April 22, 2009
The University of Illinois Spirit Award is given annually to the male and female athlete that may be their team's biggest cheerleader, overcome adversity or be a role model in the community. The nominees for the 2009 award were announced today by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. Click here to vote for the athlete you think deserves the 2009 Illinois Spirit Award. The winners wil be announced Tuesday, April 28, at the Fighting Illini Scholar-Athlete Reception.
Male Spirit Award Nominees
Dominic Altobelli, baseball:
Altobelli simply exudes pride in being able to put on his Illinois baseball uniform, growing up an Illini baseball fan and often wearing jerseys to class in high school. He overcame a separated shoulder that kept him out of games in 2008, but has returned to be a .300 hitter and one of the main reasons the Illinois baseball team has had success this season.
Chester Frazier, basketball:
Weber calls him the toughest player he has coached in 30 years in the profession. No one has suffered more injuries and dealt with more adversity, yet risen above the challenges. The passionate leader has dealt with the death of his father, broken bones, sprained ankles, torn quads and turf toe. Through it all, he was unquestionably the inspirational force on the 2009 basketball team.
Chris Lung, gymnastics:
Lung, the 2009 team captain has been a strong competitor and loyal teammate and true Illini. He was always the first to facilitate team activities, community service or recruiting weekends. He has not always been in the lineup, but is the loudest and most supportive on the floor.
Brit Miller, football:
Miller was the ultimate member of the Illinois football team. His positive attitude was his trademark. He is a staple in the community averaging 2-4 hours a week volunteering in the Central Illinois community.
Abe Souza, tennis:
Souza embodies the ideal college student-athlete with his work ethic and incessant preparation. With a deep lineup, Souza's spot was not ensured, but with unwavering dedication, he cracked the singles lineup at No. 6.
John Wise, wrestling:
Wise had an exceptional senior year, earning All-America honors after missing the honor by one match in 2008. That year his father was involved in a life-threatening car accident just prior to the NCAA Championships. The accident brought him closer to his faith and gave him the motivation to reach the top-8 in heavyweight in 2009.
Andrew Zollner, track and field:
In five years, Zollner has gone from being a walk-on to etching his place in the Illinois history books. He has dealt with a long list of injuries, including chronic back and foot problems, yet has qualified for the NCAA Championships. When he graduates from Illinois where he is a member of the ROTC, he will enroll in the army.
Female Spirit Award Nominees
Marijka Botterman, gymnastics:
Botterman was the driving force behind the women's team that made the 12-team NCAA Championships for the first time in school history. She always gave her teammates the extra push or words of encouragement.
Christine Christopoulos, softball:
Christopoulas is defined as an unselfish player and the epitome of a team player. She is a constant voice in the dugout and a confident presence in the circle. She has gone above and beyond what the coaching staff has asked of her.
Kristen Kloeckener, swimming & diving:
Kloeckener began the year not knowing if she was connecting with her teammates and was spinning her wheels worrying about how the team thought about her career. She turned the corner and had her best year of training and breaking into the Illinois record books.
Megan Fudge, tennis:
Fudge is a feisty, vocal competitor who has been the face of this improved women's tennis program, which will be a No. 3 seed in the 2009 Big Ten Championships. She has the never-give-up attitude and plays with determination that highly represents the U of I athlete.
Lacey Simpson, basketball:
Simpson was the leader and integral cog in the team this season. With a majority of the team being freshman (6-of-9), she took the responsibility of leading that group. She tirelessly devoted countless hours to community service and is a well-rounded student.
Kayani Turner, volleyball:
Turner came to Illinois as a highly touted recruit, but pain in her legs kept her from being the total player she could be. She was diagnosed with Reflex Symapthetic Dystrophy, which is a chronic and painful, neurological disorder and not easy to control. Depsite all her pain and doctor's recommendations to stop playing volleyball, Turner worked herself back into shape and became a contributor, while maintaining a positive attitude.