Blue Devil athletes honored at gala event

Fredonia State honored its senior student-athletes and presented its 2013-14 achievement awards Sunday afternoon during the annual season-ending event coordinated by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Seniors Becky Hebert of women’s basketball and Sean Larson of baseball were named female and male athletes of the year, respectively. Rookie of the Year honors went to Alexis Cheatham of women’s basketball and Arron Carlson of men’s swimming and diving. In addition, Lauren O’Hara of women’s volleyball was recognized for having the highest grade-point average among graduating seniors, while the women’s swimming and diving was cited for having the highest team GPA.

Brent Kawski received the SAAC Service Award for his diligent work on the Fredonia State athletic playing fields.

Kevin Sylvester of the Buffalo Sabres – a graduate of Fredonia State – served as master of ceremonies for the event, known as The SAAC Gala. University President Dr. Virginia Horvath and Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. David Herman were among the speakers. In addition, three SAAC co-presidents – Chelsea Maderer of women’s lacrosse, Joe Pagano of men’s soccer, and Shannon Letina of women’s soccer – detailed a long list of community service activities performed by Blue Devil teams during the 2013-14 academic year.

The afternoon began with a parents’ reception in the Williams Center, during which 22 juniors and seniors became Fredonia State’s first inductees into Chi Alpha Sigma, a nonprofit organization established to recognize college student-athletes who, among other criteria, maintain a 3.4 or higher cumulative GPA. History professor and Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Eileen Lyon was instrumental in forming Fredonia State’s Chi Alpha Sigma chapter and took part in the induction ceremony.

Following the reception, seniors proceeded to Rosch Recital Hall – located inside the School of Music’s Mason Hall – for the Gala, where their entrance into the hall was cheered by family and friends, including members of Fredonia State’s 19 varsity teams. Following comments from Dr. Horvath and Dr. Herman, two alumni – Tom Wilson, head coach of men’s and women’s cross country and track & field, and John Grabowski, assistant coach of men’s soccer – introduced the four Female Rookie of the Year nominees: Cheatham, Kristie Kleine of women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, Sara Madison of women’s volleyball, and Erin Mushtare of softball.

Video clip highlights of all four nominees were shown – a feature repeated in each of the four athletic award nomination categories – before Cheatham was named as the winner, followed by a taped congratulatory message of women’s basketball head coach Linda Hill-MacDonald.

Mr. Wilson and Mr. Grabowski remained on-stage to announce the three Male Rookie of the Year nominees. In addition to Carlson, the list included Jeff Flagler of men’s hockey and Mike Prentice of baseball. The announcement of Carlson as winner was followed by taped congratulations from Arthur Wang, head coach of men’s and women’s swimming and diving.

The three SAAC co-presidents came to the podium to talk about community service projects accomplished during the year. They were followed by Dr. Lyon. In addition to talking about Chi Alpha Sigma, she recited a list of academic achievements by Blue Devils during 2013-14. She asked members of the women’s swimming and diving team to stand and be recognized for attaining the highest team GPA – 3.45. Team captains Kristen Champoux, Stephanie Rosa and Jenni Smith received the award on behalf of the team. Dr. Lyon concluded by presenting the Fredonia State Athletics Scholar-Athlete Award to Ms. O’Hara, an Interdisciplinary Studies Exercise Science major, with a 3.94 GPA through seven semesters.

Director of Athletics Greg Prechtl was called upon to present the 2013-14 SAAC Service Award to Mr. Kawski. An employee of the campus grounds department since 1986, Mr. Kawski has since been appointed Senior Athletic Groundskeeper.

“Brent works tirelessly, through his breaks,” Mr. Prechtl said, quoting a colleague, “while also taking late lunches and working after hours in order to make sure that ‘his fields,’ as he affectionately calls them, are in good playing shape. … He takes great pride in the athletes’ enjoyment of their sports, as well as their appreciation of him and his work.”

Assistant Director of Athletics Joe Baudo and assistant women’s lacrosse coach Amy Simon, also a Fredonia State alum, followed with a recitation of honors received and milestones achieved by Blue Devils during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Ms. Simon referenced the women’s lacrosse team’s 9-8 NCAA Tournament win Saturday over RPI and a video montage of the event was presented.

Each of the senior student-athletes was then called to the stage individually to be recognized in front of a backdrop of an action shot of them. Four-year team members received a commemorative watch while seniors who participated fewer than four seasons received a plaque, all presented by Mr. Prechtl.

Mr. Sylvester invited head men’s soccer coach P.J. Gondek and Assistant Director of Athletics Megan Valentine to the podium to make the presentations of the Female and Male Athlete of the Year awards. In addition to Hebert, the women’s nominees were Anna Dambacher of women’s track and field, Ashley Keller of women’s swimming and diving, and Katie Kleine of women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse. The male nominees were, in addition to Larson, Tyrone Clark of men’s basketball, John Estainslau of men’s swimming and diving, and Chase Lipshie of men’s soccer. Taped congratulatory messages were delivered by Ms. Hill-MacDonald to Hebert, and to head baseball coach Matt Palisin to Larson.

Joe Calarco, head coach of women’s tennis, recited his traditional season-ending poem entitled “The Scrapbook” and a video montage was shown of Blue Devil teams off and one the court during the past year.

A string quartet comprised of four Fredonia State students played at the parents’ reception. Quartet members were Rachel Conklin and Stephen Minor on violins, Chelsea Hadden on viola, and John Chatterton on cello.