Dee Brown and Christen Karniski were awarded the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor at the 16th Annual Fighting Illini Scholar-Athlete Banquet on May 2.
May 2, 2006
Photo gallery from the Scholar-Athlete Banquet
Basketball star Dee Brown (Maywood, Ill.) and soccer standout Christen Karniski (Iowa City, Iowa) were among the student-athletes honored Tuesday night at the 16th annual University of Illinois Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet, held at the Assembly Hall. Brown and Karniski were named winners of the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor, which is awarded annually at each conference school to a male and female senior student-athlete who have demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and athletics. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first endowed in 1914 and has become the top annual award the University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics bestows.
Soccer star Christen Karniski has been a constant force in the defensive backfield since the first day she stepped on the field back in 2003. She finished her career this past fall as the UI record holder for career games played and games started and was a key ingredient in helping the Illinois soccer program, and particularly the defense, rise to national prominence over the last four year. This season she was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was a second team All-America selection by the NSCAA and Soccer Buzz while leading the Illini to their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. As a junior in the fall of 2004, Karniski helped lead the Illini to an NCAA Elite Eight appearance, earning second team All-Big Ten and All-Region honors in the process.
Even more impressive than her soccer accomplishments, however, are Karniski's marks in the classroom. The Iowa City, Iowa, native has maintained a near-perfect 3.89 grade point average as an English major, and has been named to several academic teams during her tenure with the Orange & Blue. She was a first team NSCAA Scholar All-American this year, as well as being named CoSIDA Academic All-District and Academic All-Big Ten for the third straight year.
Dee Brown is a name that is synonymous with Illinois athletics. Arguably the most popular Illini athlete of all time, Brown's accomplishments on the court are endless. A starter and team leader from day one, Brown came into his own during his junior season in 2004-05, leading the Illini to a national runner-up finish while earning National and Big Ten Player of the Year honors and consensus first team All-America status. Shortly after the season, Brown declared for the NBA draft, but after suffering a broken foot at the pre-draft camp, he returned to Illinois for his senior season.
Illini fans around the country were grateful for his return, as Brown led the Big Ten in assists and won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard and the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award at the nation's top senior 6-feet tall and under. He was a consensus second team All-American and first team All-Big Ten selection as well as being a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. Brown finished his career as the winningest player in Illinois history (114 victories) and as the all-time leader in minutes, games and games started. He ranks third on the UI career scoring list (1,812 points), second in career three-pointers (299), second in career assists (674), second in career steals (231) and third in career field goals (638).
Outside the gym, Brown excelled in the classroom, earning Academic All-Big Ten status, and was an active leader in the community. As part of the Hometown Heroes program and as part of his internship in the athletic department, Brown frequently visited local hospitals and schools to offer encouragement and advise to children. His impact on the Champaign-Urbana community over the last four years is immeasurable.
Several other awards were handed out at Assembly Hall on Tuesday night. The male and female Newcomer of the Year Awards went to football and baseball standout Kyle Hudson (Mattoon, Ill.) and gymnast Julie Crall (Cincinnati, Ohio). Hudson led the football team in receiving yards and currently leads the baseball team in batting average. Crall finished fifth in the all-around at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships and was a second-team All-Big Ten selection.
The Fighting Illini Spirit Awards, which are given to the male and female athletes who best exemplify the spirit, courage, effort and dedication of the Fighting Illini, were also handed out at the banquet. Senior wrestler Alex Tirapelle (Clovis, Calif.) and senior volleyball player Rasa Virsilaite (Kaunas, Lithuania) took home the Sprit Award hardware.
Finalists for the Dike Eddleman Male and Female Athlete of the Year Awards were also announced. The Eddleman Award winners will not be announced until the conclusion of the spring sports seasons in June. Female finalists are Jenna Hall (Channahon, Ill.), softball, Macall Harkins (Verdes Estates, Calif.), tennis, Cassie Hunt (Roachdale, Ind.), cross country/track & field, Christen Karniski (Iowa City, Iowa), soccer, Yvonne Mensah (Surrey, B.C.), track & field, Cara Pomeroy (Ottawa, Ontario), gymnastics, Rachel Van Meter (Lexington, Ky.), volleyball, Barbie Viney (Georgetown, Ky.), swimming & diving. Male Dike Eddleman Award finalists are Dee Brown (Maywood, Ill.), basketball, Ryler DeHeart (Tampa, Fla.), tennis, Pete Friedl (Orland Park, Ill.), wrestling, Abe Jones (Rolling Meadows, Ill.), track & field, Patrick Nagle (Pacifica, Calif.), golf, Justin Spring (Burke, Va.), gymnastics.
