May 26, 2011
The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has announced finalists for the 2011 Male Newcomer of the Year. The five finalists were honored at the annual Scholar-Athlete Reception on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011. The winner of the award will be announced at the end of the spring seasons.
Freshman pole vaulter Matthew Bane has made a big impact for the Illini track team. During the indoor season, Bane won the Big Ten pole vault title in front of the home crowd at the UI Armory with a personal best mark of 17-3 ¾ (5.28m), becoming the first Illini since 2000 to do so. His efforts earned him First-Team All-Big Ten honors. During the outdoor season, Bane continued his success, earning a third-place finish in the pole vault at the Big Ten Championships. The Rochester, Ill., native has qualified for the NCAA West Preliminary Round of Championship in Eugene, Ore., which will be held from May 26-28.
Wrestler Jackson Morse made the most of his late-season opportunities during his freshman campaign. Morse competed unattached in early season with a plan to redshirt, but after posting a 15-5 record to open the season, he entered the Illini lineup on Jan. 7 against West Virginia. He finished the season with a 22-14 record and placed seventh at the Big Ten Championships at 157. A native of Alto, Mich., Morse earned an at-large bit to the 2011 NCAA Championships, where he helped the Illini finish 22nd in the nation.
Freshman Thomas Pieters has been a regular in the Illini golf line-up, helping the team remain among the nation's elite. The Belgium native has been in the starting lineup for every tournament this season for the Illini. He tied for second-place at the D.A. Weibring Invitational and also placed 15th at the Wolf Run Invitational in the fall. In the spring, he helped the Illini to their third straight Big Ten Championship with a tie for 10th place and then helped the team to a second place finish at the NCAA Central Regional with a tie for 17th. Pieters and the Illini will play in the NCAA Championships for the fourth straight year next week in Stillwater, Okla.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had a stellar season for the Fighting Illini football team, culminating in a career performance in Illinois' 38-14 win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Scheelhaase turned in many unforgettable performances on his way to earning Freshman All-America honors and earning Big Ten Freshman of the week accolades six-times. For the season, Scheelhaase completed 155 of 264 passes for 1,825 yards, with 17 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He was particularly dialed-in late in the season, tossing 13 touchdowns and just one interception in the last seven games while leading the Illini to a fourth place finish in the Big Ten. The Kansas City, Mo., native also broke the Illinois freshman rushing record and the all-time single-season QB rushing record with 868 yards on the ground.
Freshman gymnast Jordan Valdez competed in every meet for the Fighting Illini during his rookie campaign, primarily on the parallel bars and high bars. He helped the Illini win their third straight Big Ten team title and qualified for event finals in both events at the Big Ten Championships, where he received a third-place on the high bar with a score 14.800. The Louisville, Colo., native posted 13 top-three finishes and two event titles, one on high bar and one in the all-around, on the season. He was recognized as Illinois Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree and helped the Illini place third at the NCAA Championships.