the lives of others.
The Dr. Jerry Reves Award is presented annually to the graduating senior student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average. This year, that recipient was track and cross country runner Amanda Scott.
Amanda is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Society and will receive her Bachelor of Engineering degree in May with a double major in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and a double minor in Mathematics and Material Science. Amanda has achieved Dean's List every semester while at Vanderbilt, and SEC Academic Honor Roll every year. She will attend Cambridge University in England next fall to pursue a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering. She participated in the Homecoming Court this past year and is actively involved in VSS and SAAC as well as various other community projects that promote social responsibility. She is most passionate about developing renewable/alternative energy sources, and hopes to use her education and training to make an impact in this industry.
Meredith Marsh was voted to have made the Play of the Year in women's sports. In the Feb. 12 game against Florida, she set a career-high with 26 points, breaking her previous mark of 21 she had against Arkansas. She also made eight three pointers to tie the school-record for threes in a game. Marsh's game led the Commodores to an 84-68 routing of then ranked #9 Florida.
On a frigid day in December at LP Field, the Commodores took on the Boston College Eagles in the first bowl for Vanderbilt since the 1982 Gator Bowl. The game came down to Bryant Hahnfeldt kicking a 45-yard field goal with 3:26 left. By splitting the uprights, the Commodores won a bowl game for the first time in exactly 53 years, with a 16-14 win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl and gave Hahnfeldt the 2009 Male Play of the Year.
When women's soccer player Nicole Lukens was told that she had a tumor in het tibia, she wasn't sure about her future walking, much less playing soccer. After removing the tumor and pretty much having a hole in her shin, months of rehab and riding around on a scooter followed. Through her hard work and dedication, Nicole made it back to the playing field and became a contributing member of the team. She was awarded the Female Comeback Player of the Year.
Baseball's Aaron Westlake found himself in a difficult situation when doctors found blood clots in his arm. The diagnosis was made quickly, and before long it was determined their development was the result of a perfect storm of sorts - a combination of physiology, physical exertion and diet.
Westlake's blood was thicker than normal due to a high level of vitamin K, known as the clotting vitamin. The way his particular veins were structured around the bones in the shoulder not only was unusual but also a contributing factor. Plus his hard work in the weight room, which included overhead lifting, was an issue. Aaron's body did not respond as expected to treatment. Thus, what typically is a four or five day hospital stay turned into two and a half weeks. At one point, doctors told him he received three times the normal dosage of blood thinners given to patients.
Westlake recovered, and has since played a huge role on this year's baseball team. By filling in for injured catcher Andrew Giobbi at the beginning of the season, and recently playing first base or designated hitter, Westlake has proven to be an integral part of the Commodore Baseball team. He was presented the Male Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Anna Carr broke the 60-meter dash school record in her first collegiate track meet and was named the Female Newcomer of the Year. She ran a 7.65, topping the previous record of 7.68 which was seven years old. Carr is consistently among the best sprinters in two different events the 60-meter and the 200-meter.
Jeff Taylor was the Male Newcomer of the Year. He enjoyed an impressive freshman campaign for the Commodores, and was the fifth highest scoring newecomer in the league at 12.0 points per game. He had three double-doubles on the season and started in every game this year. Taylor also had 6.2 rebounds per game. He was also named to the SEC All-Freshman Men's Basketball Team.
The Mr. and Miss Commodore awards go to graduating seniors who best represent their sport, all student-athletes, and the campus community. The voting for this year's awards was opened up to all student-athletes.
The Miss Commodore Award went to Christina Wirth, her second award of the night. She began graduate studies at the Vanderbilt School of Nursing this past fall while also finishing up her undergraduate degree in human and organizational development.
Christina Wirth is active in community service efforts, and also one of the women's basketball team's representatives to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Vanderbilt student-athletes must focus their attention on and off the field of competition. The most successful Vanderbilt athletes go beyond expectations, achieving at remarkable levels.
The recipient of the Mr. Commodore Award has embodied those characteristics since arriving on campus. Football's Reshard Langford designated himself as one of the top players on the Commodore football team. One of the most consistent and hardest-hitting Commodores, he led by example on the football field, playing with a rare brand of physicality. The Tanner, Ala., native was a staple in the Commodores' lineup throughout his career, starting every game since he redshirted in 2004 and leading all active position players with 48 consecutive starts and 246 career tackles. He was also named to the SEC Community Service team this year for his work as a mentor for inner city youth at the Martha O'Bryan Center. Also, Langford recently received the Vanderbilt Hustle Award at the football banquet.