2008-09 ISU Athlete of the Year Nominees Announced

Aug. 11, 2009

NORMAL, Ill. - The 2008-09 year was full of numerous accomplishments and honors for the Illinois State Athletics Department. Two student-athletes will be honored for their achievements at the annual Walk of Champions Aug. 16 with the presentation of the Jill Hutchison Female Athlete of the Year and the Milt Weisbecker Male Athlete of the Year awards.

Eleven student-athletes have been nominated for the awards, which are perhaps the most-prestigious bestowed upon Redbird student-athletes. The six female student-athletes are Kristi Cirone (basketball), Meaghan Koshman (gymnastics), Stacey Miller (golf), Abby Olson (softball), Katelyn Prorok (diving) and Samantha Springer (track and field). The five male nominees are Ryan Court (baseball), Osiris Eldridge (basketball), Joe Emerich (golf), Eyad Salem (football) and Skip Span (tennis).

The female athlete of the year award is named in honor of Hutchison, who retired from coaching women's basketball in 1999 after racking up 461 wins in 28 seasons at Illinois State. Now a radio and television analyst for Redbird and Missouri Valley Conference broadcasts, Hutchison was a pioneer and advocate for women in athletics throughout her coaching career. A banner in her honor hangs from the Redbird Arena rafters and earlier this summer she was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Cirone, the 2007-08 Hutchison Award winner, capped her career with even more record-setting performances. She became just the second player to win the Jackie Stiles Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award for three-consecutive years, along with the award's namesake. A first-team all-conference and all-defensive team selection, she won the Valley scoring title (18.8 ppg) and ranked in the top-five in six other categories. For the second-consecutive year, she was named an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and she was a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award. She set Illinois State single-season records in scoring (657) and assists (203) to become the school's career leader in both categories.

Miller was integral in ISU defending its MVC Championship. She was an All-Valley and First-Team Valley Scholar-Athlete selection for the second-straight year. She won the State Farm MVC Championship title with a nine-over-par three-round score of 225 (74-71-80). Miller shot in the 70s in 26 of the team-best 31 rounds she played. A four-time MVC Golfer of the Week, Miller won individual titles at the Starmount Fall Classic and the Ross Resorts Invitational.

Koshman was an All-Midwest Independent Conference selection for the second-consecutive year. She competed in the vault in every meet, except for one that she missed with injury, and had an average score of 9.790, ranking second in the MIC. At the MIC Championships, she came in second place in the vault with a 9.850. She competed in the NCAA Regionals for the second-straight year, tying for 12th on the vault in the South Central Region.

Olson was an All-Valley First Team selection after leading the Redbirds offensively in 2008-09. She led the Redbirds in batting average (.338), home runs (11), RBI (30), slugging percentage (.641) and on-base percentage (.432). She also had 11 doubles and 22 runs scored. All of those numbers are higher than the ones she recorded as a freshman last season. Olson was also named to the Mideast All-Region Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).

Prorok missed the 2007-08 season with an injury, but came back strong in 2008-09. She was the MVC Diver of the Year and a First-Team All-Valley selection after winning the 1-meter board and placing second on the 3-meter board at the State Farm MVC Championships. Prorok placed in the top-three in 11 dual-meets, including four first-place performances. She won five MVC Diver of the Week awards, including four-straight to start the season. Prorok placed 26th on the 3-meter board and 27th on the 1-meter board at the NCAA Zone C Diving Regional in Minneapolis, Minn.

Springer excelled in all throws her senior year. During the indoor season, she placed seventh in the shot put and weight throw at the MVC Championships. She performed even better during the outdoor season, winning the discus title and placing third in the shot put, earning All-Valley accolades in both events. She won the discus title with a throw of 172-04, the 17th-best throw in the nation last season and the second-best throw all-time in Illinois State history. She placed 10th at the NCAA Mideast Regional to qualify for the NCAA Championship, where she came in 16th place with a throw of 161-05.

The male athlete of the year award is named for Weisbecker, the former athletics director who led Illinois State through times of change from 1966 to 1974. As athletics director, he successfully led the university's athletic program from the NCAA College Division into Division I status. Additionally, Weisbecker had an outstanding record in seven seasons as the Redbird's head golf coach, including a fourth-place NCAA College Division finish in 1969.

Court emerged as one of the Redbirds' top offensive contributors after playing in just eight games during the 2008 season. An All-Valley Honorable Mention pick, Court had a .323 batting average, 40 runs and a team-best 41 RBI. He was second on the team with five home runs and hit two game-winning homers on the year. He was named MVC Player of the Week after driving in seven runs in the second game of a doubleheader against Northern Iowa.

Eldridge won the 2007-08 Weisbecker Award and his performance last season made him worthy of another nomination. Eldridge was an All-Valley First Team pick for the second-consecutive year after averaging 14.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, ranking second on the team in both categories. He scored 18 points against Central Michigan to become the 21st player to amass 1,000 points at Illinois State. The Valley Preseason Player of the Year, Eldridge was named to the Valley All-Defensive Team and received the MVC Player of the Week award three times. He was named the State Farm MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player after leading the Redbirds to the championship game, becoming just the second player in conference history to win the award as a member of the runner-up team.

Emerich was an All-Valley selection for the first time in his career. He competed in 32 rounds and had a team-best stroke average of 74.2. He was named MVC Golfer of the Week twice on the season, after placing 16th at the Kansas Invitational and winning the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate. Emerich placed 16th at the State Farm MVC Championship after carding a 14-over-par 230 (81-76-73).

Salem became the Redbirds' go-to receiver in 2008. He was an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First Team selection after totaling 63 catches on the season, which tied for the fourth-most in school history. He led the team in receptions (63), receiving yards (843), touchdowns (8) and receiving yards per game (76.6) and ranked second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in receptions per game (5.7) and receiving yards per game (76.6).

Span came on strong in his freshman season, playing at the front end of the Redbird lineup. He posted a 22-13 singles record, including a 10-4 mark in tournament play. At the beginning of the spring season, Span and teammate Daniel Tobar earned a No. 56 national doubles ranking from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Span placed second in Flight 3 singles and Flight 2 doubles, along with Tobar, at the MVC Individual Championships.