May 21, 2012
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force seniors Jim Walmsley and Paige Blackburn were named the Most Valuable Athletes of the 2012 track and field team during the program's third annual Senior Awards Social on Monday, May 21. The coaching staff, which recognized the underclassmen last week, handed out nine awards this evening, including three of the program's top honors.
Walmsley, who also claimed the program's Bret Hyde Award for Drive and Determination, collected four conference titles for the Falcons during his senior season. The MVP of the cross country team, Walmsley swept the titles of the two longest races at the Mountain West Indoor Championships (3000-meter run, 5000-meter run), while taking first in the 3000-meter steeplechase and 5000-meter run at the MW Outdoor Championships.
During the indoor season, he accounted for the fourth-fastest mile time in Academy history, while moving into third on the program's all-time list in the 5000-meter and 10,000-meter races during the outdoor season. Walmsley clocked the Academy's fifth-fastest time in the 3000-meter steeplechase during his first-ever race in that event and claimed the conference title in his second race. The senior qualified to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in both the steeplechase and 5000-meter run.
Blackburn, who also earned the team's Laura Piper Ironman Award for the second time of her career, is in the midst of a stellar senior season, that saw her set an Academy record in the hammer throw, win the Mountain West javelin title and score for Air Force in all six throwing events (indoor and outdoor). She placed fourth in the shot put and fifth in the hammer throw at the indoor conference championship meet, while finishing first in the javelin, second in the discus, seventh in the shot put and eighth in the hammer throw at the outdoor championship meet. In addition to setting the Academy's hammer throw record, Blackburn moved into second on the program's all-time list in the indoor and outdoor shot put, discus throw, hammer throw and javelin throw. A two-time MW Athlete of the Week, Blackburn qualified to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in both the discus throw and javelin throw.
Kimber Shealy was selected as the Most Outstanding Competitor of the women's program, as she set the Academy record in the outdoor pole vault during a winning clearance of 13'1¾" at the Front Range Classic. In addition to setting a new FRC Meet record, Shealy became the first athlete since 2002 to impact a Stadium Record at the Cadet Outdoor Track and Field Complex. Shealy claimed five first-place finishes on the year (three indoor, two outdoor), while scoring for the Falcons in both the indoor and outdoor conference championships. She claimed all-conference honors at the Mountain West Indoor Championships after finishing third and was selected as the Mountain West Athlete of the Week after her record-breaking performance at the Front Range Classic during the outdoor season. Backed by her Academy clearance during the outdoor season, Shealy qualified to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Rob Drye, who suffered a pectoral injury in early December and was told by doctors that his throwing career was over, was the easy choice for the program's Paul Gensic Comeback Award. Drye defied the odds to capture his second straight Mountain West title in the hammer throw. Returning to the ring in mid-April, Drye claimed his second straight conference title by bettering the field by over 10 feet. With a distance just shy of his own Academy record, he qualified to the NCAA Outdoor Championships as the region's 13th-ranked thrower.
The General Tad Oelstrom Award for Excellence went to Bryce Bergman, who ran on all three of the Falcons' Mountain West championship relay teams in 2012. He ran the anchor leg of the 4x400-meter squad that captured the indoor title and secured Air Force its first conference title in program history, while leading off the 4x400 squad that captured the outdoor title. He also ran the 400-meter leg of the distance medley relay team that won the MW outdoor title. Bergman, the runner-up in the 400-meter hurdles at the MW Outdoor Championships, also scored for the Falcons in the 110-meter hurdles after clocking the 10th-fastest time in Academy history. He also earned valuable points for Air Force in the 60-meter hurdles during the indoor championship meet. He qualified for both the 110- and 400-meter hurdle events at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Zubey ran a leg of the distance medley relay team that captured the Mountain West title at the MW Indoor Championships, while competing on the DMR that clocked the second-fastest time in program history at the Alex Wilson Invitational. He also ran the anchor leg of the outdoor distance medley relay that set an Academy record at the Drake Relays. Individually, Zubey recorded the program's fifth-fastest time in the indoor mile, as well as the program's seventh-fastest time in the outdoor 800-meter run. Zubey, who scored for the Falcons following a fourth-place finish in the 1500-meter run at the MW Outdoor Championships, will compete in that event at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. White capped off a strong career with all-conference honors in the 800-meter run during both the indoor and outdoor conference championships. He was the runner-up in that distance at the MW Outdoor Championships, while taking third at the indoor championship meet. Individually, he recorded eighth-fastest time in program history during the indoor season, while clocking the 11th-fastest time during the outdoor season.
Although the awards have been handed out, the season is not over for Air Force. A program-record 19 Falcons, including Walmsley, Blackburn, Shealy, Zubey, Drye and Bergman, will travel to Austin, Texas, for the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships (West Preliminary) on May 24-26.
2012 SENIOR CLASS AWARDS
Most Valuable Athlete - Men: Jim Walmsley
Most Valuable Athlete - Women: Paige Blackburn
Most Outstanding Competitor - Women: Kimber Shealy
Bret Hyde Award for Drive and Determination: Jim Walmsley
Laura Piper Ironman Award: Paige Blackburn
Paul Gensic Comeback Award: Rob Drye
General Tad Oelstrom Award for Excellence: Bryce Bergman
Arne Arneson Coaches' Award for Dedication: Alex Zubey
Falcon Award for Spirit and Enthusiasm: Nick White