2009-10 ISU Athlete of the Year Nominees Announced

Aug. 16, 2010

NORMAL. Ill. - The 14 nominees for the annual Jill Hutchison Female Athlete of the Year and the Milt Weisbecker Male Athlete of the Year awards have been announced. Seven male and seven female student-athletes are in the running for the awards that honor the best athletic performances of the 2009-10 academic year and will be presented at the annual Walk of Champions Aug. 22.

The seven female nominees are Ashleen Bracey (women's basketball), Stacey Miller (golf), Danielle Mutters (soccer), Kara Nelson (softball), Abby Olson (softball), Katelyn Prorok (swimming and diving) and Brittany Smith (track and field). The seven male nominees are Tommy Bliefnick (golf), Tim Glover (track and field), Scott Krapf (cross country/track and field), Zach Kutch (football), Dinma Odiakosa (basketball), Timon Reichelt (tennis) and Kevin Tokarski (baseball).

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.

Bliefnick capped his Redbird career with his third-straight All-Valley selection as a senior. He finished in the top-15 in six of the 11 tournaments on the season, including three top-six finishes. He earned his All-Valley recognition by placing 22nd at the State Farm MVC Championship. A two-time MVC Golfer of the Week, Bliefnick's 74.4 stroke average led the team and ranked second in the Valley.

Glover made quite an impact as a freshman javelin thrower, winning the conference championship in the event with a school-record throw of 233' 11'' at the State Farm MVC Championship. He went on to place third at the NCAA West Regional and 12th at the NCAA Championship. The Normal, Ill., product won the javelin at four regular-season competitions. At the SIU Gill Spring Classic, his first outdoor competition, Glover broke the school record that was set by his father 40 years ago with a throw of 226' 06".

Krapf earned All-Valley recognition in cross country and track and field last season. He won the men's 8K cross country title with a time of 25:47 at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship; the first Redbird champion since Christian Goy in 2002. In the outdoor track season, a time of 29:32.90 in the 10,000-meter run at the Stanford Invitational qualified Krapf for the NCAA West Regional, where he placed 23rd.

Kutch had a record-breaking season kicking field goals for the Redbirds in 2009. He set Illinois State and Missouri Valley Football Conference single-season records with 22 made field goals on the season, which also tied for the most in the nation. Kutch was named first-team All-MVFC and earned All-America recognition from the Associated Press, College Sporting News and The Sports Network. A two-time MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week, he made a school and league record six field goals against Western Illinois and connected on two field goals from more than 50 yards away in a win over No. 9 Northern Iowa.

Odiakosa turned in the best season of his career as a senior, leading the Redbirds in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and ranking second in scoring (12.8 ppg). The Valley Defensive Player of the Year and runner-up for the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year award, he was a first-team All-Valley selection for the first time in his career and was named to the Valley All-Defensive Team for the second-consecutive year. He turned in a career-high 11 double-doubles and his 60.9 field goal percentage was second in the nation.

Reichelt led Illinois State to the MVC Regular-Season championship with 42 total wins on the season, including 22 in singles play. The Co-MVC Player of the Year, he was named first-team All-Valley at No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles and was the Valley Player of the Week twice. At the State Farm MVC Individual Championships, Reichelt won the No. 2 doubles title with Matej Zlatkovic and placed second at No. 2 singles.

Tokarski was a key component at the top of the lineup in Illinois State's MVC Regular-Season and State Farm MVC Tournament title runs. The first Joe Carter MVC Player of the Year in school history was also a first-team All-Valley selection and earned All-American recognition from Louisville Slugger, ABCA/Rawlings and Ping! Baseball. Tokarski led the Redbirds and ranked among the tops in the nation in batting average (.412), hits (84), runs scored (70), RBI (53), doubles (25), stolen bases (33), on-base percentage (.538) and slugging percentage (.681). His 25 doubles set the ISU single-season record and he broke the school's career stolen bases mark (60) in just two seasons.

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 analyst for Redbird 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 she was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Bracey led Illinois State to its third-consecutive Missouri Valley Conference Regular-Season title; a program first. She was a first-team All-Valley and Valley All-Defensive Team selection after leading the Redbirds in scoring (14.7 ppg), rebounding (7.6 rpg) and steals (45). A four-time Valley Player of the Week, Bracey recorded nine double-doubles on the season, tied the school's single-season free throw percentage record (.889) and became the 25th player in program history to score 1,000 points.

Miller guided the ISU women's golf team to its own third-consecutive Missouri Valley Conference Championship with another stellar year. She recorded six top-10 finishes and was the MVC Golfer of the Week four times. Miller finished third at the State Farm MVC Championship to receive All-Valley recognition for the third-straight year and tied for 22nd at the NCAA Central Regional.

Mutters anchored a defense that led Illinois State to its third-consecutive MVC Regular-Season title and first State Farm MVC Tournament championship since 2003. She repeated as the Valley Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Valley selection, and added Valley All-Tournament Team and second-team NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region recognition to accomplishments. Mutters recorded 11 points on a career-high three goals and two assists and contributed to a Redbird defense that posted a 1.23 goals against average and eight shutouts.

Nelson returned to form after missing the majority of the 2009 season with a hand injury. She was honored by the NFCA with third-team All-American and first-team All-Mideast Region selections. Nelson garnered her third All-Valley First Team honor by leading the Valley with 68 hits and 49 runs. She had a team-high .395 batting average to go along with a .605 slugging percentage and .475 on-base percentage.

Olson matched Nelson's accomplishments as the duo led Illinois State to the NCAA Tournament. She was also an NFCA Third-Team All-American and First-Team All-Mideast Region selection. Olson was a first-team All-Valley pick for the second-straight season, was named to the All-MVC Tournament team and won three Valley Player of the Week awards. She set ISU single-season records with 19 home runs and 56 RBI, while also leading the team in slugging percentage (.797) and on-base percentage (.490).

Prorok concluded her illustrious diving career with outstanding performances and impressive determination. She was named the MVC Diver of the Week five times for the second-consecutive year. Weeks before the State Farm MVC Championship meet, Prorok suffered a severe shin injury that required 20 stitches and nearly ended her season. She persevered to finish third on the 1-meter board and fourth on the 3-meter board to earn All-Valley recognition. She went on to compete at the NCAA Zone C Diving Regional for the second time, finishing 42nd on the 1-meter and 44th on the 3-meter.

Like Glover on the men's side, Smith had a remarkable freshman campaign as a Redbird thrower. After an indoor season with five top-five finishes, she flourished in the outdoor season. Smith swept the shot put, discus and hammer at both the Redbird Spring Invitational and EIU Big Blue Classic. At the State Farm MVC Championship, she placed second in both the discus and shot put to qualify for the NCAA West Regional, where she finished sixth and 13th, respectively. She advanced to the NCAA Championship in the discus, coming in 19th place. Smith wasn't done with the shot put, however, as she went on to win the event at the USA Track and Field Junior National Championships and finish seventh at the IAAF World Junior Championships.