Spencer, Parr Named Dike Eddleman Athletes of the Year
June 11, 2013
Champaign, Ill. - Baseball center fielder Justin Parr (Illinois Valley Central HS, Chillicothe, Ill.) and track & field sprinter Ashley Spencer (Lawrence North HS, Indianapolis, Ind.) have been named the winners of the 2012-13 Dike Eddleman Awards, which are presented to the top male and female athletes at the University of Illinois each school year.
Parr becomes the first baseball player to claim the honor since Jason Anderson in 2000, while Spencer is the 10th women's track & field student-athlete to do so in the last 13 years. As Fighting Illini Athletes of the Year, Parr and Spencer become Illinois' nominees for Big Ten Athlete of the Year honors, which will be announced later this month.
Parr was a Louisville Slugger First-Team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year after batting .398 with 92 hits, leading the conference and ranking in among the national leaders in both categories. He also led the team with 25 extra base hits (15 doubles, four triples and six home runs), 53 RBIs, a .576 slugging percentage and a .453 on-base percentage while leading the Fighting Illini to 35 wins and an NCAA Regional berth. He also excelled in the field, tallying 134 putouts and three assists without an error while starting every game in center field. Click here to look back at Parr's 2013 season.
The Chillicothe, Ill., native made headlines during the season by hitting for the cycle against Purdue on April 14, becoming the first Illini to do so since 2009. But his biggest accomplishment of the 2013 season may have been his school-record 33-game hitting streak, which shattered the previous mark of 25 games and was the second-lonest streak in the nation this season.
"I am very honored to win this award and to have had the opportunity to be an athlete at an elite school," Parr said. "I really want to credit the coaching staff and my teammates because I would not have had the type of season I had without them. Our great offensive lineup and the guys around me made me look even better and put me in the position to have success. It is extremely cool to be associated with the other Illini greats on this list, like Deron Williams and Jason Anderson. I feel very blessed to be an Illini and to always be a part of this program."
Spencer followed up an incredible freshman season in 2011-12 when she was named Illinois Newcomer of the Year with an even better sophomore campaign. She won the NCAA 400m national title for the second year in a row with a time of 50.28, breaking the Illinois school record and ranking as the fourth-best collegiate time ever (Watch Spencer's Race). The Indianapolis native earned All-America honors in the 4x400 relay (outdoors) and 400m (indoors), making her a five-time All-American after just two seasons. She also won six Big Ten titles on the season, taking the 200m, 400m and 4x400 relay titles at both the indoor and outdoor championships.
Spencer was named USTFCCCA Midwest Region Athlete of the Year, Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Championships, and Big Ten Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Championships. She helped lead the Illini to the Big Ten Indoor team championship and to 14th place finishes at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor championships.
"It's really an honor to win the Eddleman Award," Spencer said. "After being a finalist for it and winning the Newcomer Award last year, I knew I had to work a little bit harder this year to get it. Getting this award, it's really an honor knowing all the greats that have gotten it in the past."
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 1983, 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.
Parr and Spencer join the list of all-time Fighting Illini greats that have been bestowed the Eddleman Award, including names like Dike Eddleman himself (football, basketball and track, 1948 & '49), Dick Butkus (football, 1963 & '64), Craig Virgin (track and cross country, 1977), Mary Eggers (volleyball, 1987-89), Tonja Buford-Bailey (track, 1992 & '93), Perdita Felicien (track, 2001-03), Justin Spring (gymnastics, 2004 & '06), Deron Williams (basketball, 2005) and, most recently, Andrew Riley (track, 2011 & '12) and Colleen Ward (volleyball, 2012), to name a few.
This is the final major honor announced by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics this year. Brandon Paul (men's basketball) and Alina Weinstein (gymnastics) were the recipients of the Big Ten Medal of Honor and Shayla Mutz (soccer) and Corey Lewis (football) took home the male and female Spirit Awards at the annual Fighting Illini Scholar-Athlete Reception in April. Sprinter Morolake Akinosun (track) and national champion Fred Hartville (men's gymnastics) clamed the Illinois Newcomer of the Year awards, announced earlier today.