SUGAR GROVEâ€”Waubonsee Community College recently honored its’ top student/athletes for 2009-2010 at the school’s annual Athletic Awards Banquet. Individual achievements as well as team accomplishments were recognized during the festive evening in the college’s Academic and Professional Center, which also included the induction of former athletes Steve Smerz, Sharon Metzger and Sally (Toma) Kempton, along with former coaches Don Watson and Dave Hejtmanek to Waubonsee’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Student/athletes from throughout the Fox Valley area and beyond were among those honored during the evening.
Wrestler Omi Acosta was named the Male Athlete of the Year after becoming the college’s second National Champion when he won the 133-pound title. The graduate of South Dade High School in Homestead, Fla., helped lead the Chiefs’ wrestling team to a fourth-place finish among non-scholarship programs at the NJCAA Wrestling Championships. Acosta defeated four returning All-Americans en route to winning the title, including a 4-2 victory in the championship match over Rend Lake’s Eric Ellington who had beaten Acosta once last year and twice this season. Acosta also earned All-Region IV Second Team honors this season. He achieved NJCAA All-American status as a freshman finishing fifth in his weight class. Acosta has accepted a wrestling scholarship to Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he will also be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Sarah O’Leary was chosen the Female Athlete of the Year, after leading the Lady Chiefs’ basketball team the last two seasons. A 5’8 guard was named to the All-Region IV First Team and the All-Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference (ISCC) First Team for the second consecutive year after averaging 16.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. The sophomore led Waubonsee in points (505), offensive rebounds (118), total rebounds (267), assists (102) and made free throws (155).
The left-hander also averaged 2.4 steals and 3.3 assists a game, while pacing the Lady Chiefs in scoring 18 out of their last 19 games, including 17 consecutively and all 14 ISCC contests. For the season the Yorkville High School graduate booked 9 double-doubles in points and rebounds. A physical education major, O’Leary will be attending Aurora University this fall.
Men’s basketball player Alex Cannon was named Waubonsee’s Most Improved Male Athlete. A 6’1â€ forward from Bolingbrook High School, he saw very limited action as a freshman before earning All-ISCC Second Team honors this past season. Cannon was the Chiefs’ defensive specialist, often giving up several inches in height as he typically guarded the opponent’s top scorer. On occasion the sophomore was an offensive threat as well, as he managed to average 6.1 points, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.8 rebounds per contest. Cannon also tallied a season-high 21 points and grabbed eight boards in Waubonsee’s 58-55 conference win over Prairie State College late in the season.
Kaneland High School graduate Erin Cinto was chosen as the Most Improved Female Athlete. A Cross Country runner, Cinto was often the Lady Chiefs’ third and sometimes fourth runner as a freshman before emerging as the leader this past season. She placed fourth at the ISCC Meet to earn All-ISCC status, and then came in eighth at the Region IV Meet to qualify for the NJCAA Division I Nationals. Cinto also finished 12th at the Waubonsee Invitational and 14th at the Harper Invitational to earn individual medallions during the fall.
Bridget Kennedy, an education major from Aurora Christian High School, was the recipient of both the Vermilion and Gold Award and the S.T.A.R. Award. The Vermilion and Gold Award is given annually to the Waubonsee student/athlete who best exemplifies the true ‘heart and soul’ of Chiefs’ athletics. â€œEssentially someone who helps others and gets involved on campus,â€ describes Athletic Manager Dave Randall. The S.T.A.R. award is given to the student/athlete that displayed a good work ethic, a dedication to academics and achieved perfect attendance in Waubonsee’s athletic monitoring program. Kennedy demonstrated these attributes and more while batting leadoff and playing outfield for the Lady Chiefs’ Softball team, and also performing as a member of the Waubonsee cheerleading squad. The left-handed hitter finished with a .318 batting average and 30 stolen bases in 32 attempts on the diamond.
One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the ISCC All-Sports Award trophy which Waubonsee won for the first time since 1990. Several team accomplishments were also recognized including the Men’s Cross Country team for capturing the ISCC title and the Region IV crown to advance to the NJCAA Division I National Meet for the third consecutive year. The women’s soccer team was also recognized for advancing to the Region IV Division II title game for the second straight year.
Individuals achieving All-Conference, All-Region, All-American and Academic honors during the school year were recognized throughout the evening. Long-time head baseball coach Dave Randall was also recognized for being named the ISCC Baseball Coach of the Year after leading the Chiefs to the league title for the first time since 1998. John Bell, head Cross Country and Men’s Tennis coach, was recognized as the ISCC and Region IV Coach of the Year after guiding both programs to dual titles. In addition, men’s basketball coach Dave Heiss was recognized for his recent induction into the Aurora West High School Hall of Fame, for being named the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Division II Junior College Coach of the Year, and for his upcoming induction into the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Hall of Fame. The festivities were capped off with a standing ovation for long-time athletic secretary Jan Zahnzinger, who is retiring at the end of June.