Angela Bizzarri and Paul Ruggeri each won national titles this year.
June 17, 2009
Champaign, Ill. - A pair of NCAA champions have been named the 2008-09 winners of the Dike Eddleman Awards, which goes to the top male and female athletes at the University of Illinois. Gymnast Paul Ruggeri, who won NCAA titles on both the parallel bars and high bar and Angela Bizzarri, who last week won the national title in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, are this year's Eddleman recipients. This is the first time since 2003 that both recipients were NCAA champions. In addition, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics handed out its Male and Female Newcomers of the Year, respectively, to Andrew Riley of track & field and Michelle Bartsch of volleyball.
Bizzarri, who claims the Eddleman honor for the second straight year, won the 5,000-meter title going away, bettering second place by some nine seconds. That marked her seventh All-America honor in her three-year collegiate career combined in cross country and indoor and outdoor track. The sophomore from Mason, Ohio, also holds six school records, including a personal best time of 15:37.39 in the 5,000 meters from the Mt. SAC Relays, which is the 15th fastest time by any American this year. Bizzarri set a meet record in winning the Big Ten title in the 5,000 meters and claimed the Mideast Regional title in the event for the second straight year. In addition, she was named USTFCCCA Midwest Region Track Athlete of the Year.
In the fall, Bizzarri placed sixth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, tying the best-ever finish for an Illinois athlete at the national meet. She reset her own school 6K record in that meet while leading the Illini to their fourth straight top-10 national finish. During the indoor track season, Bizzarri placed fourth in the 3,000 meters at the NCAA Championships and set school records in both the 3,000 (9:11.62) and 5,000 (16:07.50) at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
"It's an honor to win this award again," Bizzarri said. "There are so many great athletes at Illinois, both past and present. When you look at the list of past winners, there are a lot of big names and those who have had a lot of success at the professional level. It's cool to be mentioned in the same company. Your goal as an athlete is always to continue to improve, no matter what you have already accomplished. After my season last year, I didn't know what was going to happen this year, so I just kept working as hard as I could and kept the same mindset. I'm happy everything worked out and I stayed healthy."
Ruggeri is on pace to become one of the most celebrated gymnasts in Illinois' storied history. The Manlius, N.Y., native capped an impressive sophomore season by winning individual national titles on both the parallel bars and high bar. The First Team All-Big Ten selection also won conference championships on parallel bars and floor while leading the Fighting Illini to their first Big Ten championship in five years. The season also included being crowned the U.S. National High Bar champion at the Winter Cup Challenge. In addition, Ruggeri charted 28 top-three finishes and 13 individual event titles despite missing four competitions due to injury.
"It is an honor to receive such a prestigious award and be recognized by the University that I love," Ruggeri said. "To be singled out as the top male athlete at Illinois is incredible because there are so many amazing competitors here. My coach (Justin Spring) won this award twice and went on to win a bronze medal at the Olympics, which is exciting because that is one of the goals I hope to achieve. To be in the same company as him and other Illini greats, shows how Illinois can prepare athletes for the world stage."
The University of Illinois Newcomers of the Year also have impressive credentials.
Riley finished the outdoor season as an All-American, placing fifth in the 110-meter hurdles at the NCAA Championships. He earned All-America status indoors after placing sixth in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor meet in March. The Kingston, Jamaica, native made the most of his time as an Illini after enrolling in school in January. His time of 13.61 in the 110 hurdles at the Drake Relays shattered the Illinois record by .11 seconds. Riley was named Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year after winning the 60-meter hurdles at the conference meet with a school record time of 7.72. He also placed fourth at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in the 110-meter hurdles.
Bartsch burst on the Illinois volleyball scene a year after the nation's sixth-rated recruiting class. Their combined efforts earned Illinois its 10th NCAA Sweet 16 berth and first since 2003. The versatile and talented Bartsch played middle blocker for the U.S. Junior National Team, which won gold at the 2008 NORCECA Championships where Bartsch was named the top server of the championships. The Maryville, Ill., native and Collinsville High School graduate played right side for Illinois in the fall, earning Big Ten and NCAA Mideast Regional Freshman of the Year. The Honorable Mention All-Midwest Regional choice ranked seventh in the Big Ten in blocks per set.
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 both a Male and Female Athlete of the Year. In 1993, the awards were named in honor of the 11-time UI letterman and former Olympian, Dwight "Dike" Eddleman. The Newcomer and Spirit Awards have been presented each year since 1990.
The other major awards were named on April 28 at the Scholar-Athlete reception. Basketball's Trent Meacham and soccer's Emily Zurrer earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor while Chester Frazier from basketball and Kayani Turner from volleyball were named the Male and Female Spirit Award winners, respectively.
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 Berggren, 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 2007 Kevin Anderson, tennis Yvonne Mensah, track & field 2008 J Leman, football Angela Bizzarri, track & field/cross country 2009 Paul Ruggeri, gymnastics Angela Bizzarri, track & field/cross country
1990 Steve Bridges, track & field/cross country Peggy Pullman, gymnastics 1991 Deon Thomas, basketball Mandy Cunningham, basketball 1992 Marko Koers, track & field Becky Biehl, golf 1993 Simeon Rice, football Kirsten Gleis, volleyball 1994 Jerry Turek, tennis Nicole "Punti" Viernes, gymnastics 1995 Robert Holcombe, football Erin Borske, volleyball 1996 Karl Roesler, wrestling Kim Berres, gymnastics 1997 Chris Jones, track & field Cary Franklin, tennis Tisha Ponder, track & field 1998 Adam Tirapelle, wrestling Aleisha Latimer, track & field 1999 Cory Bradford, basketball Jason Van Swol, track & field Allison Curtin, basketball 2000 Brandon Lloyd, football Shavonna Hunter, basketball 2001 Amer Delic, tennis Phil Stolt, tennis Jennifer McGaffigan, tennis Susanna Kallur, track & field 2002 Drew Davidson, baseball Ashley Williams, gymnastics 2003 Alex Tirapelle, wrestling Rajeev Ram, tennis Rachelle Coriddi, softball 2004 E.B. Halsey, football Cassie Hunt, track & field/cross country 2005 Kevin Anderson, tennis Macall Harkins, tennis 2006 Kyle Hudson, football/baseball Julie Crall, gymnastics 2007 Gakologelwang Masheto, track & field Angela Bizzarri, track & field/cross country 2008 Arrelious Benn, football Allison Buckley, gymnastics 2009 Andrew Riley, track & field Michelle Bartsch, volleyball