Melissa Fernandez won the 2010-11 Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year Award, becoming the third gymnast to take home the honor, joining Illini greats Karen Brems (1984) and Nancy Thies, who garnered the first-ever award in 1977. Fernandez also ended a run of six-straight seasons in which the award was presented to a women's track and field athlete. Fernandez closed her stellar career with her best season. She earned All-America accolades on three different events in 2011, including first-team honors in the all-around, a first at Illinois, after scoring a career-high 39.375 at the NCAA Championships. She also earned first-team honors on beam for the second time in her career and second-team honors on floor with outstanding performances at the NCAA Championships. Her fifth-place finish on the beam (9.838) at the NCAA event finals was the best showing by an Illini athlete in school history. She also became the first Illini to make the podium twice in her career at event finals and now owns the UI program's most career All-America accolades with four. The Eudora, Kan., native was a first-team All-Big Ten selection for the second year in a row and also was a second-team Academic All-American, the first in program history.
"It is just a huge honor to win this award," Fernandez said. "Being nominated in itself was so amazing, and it feels incredible to be chosen from the outstanding group of other athletes that were up for it. There are really no words to explain how happy and proud I am to finish my career at Illinois as the athlete of the year."
Andrew Riley claimed the 2010-11 Dike Eddleman Male Athlete of the Year Award, becoming the 14th men's track athlete to receive the award and first since Anthony Jones in 1994. Riley followed up a national champion season in 2010 with another stellar campaign in 2011. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Riley won the NCAA 60m hurdle Indoor National Championship with a time of 7.58 seconds, breaking his previous school record and the facility record. The seven-time All-American also picked-up his third-straight Big Ten title in the event. During the outdoor season, Riley posted a time of 13.49 seconds to win his second consecutive Big Ten 110m hurdle title in the event and also ran the lead-off led of the Big Ten Champion 4x100m relay. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Riley nearly repeated as national champ in the 110m hurdles, finishing second with a blazing time of 13.33. His personal-best time of 13.32 in the NCAA quarterfinals reset his own school record and tied the ninth-fastest collegiate mark in history. He also led-off the Illinois 4x100m relay, which finished third in the nation and ran a Big Ten- and school-record time of 38.72 at the NCAA semifinals.
"I feel honored to be recognized among some of the greatest athletes in Illinois history," Riley said. "I have the book of the Illinois all-time greatest athletes at home, so I remember looking at Dike's career at Illinois. I never even dreamed of being athlete of the year. I just want to thank everyone who has supported me while at Illinois. I will continue to get stronger and compete to the best of my ability."