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.

Junior Jason Anderson
Anderson, who earlier this week signed a contract with the New York Yankees organization, put together some impressive credentials this spring. A second-team All-America pick by Collegiate Baseball, he was Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and was selected the Most Outstanding Player at the Big Ten Tournament. Additionally, the Danville, Ill., native set a UI record for innings pitched in a season (134 1/3) and won NCAA regional all-tournament honors. The righthander posted an exceptional 3.15 earned run average, struck out 93 and walked only 39 batters, he also worked a phenomenal 10 complete games, including three during post-season play.

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 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."

Sophomore Jessica Aveyard
Aveyard, a sophomore from Shamong, N.J., was one of Illinois' most versatile swimmers this past season. She competed in all freestyle events, including the 200-, 500-, 1,000-, and 1,650-yard distances, as well as the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, which turned out to be her specialty. Aveyard became the first Fighting Illini swimmer to break the two-minute mark in the 200 back, she obliterated the team record of 2:00:00 by swimming a 1:57.90. In addition, she became the first athlete in UI women's swimming and diving history to meet the automatic time standards for the NCAA Championships, where she finished sixth in that event. Aveyard's time moved her into third place among all-time Big Ten swims in the 200-yard backstroke, and her 200-meter swim at the NCAA Championships is now the fastest time ever for a Big Ten swimmer in that event.

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.