Athlete of the Year nominees announced for seventh annual Rock Chalk Choice Awards
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The 2017-18 athletic year proved to be one for the ages for Kansas Athletics. From national champions to All-Americans and conference titles, the Jayhawks were well represented in the national spotlight. The best of the best among the student-athlete body will be announced at the seventh annual Rock Chalk Choice Awards on September 9 at the Lied Center with the Female and Male Athlete of the Year awards.
The crowning of the top female and male Kansas Jayhawks will cap an evening that begins with a red-carpet entrance and a reception in the Lied Center lobby, followed by an awards show during which top honors in seven different categories – Jayhawker Award, Best Jayhawk in a Supporting Role, The Crimson Climb Award, True Blue Award, Rock Chalk Moment Award, and Male and Female Athlete of the Year – will be unveiled and special student-athlete academic achievements will be recognized.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Haley Downey (Swimming & Diving) – Earned All-Big 12 First Team and Academic All-Big 12 First Team honors as a sophomore. Downey broke the Kansas record in the 100-yard breaststroke with a third-place finished at the Big 12 Championships with a time of 1:01.43. She also broke the Kansas record in the 200-yard breaststroke with a fourth-place time of 2:13.50 in the finals at the Big 12 Championship. She was a member of the third-place 400-yard medley relay team at the conference meet with a time that was eight-hundredths of a second off the school record that was set in 2008.
Ainise Havili (Volleyball) – Ended her career at KU as a four-time AVCA All-American, including first-team All-America honors in 2015. The 2017 AVCA Midwest Region Player of the Year won a record-setting three Big 12 Setter of the Year awards after leading the Big 12 in assists per set (11.37) during the 2017 campaign. Havili owns KU’s all-time record in career assists (5,255) and led Kansas to the top-two most efficient offensive seasons in program history with a .258 team hitting percentage in 2017 and a .299 hitting percentage in 2015. Havili had 12 50-assist matches in 2017, including the most assists recorded by a Big 12 player last season with 63 at NC State. Havili’s senior class ended their collegiate career with 101 victories, four NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the 2015 Final Four.
Sharon Lokedi (Cross Country/Track & Field) – Won her second Big 12 Cross Country Championship in 2017, becoming just the fourth female in conference history to win multiple individual titles, earning her Big 12 Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Year honors for the second-straight season. During the indoor track & field season she won conference titles in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs and earned First Team All-America honors in both events as well. For her efforts during the indoor season, Lokedi was named Big 12 Women’s Indoor Track & Field Performer of the Year. Lokedi also won two Big 12 Championships during the outdoor season, finishing first in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs before going on to winning the NCAA Championship in the 10,000-meter run where she broke a 30-year-old meet record with a time of 32:21.19. Her national championship was followed up with yet another All-America nod, as she earned second team honors in the 5,000-meter run.
Christalah Lyons (Women’s Basketball) – Earned an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention nod for her junior season in which she was one of two Jayhawks to start all 30 games, averaging 14.8 points per game to lead the team. Lyons ranked 10th in scoring in conference play with 15.1 points per game. During the season, she recorded double-digit scoring efforts 27 times, including three 20-point efforts.
Kayla Morrison (Soccer) – Morrison was named the Big 12’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-Big 12 second team selection after starting all 20 games for the Jayhawks in 2017. She led the team in minutes played and was never subbed out during the season. She also scored two goals on the year, including the game-winner in KU’s 2-1 win over No. 9 Texas. Morrison was also named to the Academic All-Big 12 First team.
Anastasia Rychagova (Tennis) – Recorded an 18-3 overall singles record, including 8-1 in dual matches at the No. 1 spot for the Jayhawks. Rychagova went 11-2 against nationally-ranked opponents and was named to the All-Big 12 Singles First Team and the 2018 Academic All-Big 12 Second Team. She held a spot in the nation’s top-10 all season, including an extended period of time at No. 1. Her efforts earned her ITA All-America status, making Rychagova the first Jayhawk to be named one since 1998. She earned an at-large bid to compete at the NCAA Division I Singles Championships and was invited to compete at the NCAA Division I Doubles Championships with teammate Nina Khmelnitckaia, contributing to the program’s first NCAA Tournament win in 19 years.
