May 26, 2014
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Annette Eichenberger and Rachel Herald received the two highest honors given to members of the women's track and field team, as Air Force honored the Class of 2014 during the program's fifth-annual Senior Awards Night on Monday, May 26. Eichenberger was named the women's MVP, while Herald received the team's Most Outstanding Competitor award.
During the final team gathering of the season, the Falcons' coaching staff honored 24 seniors and handed out nine program awards.
Highlighted by the program's first ever conference title in an indoor running event, Eichenberger is in the midst of a record-setting final season for the Falcons. Eichenberger, who won the conference title in the 800-meter run at the 2014 Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships, set three Academy records during the indoor campaign. In addition to breaking the program's four-year-old record in the 800-meter run at the Iowa State Classic (2:06.53), she also clocked program-best times in the non-traditional 600-meter (1:31.56 at the New Mexico Team Invitational) and 1000-meter (2:51.19 at the Holiday Inn Invitational) events. The success has continued during the outdoor season, as she clocked the program's fastest Division I time in the 800-meter run (2:04.52, second all-time) at the Drake Relays and posted the Academy's second-fastest overall time in the 1500-meter run (4:23.28) at the Stanford Invitational. Eichenberger, who posted top-25 regional times in both outdoor events, will focus on the 800-meter run at this week's NCAA Outdoor Championships (West Preliminary).
Eichenberger was also honored with the Gail Conway Outstanding Performance Award, which recognizes her runner-up finish in the 800-meter run at the Drake Relays. Becoming the program's fastest Division I female at that distance (2:04.52), the senior is ranked second only to Conway on Air Force's all-time list.
Herald has left her mark on the Falcons' program, becoming the Academy's first conference champion in the women's high jump and recording Academy records during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Herald opened the season with a bang, easily breaking the program's 17-year-old record in the indoor high jump with a leap of 5'9¼" at the season-opening Air Force Holiday Open. She also became the program's first all-conference selection in that event after finishing second at the Mountain West Indoor Championships. Her success has continued during the outdoor season, as she cleared an Academy-record 5'9¼" to win the program's first conference title. Herald, who initially broke the program's 28-year-old outdoor record in mid-March, reset or matched the Academy standard four times during the final two months of the season. Herald will make her first appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships (West Preliminary) later this week, as she is ranked 39th in the region.
Accumulating 16.75 points during the Mountain West Championships (indoor and outdoor), Kassie Gurnell was awarded the women's High Scorer Award. The senior finished second (eight points) in the triple jump at the indoor meet with an Academy-record distance of 41'9¾", while earning the same placement (eight) at the outdoor championships following a Senior Class Record jump of 41'11¼". Gurnell also earned points for the Falcons by running on the 4x400-meter relays that scored at the indoor (seventh, 0.50 points) and outdoor (eighth, 0.25) championship meets.
Five members of the men's team also earned awards this evening.
Competing in just one meet last season and suffering a collapsed lung following the 2013 cross country championships, Gavin Owens received the Paul Gensic Comeback Award after a strong senior outdoor campaign that will continue later this week in the opening-round of the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Owens, who debuted in sixth on the program's all-time list in the 3000-meter steeplechase (8:57.31) at the Stanford Invitational, finished fourth in that event at the MW Outdoor Championships and is currently the 29th-ranked steeplechaser in the western half of the country.
David Ptacek received the General Tad Oelstrom Award for Excellence, which goes to the one member of the senior class that excels athletically, academically and militarily, while William Kent was honored with the inaugural David Lyon Leadership Award, which was created in honor of Capt David Lyon, who was killed in action in December 2013.
Dan Bieber was honored with the Arne Arneson Coaches' Award for Dedication, which recognizes the individual whom the coaching staff feels best exemplifies the quality of dedication to excellence, and John Farquhar rounded out the night with the second Riley Feeney Manager of the Year award of his career.
2014 Senior Awards
Most Valuable Athlete | Women - Annette Eichenberger
Most Outstanding Competitor | Women - Rachel Herald
High Scorer | Women - Kassie Gurnell
Gail Conway Outstanding Performance Award - Annette Eichenberger
Arne Arneson Coaches' Award for Dedication - Dan Bieber
Paul Gensic Comeback Award - Gavin Owens
General Tad Oelstrom Award for Overall Excellence - David Ptacek
David Lyon Leadership Award - William Kent
Riley Feeney Manager of the Year - John Farquhar