Over 300 student-athletes, faculty members and coaches recently gathered at Briar Cliff University’s Annual Champions of Character banquet to recognize achievements during the 2012-13 academic year.
Recipient of the Female Athlete-of-the-Year award was Kelsey Evans, Willmar, Minn., an All-American who led Charger women’s basketball team to a 25-10 record as she averaged 14.1 ppg with a team-high 43 blocked shots. Evans, the first team all-league choice, also produced 77 assists and 62 steals, led the Blue and Gold to four-straight NAIA Women’s DII National Basketball Tournament appearances and finished her career with 1,345 points. Her jersey is currently on its way to Knoxville, Tenn., to be displayed in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Ring of Honor.
Track superstar Raheem Cowan, Hartwell, Ga., received the Male Athlete-of-the-Year award. Cowan captured indoor and outdoor GPAC triple-jump crowns and became Briar Cliff’s second-ever NAIA National Champion as he won the triple jump at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The Female Scholar Athlete of the Year was Brittany Walsh, a senior pre-med major from Odebolt, Iowa. Walsh, who holds a 4.0 GPA, is a four-year member of the Blue and Gold golf squad, and has played at No. 2 or No. 3 throughout the season.
Senior John Engler, Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Dominic Wetzbarger, Sioux City, were honored as co-Male Scholar Athletes of the Year. Both hold 3.9 GPAs. Engler was a two-time NAIA Daktronics-Scholar Athlete, a consistent starter for the Charger cage program and has been accepted in law school in the fall. Wetzbarger, a junior member of Blue & Gold soccer team, has been a starter in the Charger midfield and one of the program’s leading point producers.
The 2013 Female Champion of Character Award went to Jayna Specht, a junior from Yankton, S.D., on track and volleyball teams. The 2013 Male Champion of Character was awarded to senior Bryce Harshman, Tucson, Ariz., a football and track standout, who rewrote multiple records as a wide receiver and in the long jump.
Tara Cockerill, a senior for Spaulding, Neb., was named the Most Inspirational Athlete-of-the-Year Award. Despite battling diabetes and other challenges, Cockerill set The Cliff’s shot-put and discus marks and captured the GPAC indoor shot-put title. She also earned All-American accolades at this year’s indoor national meet and will represent BCU at outdoor nationals.