2007 Athlete of the Year Nominees Announced
Aug. 8, 2007
NORMAL, Ill. - The 2006-07 academic year was full of so many athletic accomplishments for Illinois State student-athletes and teams. At the Walk of Champions on Sunday, August 19, two of those student-athletes, one male and one female, will be recognized for their achievements during the past year. At the annual event that welcomes in Redbird freshmen and officially begins the new athletic year, the Jill Hutchison Female Athlete of the Year and Milt Weisbecker Male Athlete of the Year awards will be presented.
Eight student-athletes have been nominated for these awards, which are perhaps the most prestigious bestowed upon Illinois State student-athletes. The five females nominated are Kristi Cirone (basketball), Shannon Durocher (soccer), Meaghan Koshman (gymnastics), Shannon Nicholson (softball) and Devon Williams (track). The three male nominees are Ryan Anetsberger (baseball), Luke Drone (football), and Matt Miller (golf).
The male athlete of the year award is named for Milt 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.
The female athlete of the year award is named in honor of Jill Hutchison. Hutchison 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.
Anetsberger's 2007 season propelled him to a professional baseball career. He was a Second-Team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection at third base after leading the Redbirds with a .328 batting average and hitting a career-high five home runs. He started all 47 games he played in and collected 12 doubles, one triple, 20 walks, 30 RBI and 32 runs scored. After his striking performance in 2007, Anetsberger was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and has spent the summer playing for the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers of the New York-Penn League. In his three years at Illinois State, the Wheaton, Ill. native started 153 games and batted .328 with 196 hits, eight home runs, 87 RBI and had a .450 slugging percentage.
Drone enters his senior season as one of the most prolific passers in Illinois State football history. He ranks in the top-five on Illinois State's career lists in passing completions (418), attempts (683), yards (5,891), touchdowns (43), completion percentage (.612), efficiency (147.2), and yards per completion (14.1) and per game (190.4). In 2006, the Mt. Carmel, Ill. native was a First-Team All-Gateway Conference selection after leading the conference in passing yards per game (227.8) and passing efficiency (163.5) in conference games. He started every game at quarterback and led the Redbirds in total offense in 2006.
Miller accumulated a lengthy list of accomplishments as a senior. Miller was named the Missouri Valley Conference Golfer of the Year and an All-MVC Team member for the second-consecutive year. Miller was the conference's golfer of the week five times in 2007, giving him a record-tying nine honors in his career. He recorded six top-10 finishes, including individual titles at the 12th Annual UTSA Intercollegiate, the Stevinson Ranch Invitational and the Branson Creek Invitational. The Bloomington, Ill. native helped guide the Redbirds to the conference title with a fourth-place finish overall at the 2007 State Farm MVC Championship and placed 39th at the NCAA Central Regional.
Cirone followed up her breakout freshman season with an even more stellar sophomore campaign. Cirone was named the 2007 Jackie Stiles Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, becoming just the third sophomore to claim the honor. She was also a First-Team All-MVC, All-Defensive Team, and a Second-Team MVC Scholar-Athlete selection. She led the conference in assists and was fourth in both scoring and steals. The two-time State Farm MVC Player of the Week honoree recorded 29 double-digit scoring efforts and led the Redbirds in scoring 18 times. She had a school single-season record 2.07 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Chicago native was also a two-time recipient of the Prairie Farms/MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week award and was a member of the AFNI Honor Roll both semesters.
Durocher was a key component of a Redbird defensive unit that ranked among the best in the program's history. Durocher was a First-Team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection in 2007. She started in 17 of the Redbirds' 18 games and anchored a defense that held opponents to 11.1 shots and 0.85 goals per game and recorded five shutouts. The Mokena, Ill. native was an AFNI Honor Roll selection in the fall and spring semesters.
Koshman returned the NCAA South Central Regional Championships for the second-consecutive year in 2007. She finished in an eight-way tie for eighth place in the vault with a score of 9.800. The Regina, Saskatchewan native won the all-around title at the Midwest Independent Championships with a career-best score of 39.025. During the season, she also notched career-highs in the beam and bars. She was an AFNI Honor Roll selection in both semesters.
Nicholson was named an Easton Second-Team All-American in 2007, becoming just the second Redbird pitcher to achieve that feat. Nicholson led the Redbirds with 21 wins and a 1.53 earned run average and opponents batted just .251 against her. She was named to the NFCA Louisville Slugger All-Great Lakes Region First Team. Nicholson ranks second on the Illinois State career lists in saves; third in appearances and games started; fourth in wins and innings pitched, and fifth incomplete games, shutouts and strikeouts. An accomplished student, Nicholson was selected to the CoSIDA All-District V First Team and the MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team. She also earned three Prairie Farms/MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week honors and was an AFNI Honor Roll selection in the fall and spring semesters.
Williams excelled in both the indoor and outdoor track seasons. At the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships, Williams was named the Most Outstanding Female Athlete and Most Outstanding Female Track Athlete after winning two events. In the 60-meter dash, Williams tied the school record she set the previous season at the conference indoor championship meet with a time of 7.63 seconds. In the 200-meters, she turned in the second-fastest time in Redbird history with a mark of 24.33 seconds. Williams was equally as impressive in the outdoor season. The Oswego, Ill. native was a member of the 4x100 relay team that competed at the NCAA Mideast Regional. She posted season-best times in the 100-meter (11.70) and 200-meter (24.66) dash events. She also won the 100-meter title at the Gatorade Classic with a time of 12.15. Williams was named an Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar for 2007.
The male and female recipients are voted to distinction by Illinois State head coaches and athletic administrators. Last year, football player Stafford Davis and golfer Samantha Richdale were honored with the esteemed awards.