In addition to honoring current student-athletes, a pair of former Illini greats were also on hand to address the over 600 in attendance. Track & field star Dawn Riley Duval, '96, and wrestler John Kakacek, '81, both former Big Ten Medal of Honor winners, each spoke about the impact that being a Fighting Illini student-athlete had on their careers.
The Scholar-Athlete Banquet is an annual event that recognizes graduating student-athletes and others that have excelled both athletically and academically. Below is a complete list of the evening's award winners and finalists.
Fighting Illini Newcomer of the Year Finalists
(Best athlete performing in his/her first year of competition at Illinois)
Freshman Lori Bjork (Johnston, Iowa), basketball
Freshman Marissa Clapp (Danville, Ill.), swimming & diving
Freshman Julie Crall (Cincinnati, Ohio), gymnastics ***WINNER***
Freshman Katie Engel (North Gower, Ontario), cross country
Freshman Omoye Ugiagbe (Scarborough, Ontario), track & field
Freshman Emily Zurrer (Vancouver, B.C.), soccer
Freshman Kyle Hudson (Mattoon, Ill.), football/baseball ***WINNER***
Freshman Chris Lung (Lexington, Mass.), gymnastics
Freshman Mike Poeta (Highwood, Ill.), wrestling
Freshman Jamar Smith (Peoria, Ill.), basketball
Freshman Marc Spicijaric (Wesley Chapel, Fla.), tennis
Freshman Dominique Worsley (Manchester, N.H.), track & field
Fighting Illini Spirit Award Finalists
(Athletes who exemplify the spirit, courage, effort and dedication of the Fighting Illini)
Senior Rachel Frank (Buffalo Grove, Ill.), soccer
Senior Brianna Knue (Western Spring, Ill.), tennis
Senior Samantha Leibold (Northbrook, Ill.), swimming & diving
Senior Megan O'Neal (Glenview, Ill.), golf
Junior Stephanie Simms (South Wilmington, Ill.), cross country
Senior Rasa Virsilaite (Kaunas, Lithuania), volleyball ***WINNER***
Senior James Augustine (Mokena, Ill.), basketball
Senior Adam Pummer (Allentown, Pa.), gymnastics
Junior Shawn Roof (Paducah, Ky.), baseball
Senior Trammel Smith (Lombard, Ill.), track & field
Senior Alex Tirapelle (Clovis, Calif.), wrestling ***WINNER***
Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year Finalists
(Awarded to the female and male student-athletes who have distinguished themselves in athletic achievement.)
***The Dike Eddleman Award winners will be determined following completion of the spring seasons.***
Senior Jenna Hall (Channahon, Ill.), softball
Sophomore Macall Harkins (Verdes Estates, Calif.), tennis
Junior Cassie Hunt (Roachdale, Ind.), cross country/track & field
Senior Christen Karniski (Iowa City, Iowa), soccer
Junior Yvonne Mensah (Surrey, B.C.), track & field
Junior Cara Pomeroy (Ottawa, Ontario), gymnastics
Senior Rachel Van Meter (Lexington, Ky.), volleyball
Junior Barbie Viney (Georgetown, Ky.), swimming & diving
Senior Dee Brown (Maywood, Ill.), basketball
Senior Ryler DeHeart (Tampa, Fla.), tennis
Senior Pete Friedl (Orland Park, Ill.), wrestling
Senior Abe Jones (Rolling Meadows, Ill.), track & field
Junior Patrick Nagle (Pacifica, Calif.), golf
Senior Justin Spring (Burke, Va.), gymnastics
Fighting Illini Outstanding Team GPA Awards
(Highest cumulative grade point average for a team)
Women's Golf - 3.345 Cumulative GPA, Coach Paula Smith
Men's Cross Country - 3.109 Cumulative GPA, Coach Wendel McRaven
Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award Winners
(Male and Female letterwinners with the highest grade point average in each class of school.)
Sophomore Momei Qu (Portland, Ore.) tennis, 4.0 GPA - electrical engineering
Sophomore Michael Boyer (Northbrook, Ill.), gymnastics, 3.82 GPA - general curriculum
Junior Jacqueline Bain (Tinley Park, Ill.), swimming & diving, 3.86 GPA - political science
Junior Jason Bill (Buda, Ill.), cross country/track & field, 3.75 GPA - integrative biology
Senior Emily Earle (St. Petersburg, Fla.), gymnastics, 3.90 GPA - kinesiology
Senior Charles Kurlinkus (Roscoe, Ill.), track & field, 3.90 GPA - integrative biology