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Cyclones Honored at Annual Athletics Awards Banquet

Cyclones Honored at Annual Athletics Awards Banquet

The Mills College Athletics, PE, and Recreation department held its 35th annual Athletics Awards Banquet on Friday, April 21. The program featured awards in several categories including scholarship, leadership, community service, and athletic excellence.

The first awards of the evening highlighted the efforts of Mills student-athletes in the classroom. This year thirty-four Cyclones received recognition as Mills College Scholar-Athletes for maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above. The highest team GPA award honored the swim team and tennis team for the spring 2016 and fall 2016 semesters. Individual GPA awards went to the student-athlete on each team with the highest cumulative GPA: Coco Kennedy (cross country), Annie Wolf (rowing), Ariahna Sanchez (soccer), Macie Lopez (swimming), Jade Le (tennis), and Emma Rigby (volleyball).
Members of three teams were recognized nationally for their academics. The swim team earned the Team Scholar All-American Award from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America for the spring and fall 2016 semesters, a distinction that they have now received for 15 consecutive years. In addition to the team award, Melissa Berkay achieved Scholar All-American status for 2016. Berkay exceeded the required 3.5 GPA and was a participant in last year’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Additionally, five rowers were named Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar-Athletes and two tennis players were named Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar-Athletes.  
The academic awards culminated with the presentation of the Trefethen Award, presented annually to the graduating senior with the highest cumulative GPA. This year’s recipient, Emma Rigby, was a three-year member of the volleyball team, competing in each of her years at Mills. Her commitment to both athletics and academics is extraordinary and she will graduate from Mills in May, after three years, with a degree in environmental science. Emma has been accepted into the Marine and Estuarine Science Program at Western Washington University for next fall and will be working as a TA in the environmental science department.
The APER service award, established to recognize outstanding contribution to and support of the Mills Athletics program, was awarded to former assistant rowing coach Jess LaFrank. A former rower, Jess served as an assistant coach for five and a half years, inspiring countless Mills students. Her dedication to APER and the rowing program was evident every day and she consistently went above and beyond her coaching duties, talking with recruits, helping at events, and doing anything she could to help APER.

This year’s Alumnae Athletic Achievement Award winner was Kirsten Saxton, class of 1990. Kirsten has served as the Faculty Athletics Representative to APER for nine years. She has provided support to Mills student-athletes in every way she could think of, holding individual advising sessions, acting as a liaison between students and faculty, and even practicing with each team. The Cyclones are incredibly lucky to have such a strong advocate. 

The Rookie of the Year Award was presented to Coco Kennedy of the cross country team. In her first year as a Cyclone, Coco made an immediate impact on her team. As head coach Ivory Veale said, “this student-athlete honorably represented the spirit of Mills College Athletics across the entire scope of team expectations.” Committed an dedicated, she maintained a 4.0 GPA in the competitive season while being positioned as the number one runner in all box assignments for every race. Coco also served as team captain and was the cross country representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. 

Three student-athletes were awarded APER’s highest individual awards. Junior, Melissa Berkay was presented with the Janet Holmgren Student-Athlete Service Award for amazing service to Mills College and to the greater Bay Area. Berkay is a two-year member of the swim team and in her first competitive season as a rower. She has a “how can I help?” approach to action and service and remains amazingly positive no matter the challenge. At Mills, Melissa is active across campus. She is the founding member and President of the National Society for Leadership and Success, she works in the Division of Student Life, is a contributing writer for the Mills College newspaper, and helps new students adjust to Mills as a Student Orientation Leader. This past summer she put her service efforts through an ultimate test, swimming the Catalina Channel Island swim, all butterfly. In completing this incredible feat, she raised money for three homeless shelters. 

Senior four-year swimmer and three-year rower, Ashley Young, was awarded the Myrt Whitcomb Leadership Award. This award is presented to a student-athlete in recognition of outstanding leadership on their team, within APER, and within the broader Mills community. A quiet leader, Ashley has developed into an athlete who makes her teammates better and faster. Her leadership has been felt every year, on both of her teams. A contributor in her first years on the rowing team, she has transformed into a difference maker. Ashley leaves the swim team on the Mills Top Ten list in three different events and was a member of the school record-breaking relay this past February. More importantly, she gives her teammates a sense of belonging and has touched many athletes with her leadership and warmth.

The Dorothy Keller Athletic Merit Award was given to senior, Terrapin Frazier. A three-year member of the soccer team, Terrapin represents the ultimate student-athlete. She is committed, focused, and unwavering in her competitive spirit. She pushes herself beyond what she thinks she is capable of and does so with energy and joy. Terrapin puts in extra effort in all she does, not in search of accolades, but for the betterment of herself as a service to her team. A child development and education major and Spanish minor, she epitomizes what it means to be a successful scholar-athlete.

The Athletic Achievement Award is given only when the athletic feat is of such significance that is rises to the national level. For the second year in a row it was awarded to swimmer, Melissa Berkay. Melissa was presented with the award last year for her incredible efforts in the pool and becoming the first Mills swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships. This year she set a bigger goal and completed the 21-mile Catalina Channel Swim doing only butterfly, setting a world record and raising money for three homeless shelters. Her swim earned her recognition as a finalist for the prestigious Wooden Cup. Last month she traveled to Atlanta and was honored by Athletes for a Better World as one of four national finalists.  

The final portion of the evening recognized all of our Cyclones for their commitment, sacrifice, and determination. First, second, and third year team awards were presented to each Cyclone, culminating in the celebration of four four-year student-athletes. These student-athletes have given countless hours to their teams and to the APER department. A four-year commitment to athletics is an outstanding accomplishment and APER is lucky to have such devoted leaders on our teams.

Congratulations to all of the award winners and to all of our student-athletes on an impressive year!