Three-Peat for Stigler as Kansas’ Best are Honored at Fourth Annual Rock Chalk Choice Awards
LAWRENCE, Kan. – NCAA champion Michael Stigler and three-time NCAA volleyball tournament participant Chelsie Albers were selected as Kansas’ Male and Female Athletes of the Year, the top honors among a flurry of accolades distributed at the fourth annual Rock Chalk Choice Awards at the Lied Center of Kansas Sunday evening.
On a night appropriately themed, “History Makers and Record Breakers,” Stigler a runner-up at the NCAA meet the last two years before breaking through in 2015, was tabbed as the top male Jayhawk for the third year in a row, a mammoth task on its own. The Canyon, Texas native, became Kansas’ 36th individual NCAA outdoor champion when he ran to the 400-meter hurdle title and also became the first Jayhawk in program history to earn First Team All-America honors in a single event in four-consecutive years. That moment was also selected by the audience as the Rock Chalk Moment of the Year in a text vote Sunday night.
“It means a lot to me and my coaching staff who put in a lot of work – and for track and field to be recognized at this award show,” Stigler said. “I was just glad that I could be the guy to do it for them – bring a National Championship home. It’s a great feeling.”
As in previous years, Kansas’ contenders included all-league performers, NCAA champions and future professional athletes. Stigler was picked out of a talented field of five, while Albers was chosen from nine standout female performers. She helped Kansas volleyball to its third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance while becoming just the seventh player in team history to record more than 900 kills and 800 digs during her career. The Papillon, Nebraska native closed her Jayhawk career by collecting All-Big 12 First Team honors, as well as AVCA All-Midwest Region First Team recognition.
Sunday’s event opened with a red carpet entrance at the Lied Center and a reception in the lobby, before emcee Kip Niven, a Kansas graduate of theatrical and movie fame, opened the awards ceremony and specialized awards in seven different categories were presented by a collection of some of Kansas’ great former student-athletes. Presenters included Bryan Sperry (football) for the Jayhawker Award; Ernie Shelby (track and field) for academics; Steve Renko (baseball, basketball and football) for best Jayhawk in a Supporting Role; David Jaynes (football) for the Crimson Climb; Tammy Thomas-Ammons (swimming and diving) for the True Blue Award; Billy Thomas (basketball) for athletic All-America recognition; Holly Gault (soccer) and Aaron Miles (basketball) for Female and Male Athlete of the Year; and Andrea Geubelle (track and field) for Moment of the Year.
Individual winners of conference and All-America academic and athletic honors were recognized throughout the program, but specifically, Kansas’ soccer and swimming and diving teams shared the Best Team GPA award after posting a 3.37 GPA. Jayhawk swimmers and divers also claimed the CHAMPS award, given to the Kansas program most engaged in five community service and spirit related categories.
Kansas basketball’s Frank Mason was presented with the Jayhawker Awared, given in honor of the pioneers who held true to their values through devastation and hardship while founding the state of Kansas. A junior guard from Petersburg, Virginia, Mason was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team after starting all 36 games at the point for KU’s NCAA Tournament team last season.
The Best Jayhawk in a Supporting Role Award, presented to a student-athlete who demonstrates extraordinary sportsmanship, support and loyalty to teammates and Kansas Athletics went to football’s Michael Cummings. A senior quarterback from Killeen, Texas, Cummings played in 23 games with 12 starts for Kansas over the last three seasons while throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has continued to support the team and contribute from the sidelines after a knee injury in the team’s spring game.
Also claiming an award from the Kansas football team was De’Andre Mann. The senior running back from Miami, Florida, was honored with the Crimson Climb Award, given to the student-athlete who has served as an inspiration to others by overcoming challenges and exceeding academic expectations. In addition to making significant strides in the classroom, Mann has overcome injury and is one of the Jayhawks’ options in a talented backfield.
Sophia Templin, a softball pitcher from DeSoto, Kansas, was given the True Blue Award, honoring 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. Active with a number of student organizations and Greek life, Templin also provided a change of pace and direction in the circle for a Jayhawks team that advanced to its second-straight NCAA Tournament last season.
Towards the end of the program, attendees had a chance to select Kansas’ Moment of the Year from 2014-15. Stigler was selected over the softball team’s walk-off win to secure an NCAA Tournament bid, a rally by the rowing team to top Kansas State in the Sunflower Showdown, and men’s basketball’s clinching of its 11th-straight Big 12 Conference title.
“There were a lot of good nominees up for the award – the softball walk-off, that was big for them,” Stigler said. “To bring this home for the track and field team was great. We have a great group of young guys coming up, I know they look up to me. So hopefully this will give them a boost going into the year.”
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.
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