Anderson, Aveyard Earn 2000 UI Athlete Of The Year Honors
June 13, 2000
Two student-athletes with penchants for firsts have been chosen the 2000 Dike Eddleman University of Illinois Athletes of the Year. Sophomore Jessica Aveyard, Illinois' first-ever swimming All-American, and junior Jason Anderson, the first Fighting Illini pitcher to win 14 games in a single season, emerged the winners of two of the most prestigious UI athletic awards this year. Their names will be forwarded to the Conference for consideration as finalists for the Big Ten's 2000 Jesse Owens Male and Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year awards.
Anderson was selected from among seven finalists for the award, including: track's Sherman Armstrong, the only athlete in the nation to have automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in both the 110- and 400-meter hurdles events, national doubles tennis champion Cary Franklin, football quarterback Kurt Kittner, the Micronpc.com Bowl MVP, gymnast Travis Romagnoli, the nation's No. 1-ranked high bar performer, NCAA 149-pound wrestling runner-up Adam Tirapelle, and Carl Perry, the national wrestling champion at 141 pounds.
"Winning this award is a tremendous honor," said Anderson. "I'm excited but a little bit surprised, because so many athletes had such great years. I'm honored that baseball was recognized for having such a successful season in winning the Big Ten Tournament and making it back to the NCAA Tournament.
"To win an award like this that I never thought I could win is a great way to end my career at the University of Illinois. I want to credit my teammates for putting me in a position to win every week, and I would also like to thank Coach Jones and the rest of the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to succeed throughout my collegiate career."
"Jason Anderson just had a great career at the University of Illinois," said Coach Itch Jones. "He is an outstanding person, both athletically and academically, as seen by his being named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, a first-team Academic All-American and a second-team All-American on the field. I'm happy to see the University of Illinois recognize Jason by bestowing this honor on him."
Aveyard was the only Big Ten swimmer in 2000 to make the automatic time standard in the 200-yard backstroke, and one of only nine in the nation that did so. She scored in the maximum of three individual events this season and qualified for the national meet in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events.
The engineering major was selected from among six female Athlete of the Year finalists, including: All-America track and cross country performer Tara Mendozza, who finished fifth in the NCAA indoor mile last winter, Big Ten 60-meter dash champion Kerry Ann Richards, All-Big Ten volleyball and soccer players, Betsy Spicer and Emily Brown (respectively), and honorable mention All-America basketball player Tauja Catchings.
"I think this is a great honor for Jessica," said Coach Jim Lutz. "It's a great pat on the back for her improvement and accomplishments. It was a tough field of nominees, and to be picked is a great honor for her and for the program.
"I couldn't be more pleased for her," Lutz continued. "This is proof of her commitment and that she gives 100 percent. I think the best years of here career are still ahead of her."
Aveyard will learn of her award upon her imminent return from international travel.
Anderson and Aveyard will be formally presented the Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year Awards at the Varsity "I" Banquet, which will take place Sept. 15 in Champaign-Urbana.