Men's Gymnastics
Spring, Hunt earn Dike Eddleman awards

Justin Spring was named Illinois' Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year for the second time in his outstanding career.
Justin Spring was named Illinois' Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year for the second time in his outstanding career.

June 14, 2006

Junior All-American distance runner Cassie Hunt and the nation's top senior gymnast Justin Spring have been named winners of the Dike Eddleman Female and Male Athletes of the Year, respectively, at the University of Illinois

Both Hunt and Spring earn the award for the second time. Spring, who also won the award in 2004, is just the sixth male athlete to be a repeat winner joining Andy Phillip (basketball & baseball, 1942 &'43), Eddleman (football, basketball, track, 1948 & '49), Dick Butkus (football, 1964 & '65), Dave Scholz (basketball 1968 & '69) and Tony Eason (1982 & '83). Hunt also won the award last year.

Hunt completed the track season by placing second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last week. Her track exploits also included winning the 5,000 meters at the Drake Relays. Hunt made noise in the fall as one of the top cross country runners in the country. She placed 11th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, leading Illinois to its best finish as a team (fifth). Hunt was the medalist at the Big Ten Cross Country meet and was named Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Year, becoming the first woman in Illini history to claim that honor. She was also medalist in four other meets and her time of 16:52 at the Notre Dame Invite ranks third on Illinois' all-time list for a cross country 5K.

"I know there were several others who were deserving of the honor, so this is special," Hunt said. "For me, there were a lot of ups and downs. Fortunately, the ones that were good fell on the right days. That says a lot for the job that my coach (Karen Harvey) has done. She gets us prepared, and then it's up to us to go out to the track or the trails and perform."

Spring leaves Illinois, a school rich in tradition in gymnastics, as one of the most decorated performers in the sport to compete at the school. The senior was named the Nissen Emery Award winner as the top senior gymnast in the nation - the "Heisman" of collegiate gymnastics. He won the national title in both the parallel bars and the high bar and finished runner-up in the all-around competition. His performances nearly helped propel the Illini to the national title as a team, but the Illini fell just a fraction of a point shy of Oklahoma for the top spot.

Spring's five All-America honors this year (all-around, floor exercise, vault, parallel bars and high bars) bring his total to 12, the most since Abe Grossfeld, who earned 12 All-America honors from 1957-59. Spring holds the school record in four events, including in the parallel bars, where he scored a 9.825 at the event finals at the NCAA meet to win the national title. Spring has made a name for himself on the national and international scene outside of the collegiate ranks as well. He placed 10th on the high bar and 12th on the parallel bars at the 2005 World Championships as a member of Team USA and won the high bar at the 2005 Visa U.S. Championships.

"This award ranks right up there with winning the Nissen Emery Award for me because it's given out by the University," Spring said. "The NCAA and USAG awards are great, but I have a strong sense of pride for the University of Illinois, so it means a great deal to me to recognized by the University that I love. It's also quite an honor to win this award twice. When you look at the names of the other two-time winners, it's pretty easy to see that there have been some incredible athletes at the U of I, and it's an honor to be a part of that tradition."

The University of Illinois Athlete of the Year was first awarded in 1940. The award was given annually until it was discontinued in 1973. Since 1982, the University of Illinois has recognized a Male and Female Athlete of the Year. In 1993, the awards were renamed the Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year awards in honor of the 11-time UI letterman and former Olympian.

Other University awards were handed out at the annual Scholar-Athlete banquet on May 3. Basketball senior Dee Brown and soccer All-American Christen Karniski earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Julie Crall from gymnastics and Kyle Hudson from football were named Newcomers of the Year, and Rasa Virsilaite (volleyball) and Alex Tirapelle (wrestling) were Spirit Award recipients. As has been done previously, the Eddleman Award winners were not selected until the completion of the spring sports seasons, which wrapped-up last weekend with the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

All-Time Illinois Athletes of the Year

1940    William J. Hapac, basketball & baseball
1941 John Drish, basketball & baseball
1942 Andy Phillip, basketball & baseball
1943 Andy Phillip, basketball & baseball
1944 Buddy Young, football & track
1945 Walton "Junior" Kirk, basketball
1946 Herbert McKenley, track
1947 Alex Agase, football & wrestling
1948 Dwight "Dike" Eddleman, football, basketball & track
1949 Dwight "Dike" Eddleman, football, basketball & track
1950 Russell Steger, football & baseball
1951 Don Sunderlage, basketball
1952 Charles Boerio, football
1953 Clive Follmer, basketball & baseball
1954 J.C. Caroline, football
1955 Paul Judson, basketball
1956 Em Lindbeck, football & baseball
1957 Abe Woodson, football & track
1958 Bob Mitchell, football & track
1959 Abe Grossfeld, gymnastics
1960 Bill Burrell, football
1961 Bill Brown, football & track
1962 Doug Mills, football, basketball & baseball
1963 Harold Holmes, gymnastics
1964 Dick Butkus, football
1965 Dick Butkus, football
1966 Jim Grabowski, football
1967 Jim Dawson, basketball
1968 Dave Scholz, basketball
1969 Dave Scholz, basketball
1970 Mike Price, basketball
1971 Lee LaBadie, track/cross country
1972 Rick Gross, track/cross country
1973-81 Award not given
1982 Tony Eason, football
1983 Tony Eason, football
Marianne Dickerson, track/cross country
1984 Don Thorp, football
Karen Brems, gymnastics
1985 Charles Lake, gymnastics
Kelly McNee, track/cross country
1986 David Williams, football
Jonelle Polk, basketball
1987 Darrin Fletcher, baseball
Mary Eggers, volleyball
1988 Tim Simon, track
Mary Eggers, volleyball
1989 David Zeddies, gymnastics
Mary Eggers, volleyball
1990 Kendall Gill, basketball
Laura Bush, volleyball
1991 Jon Llewellyn, wrestling
Sarah Sharp, basketball
Renee Heiken, golf
1992 Tim Simpson, football
Len Sitko, track/cross country
Renee Heiken, golf
Tonja Buford, track
1993 Marko Koers, track
Tonja Buford, track
1994 Anthony Jones, track
Tina Rogers, volleyball
1995 Dana Howard, football
Steve Marianetti, wrestling
Tonya Williams, track
1996 Kevin Hardy, football
Tonya Williams, track
1997 Ernest Benion, wrestling
Ashley Berggren, basketball
1998 Eric Siebert, wrestling
Ashley Bergren, basketball
Yvonne Harrison, track & field
1999 Oliver Freelove, tennis
Cristy Chapman, volleyball
2000 Jason Anderson, baseball
Jessica Aveyard, swimming
2001 Adam Tirapelle, wrestling
Perdita Felicien, track & field
2002 Kurt Kittner, football
Perdita Felicien, track & field
2003 Amer Delic, tennis
Matt Lackey, wrestling
Perdita Felicien, track & field
2004 Justin Spring, gymnastics
Leisha Alcia, soccer
2005 Deron Williams, basketball
Cassie Hunt, track & field/cross country
2006 Justin Spring, gymnastics
Cassie Hunt, track & field/cross country