April 24, 2007
LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State's athletics department recognized 148 student-athletes and three managers and student trainers for achieving a 3.2 grade point average at the 52nd annual Joe E. and Elma Whitesides Scholar-Athlete Luncheon on Tuesday. To be eligible for the honor, student-athletes must have a cumulative 3.2 grade point average or have posted a 3.2 GPA during the last two semesters.
The top two honorees during the luncheon were gymnast Rachael Mandy and soccer player Sierra Smith, who were recognized as the Joe E. Whitesides Award recipients. It is just the third time in the 52-year history of the event that the top honor was shared. In 1994 Haley Houtchens-Lindhardt and Lori Loudner, both gymnasts, were selected for their outstanding academic work, while tennis player Carolyn Stephens and track and field athlete Crystal Thisselle shared the honor in 2005.
Mandy, a senior from Fargo, N.D., was a three-time academic all-conference selection, while earning a 3.91 GPA in human resource management. During her Utah State career, she helped USU win the 2005 Western Gymnastics Conference Championship. This past season she served as a graduate student-assistant for student-athlete services.
Smith, a senior from Salt Lake City, Utah, has posted a 3.91 GPA while majoring in exercise science and was one of 11 players from the WAC to be recognized with the National Soccer Coaches Association/adidas student-athlete academic award this past fall. During her senior season, she helped Utah State to a 10-8-2 record and a second-seed in the 2006 Western Athletic Conference Tournament as USU recorded a 5-0-2 league mark.
Twelve of the past 13 recipients of the top individual honor have been women as the only male in that time to win the award was Mike Puzey from men's basketball in 2003.
Utah State also handed out team honors as the men's tennis team was named the top academic team with less than 20 members, while the women's track team was the top academic team with more than 20 members. Four squads tied for the most improved team academically in men's golf, men's tennis, women's tennis, and volleyball.
Track athlete Dasheek Akwenye was presented the Aggie Achievement Award for overcoming injuries, dealing with eligibility issues, and most recently the passing of his father.
The athletics department also honored Taya Flores and Lacey Bryant for their contributions to USU's student-athletes. Flores, who is a scholarship counselor in the financial aid office, received the Meet The Challenge Award, while Bryant received the Outstanding Tutor Award.
The Whitesides honors started in 1953 by former USU athlete, coach and athletics director Joe E. Whitesides.
2007 UTAH STATE WHITESIDES SPECIAL HONORS Whitesides Winner - Rachael Mandy, Gymnastics; Sierra Smith, Women's Soccer Aggie Achievement - Dasheek Akwenye, Men's Track Meet The Challenge - Taya Flores Outstanding Tutor - Lacey Bryant
Top Teams (20 + members) 1. Women's Track 2. Women's Soccer 3. Men's Track
Top Teams (less than 20 members) 1. Men's Tennis 2. Gymnastics & Women's Cross Country 3. Volleyball
Most Improved Teams 1. Men's Golf, Men's Tennis, Women's Tennis, Volleyball 2. Men's Track 3. Gymnastics
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