First of all, thanks to all of the service members and veterans, including my father Mark, for doing what they do. You all make this nation awesome.
Now, onto the show! With the end of the Northwestern sporting seasons here, it’s time to dish out the hardware. The NUmby Awards were something stupid I created last year to honor the best this year had to offer. The trophies got “lost in the mail,” so I’ll be sending fruit baskets to all of the winners. Not really, though, because I’m poor and going into journalism. Sorry, guys.
Female Athlete of the Year – Amy Letourneau, SoftballWhat happens when you throw two no-hitters, lead the Big Ten in batting average against, and also lead your team in batting average and home runs? You get a NUmby! Dream big, kids, because it doesn’t get any better than this! Letourneau gets the nod here over Taylor Thornton, Erin Fitzgerald and Alyssa Leonard because of her extreme versatility and her undeniable value to her team. Letourneau finished 21-13 in the circle with a 2.43 ERA and 288 strikeouts in only 218.2 innings pitched. At the plate, she hit .382 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs, 42 RBI’s, and a 1.215 OPS. She was named first-team All-Big Ten as a “utility” position, which is code for SHE DOES IT ALL, YO. Letourneau is only a sophomore, so she and her teammates will gear up for another run at the NCAA tournament next year. In the meantime, hopefully the most prestigious award to ever come from a stats nerd who works for WNUR and is named Jim can serve as consolation.
Male Athlete of the Year – Jason Welch, WrestlingThe fifth-year senior ran away with this category. He went 34-2 in the 157 weight class, won the Big Ten championship, and advanced all the way to the NCAA Finals. He was also named an All-American for the third time in his Northwestern career. Welch finished with a 116-22 career record for a .841 winning percentage, the sixth highest in Northwestern history. Drew Pariano has built an excellent program in his time here, and Welch was yet another in what is becoming a long line of success stories in Northwestern wrestling.
Breakout Female of the Year – Maggie Lyon, Women’s BasketballLyon earned the title of Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and I trust their judgment more than mine, so let’s roll with it. Lyon had a streak near the end of the year where she put up double digits in 12 consecutive games – all in conference play. Lyon led all Big Ten freshman in points, three-pointers and steals, and led the Wildcats in minutes per game at 36.5. The Wilmette native dropped 21 in her first collegiate game against Tennessee-Martin, and it was off from there. She, fellow freshman Lauren Douglas and sophomore Karly Roser form a solid nucleus for Joe McKeown’s squad to build around.
Breakout Male of the Year – Venric Mark, FootballIn his first two years at Northwestern, Mark recorded 167 rushing yards. He surpassed that total in the second game of the season this year. Mark was named second-team All-Big Ten as a running back and first-team All American as a punt returner by the Football Writers Association of America. He rushed for 100 yards eight times, totaled the second most all-purpose yards in Northwestern history (2,166), became the first Wildcat to surpass 1,000 yards since Tyrell Sutton in 2006, and averaged 21.5 yards per punt return with two touchdowns. He had as many touchdowns in 2012 as he had rushing attempts in 2011 (15). That’s a breakout, ladies and gents.
Game of the Year – Gator BowlUm, duh. More like game of the decade. From Quentin Williams’ pick-six to Mark’s fourth quarter touchdown the ‘Cats killed it across the board. Then you toss in Pat Fitzgerald’s emotional post-game speech, and you get recruiting gold. That stupid stuffed monkey got what it had coming. It’s no coincidence that the Wildcats have picked up so much steam with the class of 2014 in the months following this game. I haven’t changed my socks since that day for good luck. I seriously wish I were kidding.
This concludes yet another year for us here at WNUR. Muchas gracias to all of you for listening/reading/responding – it has been a lot of fun. If you disagree with any of my picks above, feel free to tweet them at me, @JimSannes, or @WNURSports! Be sure to check here over the summer for our previews of every Big Ten team and all of the position groups for the Wildcats. Since I’m a NASCAR fan from the farmlands of Minnesota, I believe I’m qualified to call upon the Beverly Hillbillies and say, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”