April 30, 2014
GREENVILLE, N.C. -The East Carolina Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) held the inaugural Goldspys end of the year awards show on Monday night. The Goldspys, which was based on the ESPY's presented by ESPN, honored and highlighted the success of the ECU student-athletes both on and off the field.
With the 2013-14 school year coming to a close, the Goldspys awarded several student-athletes with 16 awards. Some of the awards were voted on by the East Carolina administration, coaching staff and SAAC representatives, while others were voted on by the Pirate Nation.
The Goldspys was hosted by track and field redshirt senior Montrell Morrow and men's basketball sophomore forward Marshall Guilmette. The duo kept the event lively and entertaining as the East Carolina athletics administration, staff and student-athletes filled Hendrix Theatre inside the Mendenhall Student Center.
"Our first-ever Goldspys could not have gone better," Jill Jelnick, a senior softball outfielder and vice-president of SAAC said. "Although we were still making last minute adjustments the day of, when the night finally came, we were able to enjoy ECU's first-ever athletics awards banquet. After a year's worth of hard work and preparation from the Goldspys committee, we were so happy and so proud of the success and the outcome of the event. The best reward that came from the Goldspys was the pure joy and excitement from the student-athletes, as well as the enormous amount of pride for East Carolina University that was displayed in one night as everyone gathered together."
Men's tennis senior Joran Vliegencame away with the most awards as he collected three. Vliegen was named the Breakthrough Athlete of the Year, Male Athlete of the Year and Mr. Pirate. The Maaselk, Belgium native earned the honors after completing his senior year with a 28-5 singles record and a 16-4 doubles ledger. He was ranked as high as No. 13 in the nation and is currently No. 26. Additionally, Vliegen defeated the No. 1, No. 7 and No. 9 men's tennis players in the country and was the first player in school history to win the ITA Carolina Region singles title and compete in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championships. He was also the first ECU tennis player to advance to the main draw of the ITA All-America Championships and was named Conference USA Athlete-of-the-Month for October. Furthermore, Vliegen graduated with a 3.63 GPA in business and has begun working on his MBA.
The Mr./Mrs. Pirate award was awarded to the male and female student-athlete who excelled in both the classroom and in athletics, and has contributed to his or her community. It was voted on by the ECU administration and coaching staff. Joining Vliegen was women's golfer Katie Kirk. The junior from Davidson, N.C., owns a 3.98 GPA as an economics major and has accumulated nearly 20 hours of community service. On the green, she has a 75.41 seasonal stroke average and has finished in the Top 30 in four of nine events, including a pair of Top 15 finishes and three Top 25 placements. Kirk has recorded four rounds of par or better, which included a pair of 70s to tie her career-low round. She also registered a fourth-place finish in the season opening event at the MOmorial with a 2-over 218, and at the Old Waverly, carded a 3-over 219 for a share of 12th place. Kirk is a two-time National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) Division I Scholar All-American (2011-12), a three-time Conference USA Commissioner's Academic and Honor Roll recipient, a five-time ECU Director of Athletics Honor Roll member (Fall 2011-present) and was named to the 2014 C-USA All-Academic Team.
Kayla Padgett, a junior thrower on the track and field squad was named Female Athlete of the Year after setting the school record in the weight throw with a career-best mark of 21.95-meters to earn a first-place finish at the prestigious Penn State National. She went on to win the Conference USA Indoor title in the weight throw en route to being named Field Athlete of the Meet. Padgett also represented ECU at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 20-pound weight throw where she placed 11th with a mark of 20.15-meters. She has continued to excel during the outdoor season as she is the school record-holder in the shot put, discus and hammer throws.
In addition to awarding individual student-athletes for their athletic and academic success, the Goldspys also honored East Carolina athletic teams for their achievements as a whole.
Among the winners were the football team for defeating North Carolina en route to collecting the Best Upset of the Year, the women's golf team which earned the Student Development Award after the squad had seven of eight student-athletes named to the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll, and the women's swimming and diving team, which was named the Team of the Year after becoming just the second team in school history to go undefeated with an 11-0 record. The women's swimming and diving squad posted its first-ever win over an SEC team as the Pirates defeated South Carolina and emerged with a national ranking of 35th, the highest in school history. The Pirates also received Conference USA Swimmer/Diver of the Week accolades four times during the season and had one swimmer and three divers qualify for the NCAA Regional Championships.
After winning the Team of the Year award, swimming and diving head coach Rick Kobewas named Coach of the Year. In addition to directing the team to an undefeated season, Kobe became the sixth coach in NCAA history to win 500 career dual meets. He guided the ladies to their 22nd consecutive winning dual meet season and the men to their 31st straight non-losing season. Kobe had a male and female swimmer participate in the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history and had 17 swimmers and divers earn All-Conference USA honors. Academically, the women's squad was named a Scholar All-American Team.
The Goldspys did not only honor current ECU student-athletes, teams and coaches, but also awarded associate athletics director and senior woman administrator Rosie Thompson with the Athletic Administrator of the Year award, while assistant athletic trainer, Tracy Yoshikawa, was named Athletic Trainer of the Year.
Finally, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to former ECU football player and NFL Super Bowl Champion Vonta Leach. The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a former Pirate who has continued to excel after leaving East Carolina University. A 2010 East Carolina alum, Leach played for the Pirates from 2000-2003 where he was named to the 2000 Conference USA All-Freshman Team. Since leaving East Carolina, Leach has played nine years in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. He has appeared in the Pro Bowl on three occasions and was part of the 2012 Ravens squad that won Super Bowl XLVII.
"I thought the Goldspys went really well for the first year," Nicole LaDuca, sophomore women's tennis player and Goldspys chair, said. "I hope everyone in attendance enjoyed it as much as I did. Montrell and Marshall were tremendous hosts and I have heard nothing but positive feedback about the job they did. It would not have been possible without the 14 member student-athlete committee, Jamie Quinn, Rosie Thompson, Shelley Binegar, Greg Herring and the rest of the athletic administration. I am looking forward to next year's Goldspys and building on the success we had this year."
Goldspys Award Winners
Female Rookie of the Year - Caitlin Hite, Soccer
Male Rookie of the Year - Isaiah Jones, Football
Best Upset of the Year - Football vs. North Carolina
Breakthrough Athlete of the Year - Joran Vliegen, Men's Tennis
Student Development Award - Women's Golf
Team of the Year - Women's Swimming and Diving
Coach of the Year - Rick Kobe, Swimming and Diving
Record Breaking Performance - Akeem Richmond, Men's Basketball
Clutch Performance of the Year - Akeem Richmond, Men's Basketball
Athletic Trainer of the Year - Tracy Yoshikawa
Athletic Administrator of the Year - Rosie Thompson
Male Athlete of the Year - Joran Vliegen, Men's Tennis
Female Athlete of the Year - Kayla Padgett, Women's Track and Field
Lifetime Achievement Award - Vonta Leach
Mr. Pirate - Joran Vliegen, Men's Tennis
Mrs. Pirate - Katie Kirk, Women's Golf