Some of Northwestern State’s top student-athletes were in the spotlight at the Second Annual Vic’s Choice Awards, a celebration of achievement primarily outside of the games they play.
Remarkable accomplishments in academics and community service were highlighted, along with other outstanding contributors at Monday night’s banquet and ceremony at the Friedman Student Union Ballroom on campus.
More than 300 student-athletes attending heard a compelling keynote speech from former Demon baseball player Sonny Terrill, a senior human resources executive at Cigna-HealthSpring and chairman of Cul2vate, a non-profit organization that fights world hunger.
Lady Demon basketball senior Janelle Perez received the “Heart of a Demon Award” selected by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, in tribute to her career achievements and conduct. The award goes to a student-athlete who embodies NSU Athletics’ cornerstone values of academic achievement, personal responsibility and competitive success, while supporting fellow Demon athletes.
JeMarcus Marshall, a junior defensive end on the football team, and soccer senior Natalie Pena shared the Commitment to Service Award.
The Academic Trailblazer Award, recognizing remarkable perseverence and achievement, was presented by City Bank and Trust president John Ackel to junior offensive guard Terrance Boyd of the football team. Boyd has overcome illness, injury and initial academic struggles to become a Dean’s List student heading into his senior season.
Three outgoing 2015-16 competitors were recognized as the Academic Seniors of the Year. Lady Demon tennis star Natalya Krutova owns a cumulative 4.0 grade point average in biology, as does Meghan Cross of the women’s basketball team. Demon basketball senior Matt Killian posted a combined 4.0 GPA in the spring and fall 2015 semesters, and has a cumulative GPA of 3.86 in health and physical education.
Demon basketball standout Sabri Thompson and Lady Demon basketball star Beatrice Attura, both business administration majors, were the Academic Juniors of the Year. Attura had a perfect 4.0 in 2015’s two semesters and Thompson owns a cumulative GPA of 3.71.
For the sophomore class, winners were Lady Demon track and field competitor Kylie Nodorft and football offensive lineman Andrew McAlister. He posted a 4.0 GPA in 2015 and has a cumulative GPA of 3.88 in business administration. She has a 4.0 cumulative GPA in health and exercise science.
There were a dozen freshmen student-athletes who posted a 4.0 GPA in their first semester of college last fall. Four came from the Lady Demon volleyball team: Channing Burleson, Madeline Drake, Abby Gardea and Reagan Rogers. The list included two football players, Hunter Bedgood and Chris Zirkle, and two Lady Demon track and field athletes, Tyra Duma and Sarah Lewis. Also perfect in their first semesters at NSU were softball’s Katelyn Boles, soccer’s April Ficarrotta, Colby Koontz of the Demon basketball and baseball programs, and baseball’s Kyle Swanson.
One competitor from each of NSU’s sports was recognized as their team’s Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2014-15 year. For women’s sports, the winners were Presley Owens (basketball), Cassandra Barefield (softball), Yanci Johnson (soccer), Natalie Jaeger (volleyball), Rechelle Bessard (track and field), Jacqueline Rushford (cross country) and Krutova (tennis). In men’s sports, the awards went to Cody Jones (football), Regan Kaufman (baseball), Tra’von Joseph (basketball), Quinton Helaire (track and field) and Tyler Corwin (cross country).
Athletic director Greg Burke presented the Outstanding Community Member Award to NSU alumnus (1982) and Natchitoches Parish Clerk of Court-elect David Stamey. The award recognizes longterm involvement with the athletics program and its student-athletes, and major service and support provided to NSU Athletics. The inaugural winner in 2015 was retired local businessman Layne Miller.
A new honor, the Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award, went to Fellowship of Christian Athletes co-sponsor Christie Price of the Military Science department. It spotlights constant engagement with, and support of, the student-athletes who represent NSU in competition.
The NSU Coach of the Year honor was a tie in voting by all head coaches on staff. Track and field head coach Mike Heimerman and Lady Demon softball coach Donald Pickett were co-winners.
The final awards presented were the Demon Cup honors, given to the teams that compiles the highest point totals in athletic and academic achievement, community success and “Demons4Demons” participation in attending home events for other sports. The narrow winners were Demon baseball and Lady Demon tennis.
Demon Sports Network announcer Tony Taglavore was the master of ceremonies for the evening. Among the guests were NSU President Dr. Jim Henderson and first lady Tonia Henderson, and Kenny Knotts, chairman of the board of the Demons Unlimited Foundation, the non-profit support organization for NSU Athletics.