Adam Tirapelle was
named the 2001 Illinois
male athlete of the year.
Perdita Felicien was
named the female
athlete of the year.
June 13, 2001
Champaign, Ill. - A national champion wrestler and a world-class hurdler have been chosen as the 2001 Dike Eddleman University of Illinois Athletes of the Year. Senior wrestler Adam Tirapelle, the 2001 149-pound NCAA Champion, finished his career as a three-time All-American and as a four-time NCAA Championship qualifier. He was the national runner-up in 2000.
Sophomore hurdler and four-time All-American Perdita Felicien was named the U.S. Track Coaches Association National Female Outdoor Athlete of the Year and the Big Ten Female Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year following a sterling spring performance that currently sees her ranked fourth in the world in the 100-meter hurdles.
Tirapelle and Felicien will be forwarded to the Big Ten Conference for consideration as finalists for the Big Ten's 2001 Jesse Owens Male and Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year awards.
Tirapelle, a senior from Clovis, Calif., finished his career with a 127-21 record and is Illinois' all-time leader in wins and career pins. He finished third in his weight class as a sophomore and second as a junior before winning the title in 2001 as a senior.
Tirapelle was selected from among seven finalists for the award, including wrestler John Lockhart, the 2001 NCAA Heavyweight Champion, baseball player Andy Dickinson, the 2001 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, 2001 Big Ten Basketball Player of the Year Frank Williams, All-America gymnast Leo Oka, tennis All-American Graydon Oliver, and football quarterback Kurt Kittner.
"I was a little surprised to receive this award because the other nominees are all great athletes and have meant so much to their respective sports" Tirapelle said. "I am really excited to be chosen for this award, which is obviously such a recognizable honor. It's something that I'll have with me forever."
"When you look at Adam's credentials, being a national champion, three-time All-American and our all time wins leader and pins leader, it makes him probably the greatest wrestler in Illinois history," Head Coach Mark Johnson said. "But even more importantly, he's one of the finest leaders of young men I've ever been around. He's just a terrific leader, a great student-athlete and somebody that the entire University of Illinois can be proud of."
Felicien, a sophomore from Pickering, Ontario and a member of the 2000 Canadian Olympic Team, was the national runner-up in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships and finished fifth in the 100-meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She was ranked No. 1 in the nation heading into the outdoor meet and spent much of the spring ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter hurdles. Felicien helped the Illinois shuttle relay team set a world record in the event at the Drake Relays and won her first Big Ten Championship on May 20, when she claimed the 100m hurdles title in a school and Big Ten meet record time of 12.73 seconds.
She becomes just the third female sophomore to win the award at Illinois following volleyball star Mary Eggers in 1987 and golfer Renee Heiken in 1991.
Felicien was selected from among six finalists for the award, including swimmer Anna Christiansen, Illinois' first All-Big Ten performer, basketball All-Big Ten performer Allison Curtin, first-team All-Big Ten soccer player Emily Brown, freshman tennis star Jennifer McGaffigan, and volleyball All-Big Ten selection Betsy Spicer.
"When I was with the other nominees at the (scholar athlete) banquet a few weeks ago, I felt lucky and happy just to be a finalist," Felicien said. "The fact that I have won is incredible, I just feel so honored. This is the first time track has won in a couple of years, and now the last four winners from women's track have all been hurdlers. I think it shows we're really accomplishing something great here."
"Perdita has had the biggest whirlwind season of any athlete I've had here at Illinois," Head Coach Gary Winckler said. "From my perspective, this was really a fantastic year for her. In looking at her season, what is amazing is the consistency of high level performances. She ran world class times right out of the box and kept that going the entire season. What she has accomplished here in two years, it's a pretty amazing feat for a sophomore."
Tirapelle and Felicien will be formally presented the Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year Awards at the Varsity "I" Banquet, which will take place Sept. 14 in Champaign-Urbana.