Paige Blackburn Named Women's MVP at Underclassmen Award Ceremony
May 19, 2011
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Junior Paige Blackburn was named the Most Valuable Player of the women's program on Thursday, May 19, as the Air Force track and field team handed out 12 awards to members of the team's freshman, sophomore and junior classes at the program's second annual Underclassmen Award Ceremony.
Blackburn, who also earned the team's Gail Conway Award for Drive and Determination, used a season-best throw on her final attempt to finish second in the javelin throw at the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships, while setting a career-best distance in the hammer throw. Blackburn earned points for the Falcons in three of her four throwing events at the outdoor meet, while scoring in both throwing events during the indoor season.
In addition to her second-place finish in the javelin, Blackburn finished fourth in the discus throw and sixth in the shot put at the outdoor championships and sixth in the shot put and eighth in the weight throw at the indoor meet. During the outdoor season, Blackburn moved into third on the Academy's all-time list in the shot put and discus throw, while moving into fifth in the hammer throw. The team's co-captain also posted career-best marks in both throwing events during the indoor season, recording the second-best shot put mark in program history, as well as the third-best weight throw distance.
Classmate Robert Drye was the recipient of the men's Outstanding Competitor Award. Drye became the program's first-ever conference champion in the hammer throw, while shattering the Academy record at the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships. The junior co-captain is the first Air Force thrower to win the hammer title at either the MWC or WAC Championship meets. Improving his career-best distance by seven feet, Drye broke the Academy's 19-year-old standard, while distancing himself from the field, which included the nation's 15th-ranked thrower, by seven feet.
A MWC Athlete of the Week, Drye had a stellar weekend at the outdoor conference championships. In addition to winning the hammer throw, Drye scored for Air Force in his other two events (shot put, discus throw) with personal-best performances. Drye also broke his own record in the weight throw during the indoor season, while moving into seventh on the all-time list for the indoor shot put. He earned all-conference honors at the indoor championship meet, following a third-place performance in the shot put.
After stellar freshman seasons, javelin throwers Tim Urista and Mike Lauritzen shared the men's Newcomer of the Year award. The pair combined for five event titles over the course of the season, while both broke the program's Freshman Class Record. Urista first broke the seven-year-old Class Record on March 19, only hours before Lauritzen upped that distance. The two also scored for the Falcons at the MWC Outdoor Championships, as Laurtizen claimed all-conference honors with a third-place finish and Urista took fourth. Fellow freshman Kassie Gurnell earned the women's Newcomer of the Year award, after setting a new Academy record in the outdoor triple jump, breaking the program's 26-year-old record.
Sophomore Cale Simmons and junior Emily Cotharn shared the program's Most Improved Awards. Simmons earned the men's honor after moving into the top five on the Academy's all-time list in both the indoor and outdoor pole vault. Simmons, who is currently tied for seventh in the nation, claimed all-conference honors at both the indoor and outdoor conference championships. Cotharn was named the women's recipient after breaking the Academy's 400-meter hurdles record on three occasions. She also ran the anchor leg of the 4x400-meter relay team that posted the fourth-fastest outdoor time in Academy history.
Junior Jim Walmsley was named the recipient of the Bret Hyde Award for Drive and Determination, which is named after the former Falcon who passed away of Lou Gehrig's disease in 2000. Walmsley, the runner-up in the 5000-meter run at the MWC Indoor Championships, moved into second on the program's all-time indoor list and third on the all-time outdoor list at that distance. Walmsley also ran the anchor leg of the outdoor distance medley relay team that set a new Academy record.
Junior Bryce Bergman earned the Paul Gensic Comeback Award, while classmate Sean Herbison received the Falcon Award for Spirit and Enthusiasm. Bergman overcame a knee injury early in the outdoor season to become the program's Mountain West Conference champion in the 400-meter hurdles and ran the third leg of the 4x400-meter relay team that earned all-conference honors with a third-place finish. Herbison earned scoring finishes for the Falcons in two events during the outdoor conference championships and one event at the indoor meet.
Sophomore Riley Feeney earned the Ernie Cunliffe Manager Award for the second straight year.
Air Force will honor the Class of 2011 with the second-annual Senior Night Awards on Monday, May 30. During the celebration, the Falcons will hand out six additional honors, including of the men's MVP and women's Most Outstanding Competitor awards.
2011 UNDERCLASSMEN AWARDS