EDWARSDVILLE, Ill. – SIUE cross country and track and field held a luncheon this past Saturday to honor former Head Coach John Flamer, the seniors, last year's outdoor track and field award winners, and announce the captains of each team.
"I can't think of a better way to honor Coach Flamer than to present awards to our outstanding athletes both athletically and academically as well as announce our 2014-15 Captains," said Head Coach Eileen McAllister.
Cross country seniors Emily Conlon and Luke Padesky both were honored at their last home race.
The academic portion of the awards ceremony was highlighted by the 2013-14 women's track team, which was an NCAA Division I All-Academic Team for the fourth consecutive year.
LaDonna Caston and Julian Harvey were NCAA Division I All-Academic for the first time in SIUE Division I history. To win the award, an individual must qualify for the NCAA championship as well as have a 3.25 cumulative GPA. Harvey qualified in the long jump, high jump, and triple jump, while Caston qualified in the 100- meter hurdles.
Hilary Conrad was honored for the highest GPA over at least five semesters on the team with a 3.786.
The Male and Female Track and Field Athletes of the Year were honored at the ceremony as well.
Senior Braxton Klavins won the Male Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year. Klavins qualified for the NCAA first round in the 200 and 400, qualified for the NCAA finals in the 400, set a new SIUE 400 record of 46.13 seconds, and was a second team All-American in the 400. Klavins also was recognized as the Ohio Valley Conference Men's Athlete of the Outdoor Championship for his 24-point performance, notching wins in the 400, 200, 4x400 relay, and placing third in the 4x100 relay.
The Women's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year featured co-winners Claire Brown and Jessica Oranika.
Brown scored 14 points at the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, making her the highest point scorer for the SIUE women's team. She placed second in the steeplechase while setting a new SIUE record of 10:37.57. She placed third in the 5,000 meter run with a time of 17:33.07.
Oranika qualified for the NCAA first round in the 400, running an SIUE record 53.51.
La'Derrick Ward was the winner of the Men's Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year, tallying 18 points at the OVC Championship. He won the long jump and placed second in the triple jump with an SIUE record of 15.22 meters. Ward became SIUE's first NCAA Division I Outdoor first team All-American after qualifying for the NCAA first round and finals. He led the NCAA in the long jump for a majority of the season with a jump of 8.00 meters. He qualified and competed at the USATF Championship and represented the United States at the Pan American Festival.
Jatavia Wright won the award for Women's Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year. She scored the second-highest point total for the SIUE women at the Ohio Valley Conference Championship with 13.25 points. She won the triple jump, setting a new SIUE record of 12.77 meters. She was an NCAA first round and finals qualifier in the triple jump. She set the SIUE record for the long jump at 5.90 meters. Wright was an honorable mention All-American.
SIUE men's and women's track and field totaled 88 personal bests, 12 top three additions on the SIUE all-time list, 15 SIUE records set, seven OVC Champions, seven NCAA first round qualifiers, three NCAA Final Qualifiers, and three All-Americans.
All seven qualifiers return to the squad this year. That includes Ward, Klavins, Wright, Oranika, Harvey, Caston, and Elizabeth Hampl (hammer throw).
Last season was the first time that SIUE put points on the board at the NCAA Championship, and McAllister notes that it will certainly not be the last time.
"We wouldn't have accomplished this without the support from the athletic department administration and support staff, our alumni, and the community," said McAllister. "We are grateful to RunWell owner, Jen Schaller, for her continued sponsorship and the generous donation from Crystal Wenzel."
SIUE men's and women's track also announced its captains for the upcoming season at the ceremony.
This year's captains are Klavins (three-time captain), Hampl, Haley Briggs, Scott Woodard, Ward, and Wright.
The coaching staff seeks individuals that exemplify the characteristics of altruism, passion, grit, accountability, and critical thinking.
Each individual nominated themselves for the role and was responsible for holding weekly meetings and giving presentations to the team. After a month, their peers voted.
"In the first month and half, this team has already demonstrated to be the most talented, enthusiastic, unified, and hardest working team we have had in my 10 years here," said McAllister. "We have had outstanding teams. My expectations for this year are high."