WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Iona College women's cross country/track rising senior Kate Avery was named the 2015-16 MAAC Female Student-Athlete of the Year by a vote of the league's sports information directors, announced today.
Avery earned the honor for the second straight season becoming just the second female athlete in the award's history to repeat. She was the first female winner of the award in Iona history last year. The Maroon & Gold has a rich tradition of representation on the men's side as it has won seven of the last 12 honors. Cross country and track standouts Mitch Goose (2011-12 & 2012-13), Ryan Sheridan (2009-10), Andrew Ledwith (2008-09), Tim Bayley (2006-07), and Richard Kiplagat (2003-04 & 2004-05) have all been named MAAC Student-Athletes of the Year during the stretch.
"Kate remains an inspiration to the Gael Nation," said Iona College Director of Athletics Rick Cole Jr. "Becoming the first Iona female student-athlete to win a national championship is a remarkable accomplishment and this award is a great honor for a tremendous student-athlete."
"It is a fantastic accomplishment for Kate to be a two-time winner of the MAAC Female Student Athlete of the Year Award," said Iona College Cross Country / Track & Field head coach Ricardo Santos. "She has worked extremely hard and made a lot of sacrifices and it is a well-deserved honor for her and for Iona College."
Canisius College baseball standout Connor Panas also repeated as the MAAC's Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
“It is an unprecedented event to have the same two MAAC student-athletes selected for this prestigious honor," notes MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor. “However their level of excellence in the classroom and in their sports warrants such recognition. 2015 MAAC Baseball Championship All-Tournament MVP Connor Panas had an excellent career in the league and lead his team to the NCAA bid when he finished the MAAC tournament hitting .500 (13-for-26), with ten runs scored and 12 RBI to go with three extra base hits. Kate Avery is the first MAAC runner to win the individual championship at the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country Championship and her dominance within the MAAC has remained unchallenged. Both Connor and Kate are examples of the MAAC member school’s commitment for student-athletes to have opportunities to excel in their sports and become leaders in their future careers."
Avery, a junior distance runner from Newton Aycliffe, England, was the 2014 NCAA Cross Country champion, becoming the first female in Iona history to win a national championship. As a result of the win, Avery earned the prestigious Honda Sports Award last fall, presented annually by the Collegiate Women Sports Association to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports.
Avery's 2014-15 season accolades included: two All-American honors (cross country, outdoor track 5k), the MAAC Cross Country Championship Most Outstanding Performer, NCAA Northeast Regional Athlete of the Year (cross country), two MAAC championships (cross country, indoor track mile), and being named the 2014 USTFCCA Division I Scholar Athlete of the Year. She also set three Iona track records during the season (indoor 3k, outdoor 5k, and outdoor 10k) and led the Gaels as a team to a MAAC Cross Country title, an NCAA Northeast Regional title, and a ninth place finish at the NCAA Championship. Internationally, she finished second at the 2014 European Cross Country Championship in Samokov, Bulgaria, 13th at the European Indoor Championships in the 3,000-meter event in Prague, Czech Republic, and her outdoor track 10k time of 31:41.44 made her the first Iona female to finish the event in under 32 minutes and qualified her for the 2015 World Championships in China and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janerio, Brazil.
For her career, Avery is a five-time All-American (cross country in 2013 and 2014, indoor track 3k in 2014, and outdoor track 5k in 2014 and 2015), three-time MAAC Championship Most Outstanding Performer (cross country in 2013 and 2014, and indoor track in 2014), and a five-time MAAC champion (cross country in 2013 and 2014, indoor track mile in 2014 and 2015, and indoor track 3k in 2014). Academically, Avery holds a 3.50 grade point average while majoring in marketing. She is a six-time MAAC All-Academic selection, a two-time member of the USTFCCA All-Academic Cross Country Team, and a two-time All-Academic Track and Field individual honor recipient.
Avery becomes only the second female to be named student-athlete of the year in back-to-back years, joining Niagara University women’s tennis player Milena Matijevic (2002-03 and 2003-04).
The MAAC Committee on Athletic Administration created the MAAC Student-Athlete of the Year award in October 2001 to recognize overall excellence in the classroom, on the playing field and in the community. Each MAAC member nominated one male and one female for the honor. The conference sports information directors vote to determine one overall winner for men and women. The conference awards honorable mention accolades to each nominee. Nominees must have at least a 3.2 overall grade point average, be in their second year of residence at the institution, and be a starter or important reserve on their team.
Honorable mention recognition was awarded to the following nominees: Canisius College – Tori Quinn (women's lacrosse); Fairfield University – Matt Turner (men’s soccer), Katherine Pitz (women’s rowing); Iona College – Ignacio Maganto (men’s soccer); Manhattan College – Love Litzell (men's track & field), Elena Bowman (softball); Marist College – Joseph Dube (men's tennis), Michelle Gaye (women’s cross country/track); Monmouth University – Taylor Bernstein (men’s track & field), Trish O’Dwyer (field hockey); Niagara University – Michael Fuhrman (baseball), Meghan McGuinness (women’s basketball); Quinnipiac University – Carmen French (men’s lacrosse), Jenny Mears (women’s track & field); Rider University – Christian Flath (men’s soccer), Tara Ballay (women's soccer); Saint Peter's College – Carlos Carerra (men’s tennis), Devon Williams (women's soccer); Siena College – Justin Esquerra (baseball), Tehresa Coles (women’s basektball).