Kaelyn Thierolf (Rowing) – Earned All-Big 12 First Team honors, Academic All-Big 12 First Team honors and was named Kansas Oarswoman of the Year. Thierolf powered Kansas’ First Varsity Eight, helping the boat to a first-place victory at the George Mason Invite with a time of 6:25.7, which was one of the fastest times in program history unaided by current or flow. She rowed in the 1V8 victory over Kansas State in the Dillon’s Sunflower Showdown and helped the boat qualify for the Grand Final at the Big 12 Championship.
The Female Athlete of the Year will receive her award from former Kansas track & field standout Andrea Geubelle.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Hussain Al Hizam (Track & Field) – Recorded a stellar junior season for the Jayhawks that saw him win the Big 12 Indoor pole vault title and the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships national crown in the pole vault, where he broke a school record, Gilliam Stadium facility record and Saudi Arabian national record with a clearance of 5.70 meters (18-8.25 ft.). His efforts during the indoor season earned him Big 12 Men’s Indoor Performer of the Year honors. Al Hizam went on to win the Big 12 outdoor pole vault title, where he broke his own conference championship meet record and his own Saudi national record with a vault of 5.63 meters (18-5.5 ft.). He went on to earn First Team All-America honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships by tying for fifth in the pole vault and was later named a Third Team Academic All-American by CoSIDA and was named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team.
Joe Dineen Jr. (Football) – Voted a team captain for the Jayhawk football team, Dineen started all 12 games at linebacker and was KU first Sports Illustrated All-American since Aqib Talib in 2007, earning second team honors. He was named an All-Big 12 first teamer by the Waco Tribune-Herald and All-Big 12 Second Team by the league coaches, Associated Press and Phil Steele Magazine. Dineen led the FBS and Big 12 in solo takcles with 7.6 per game and set a KU single-season record with 25.0 tackles-for-loss. He ranked third in the FBS and first in the Big 12 with 2.1 TFLs per game. Dineen recorded 137 tackles in 2017, which ranks eighth on the KU single-season chart and was the most single Roger Robben finished with 189 in 1989. His 11.4 tackles per game led the Big 12 and ranked third in the FBS.
Devin Foyle (Baseball) – Started in 57 games for the Jayhawks, batting .330 (68-for-206) with seventeen doubles, tne home runs, two triples and 42 RBIs. Foyle led the team in nearly every category, including batting average, runs (49), hits (68), doubles (17), home runs (10), slugging percentage (.578) and stolen bases (12). He went on to earn All-Midwest Region honors from the American baseball Coaches Association and All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades, and was drafted in the 17th round of the MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics (503rd overall).
Devonte’ Graham (Men’s Basketball) – Named a consensus First Team All-America selection and was named to the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional All-Tournament Team. Graham was a Naismith Trophy finalist, Wooden Award Finalist and was a Big 12 Championship All-Tournament team selection. He was named Big 12 Player of the Year, breaking the Kansas single-season record for assists (282) and minutes played (1,474). He ended his career ranked No. 11 on the KU single-season scoring list (675), No. 3 in assists per game (7.23) and tied for ninth in free throws made (167). Graham was the only player in Division I to average 17.0-plus points, 7.0-plus assists, 1.6-plus steals and fewer than 3.0 turnovers per game. He was third in the Big 12 in scoring (17.3), second in assists (7.2) seventh in free throw percentage (82.7), sixth in steals (1.6), ninth in 3-point field goals made (11), second in 3-point field goals attempted (271) and fifth in minutes per game (34.5).
Andy Spencer (Men’s Golf) – Competing in all 14 of the team’s events in 2017-18, Spencer led the team with a round average of 71.63 and also led the Jayhawk squad with 20 rounds under-par. He finished in the top-20 on nine difference occasions throughout the year, four of those being top-five finishes. At the Badger Invitational, he finished second with a second-round 65, which is the lowest round of his career. Spencer’s 54-hole total of 203 at the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic is tied for the sixth-best total in program history. He won the 2018 Tom Watson Challenge for the second time and was named an Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree.
The Male Athlete of the Year Award will be presented by Kansas football great, Darrell Stuckey.
Following a red-carpet entrance that will aired live on the KU Leads Instagram account and a reception in the Lied Center lobby, accolades in five additional categories – Jayhawker Award, True Blue Award, Rock Chalk Moment Award, and Male and Female Athlete of the Year – will be unveiled and special student-athlete academic achievements will be recognized during the ceremony on September 9.
Due to space limitations, the event is by invitation only and limited to athletic department staff, student-athletes, and selected KU faculty and dignitaries.
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