RCCA committee reveals True Blue and Jayhawker Award nominees

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Among the many memorable Jayhawk moments – including postseason runs, conference championships and even Olympic invites – to celebrate from 2015-16, are a group of student-athletes who contributed to the community and remained mentally tough in competition will be recognized with the Jayhawker and True Blue awards at the Rock Chalk Choice Awards at the Lied Center of Kansas, Sept. 11.

Chase Hanna (Men’s Golf), Drew Matthews (Men’s Track), Maddie Irelan (Rowing), Sammie Schurig (Swimming) and Tayler Soucie (Volleyball) are this year’s nominees for the True Blue Award, which honors a student-athlete who demonstrates devotion to excellence in academics and athletics while advancing Kansas Athletics through participation in student organizations or community service projects.

  • Hanna, from Leawood, Kansas, competed in all 13 events during his junior season, leading KU in scoring twice. He finished last season with a 72.64 average, the lowest of his career, while earning a spot on the 2015-16 Academic All-Big 12 First Team, 2015-16 Athletic Director’s and Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Rolls.
  • Matthews, from Sammamish, Washington, ran his fastest 400-meter time to earn a top-20 finish at the Big 12 Championship (48.57). In the 4×400 during the outdoor season, he helped Kansas finish fourth at Big 12 Championship and his team won the Kansas Relays. Matthews also was named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team and USTFCCCA All-Academic Squad.
  • Irelan, from Dublin, Ohio, was a member of Kansas’ First Varsity Eight boat that advanced to the Grand Final and helped the program to a third-place finish at the Big 12 Rowing Championship. She also contributed to KU’s sweep of K-State in the Sunflower Showdown, which earned her boat the Big 12’s Boat of the Week recognition. Irelan was one of 21 Jayhawks on the Academic All-Big 12 Rowing Teams.
  • Schurig, from Topeka, Kansas, placed in the top nine in all three of her events at the Big 12 Championship. Schurig was placed on the Academic All-Big 12 First Team, Fall Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll with a 4.0 GPA.
  • Soucie, from Osawatomie, Kansas, earned Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year for 2015 and was placed on the AVCA All-Midwest Regional First Team while helping guide the Jayhawks to the program’s first ever NCAA Final Four berth. Off the court, she was named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team 2015.

Maddie Stein, a Jayhawk softball alum and past recipient of the award, will be the presenter. Stein, who graduated in 2015, finished her career first in RBIs (150), tied for fourth in batting average (.349), tied for third in doubles (47), tied for fourth in hits (219), sixth in total bases (307) and 10th in slugging percentage (.490), while also serving as a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representative and voting delegate at the NCAA Convention.

The Jayhawker award, which is presented to an athlete that has exhibited a commitment to Kansas principles and demonstrated mental toughness in the face of adversity and competition while making a positive contribution to Kansas Athletics. Devonte’ Graham (Men’s Basketball), Hannah Kallmaier (Soccer), Harli Ridling (Softball), Fish Smithson (Football) and Cassie Wait (Volleyball) round out this year’s nominees.

  • Graham, from Raleigh, North Carolina, earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors as a sophomore. He also was named 2016 Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Player and was placed on the 2015-16 Big 12 All-Defensive Team.
  • Kallmaier, from Emmerting, Germany, was sidelined for the 2014 season due to injury, but bounced back in 2015 by starting in 17 of 21 games. She tallied an assist and played 1593 minutes throughout the course of the season.
  • Ridling, from Sentinel, Oklahoma, started 49 of KU’s 51 games behind the plate after sitting out a year due to injury. She batted .270 on the season and had nine home runs, 24 runs scored and was second on the team with 43 RBI.
  • Smithson, from Baltimore, Maryland, led the nation in solo tackles per game during his junior season, averaging 7.9 per contest. Smithson had double-digit total tackles in eight of the eleven games he played in, three of which he recorded double-digit solo tackles.
  • Wait, from Gardner, Kansas, set KU’s single-season digs per set record in 2015, averaging 5.19 digs per set. Her presence on the court earned her a spot on the NCAA San Diego Regional All-Tournament Team as well as the title of Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week on three separate occasions while helping Kansas to its first ever NCAA Final Four appearance.

Presenting the Jayhawker Award is Brianne Riley, a former libero for the Jayhawks’ volleyball team and Jayhawker recipient, who graduated in 2013. Riley currently has the Kansas all-time dig record with 2,053 digs and was named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team from her sophomore through her senior years.

Following a red-carpet entrance and a reception in the Lied Center lobby, accolades in seven main categories – Best Jayhawk in a Supporting Role, Crimson Climb Award, 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 Sept. 11.

As in years past, due to space limitations at the Lied Center the event is by invitation only and limited to athletic department staff, student-athletes, and selected KU faculty and dignitaries. A tape-delayed presentation of the Rock Chalk Choice Awards will be aired at a later date on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, along with scenes from the student-athlete entrances on the Red Carpet. Furthermore, a special live Red Carpet show will be streamed live via Facebook for followers of Kansas Athletics.   

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