Waubonsee honors top student/athletes in 10-11

By on June 16, 2011

SUGAR GROVE—Waubonsee Community College recently honored its top student/athletes for 2010-2011 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. Student/athletes from throughout the Fox Valley area and beyond were among those honored during the evening. In addition, the fifth class of inductees to Waubonsee’s Athletic Hall of Fame were formally enshrined at the beginning of the evening’s festivities.

Basketball player Markus Cocroft was named the Male Athlete of the Year after earning Second Team NJCAA Division II All-American status and leading the Chiefs to a second straight appearance at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. The Aurora West High School graduate was the heart and soul of the Chiefs’ squad the last two years, earning All-Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference (ISCC) First Team and All-Region IV First Team honors this season. Cocroft, a five-foot-eight point guard, averaged 9.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals per contest while running Waubonsee’s offense and spearheading their nationally ranked defense. A Physical Education major, Cocroft elevated his game late in the season while leading the Chiefs to the Region IV Championship, where he was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Alexa Schofield was chosen the Female Athlete of the Year, after excelling on the tennis court and softball diamond for the Lady Chiefs’ the last two seasons. A Secondary Education major, Schofield went undefeated at number-one singles during the regular season the last two years. She was the ISCC Player of the Year both times, winning the ISCC and Region IV titles each year and participating in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament. Schofield also teamed up with Taylor Dahlstrom at number-one doubles to win the Region IV crown, qualifying for the NJCAA National Tournament in Arizona the last two years. The Lady Chiefs’ shortstop also smacked 53 hits, including 15 doubles en route to earning All-ISCC First Team honors.

Baseball player Brandon Lawrence was named Waubonsee’s Most Improved Male Athlete. The Liberal Arts major from Aurora West High School eventually became the Chiefs’ starting first baseman midway through his freshman season despite batting just .235 overall. The right-hander collected 43 hits, including a dozen doubles and 23 runs batted in. The six-foot-four first baseman posted a .991 fielding percentage to place him 10th in the nation defensively among NJCAA Division III players. Lawrence made only three errors in 321 chances, tying him for fourth all-time in Waubonsee history for Chiefs’ first basemen.

Kaneland High School graduate Danni Garcia was chosen as the Most Improved Female Athlete. She participated in both soccer and cross country simultaneously last fall. After playing sparingly as a freshman, Garcia was an integral part of the Lady Chiefs’ dominating defense in soccer, earning All-ISCC Second Team honors. She also scored six goals and registered three assists in helping the Lady Chiefs post an 18-4-1 record. Despite not participating in cross country as a freshman, Garcia literally ran to the front of the pack last fall. An Athletic Training major, she finished second overall at the ISCC Meet to earn All-ISCC status. Due to a conflict with a playoff soccer game, she did not participate in the Region IV Meet. However, based on her previous times she qualified for the NJCAA National Meet, where she placed in the top third among all participants.

Alexis Ford, an Elementary Education major from Dekalb High School, was the recipient of the Vermilion and Gold Award. This award is given annually to the Waubonsee student/athlete who best exemplifies the true ‘heart and soul’ of Chiefs’ athletics.

“Essentially someone who helps others and gets involved on campus,” Athletic Manager Dave Randall said. Ford was that person at Waubonsee the last year, doing whatever it took to help the softball team succeed and participating in numerous activities on campus. An infielder on the softball team, she batted .250 with seven doubles and 19 runs scored for the Lady Chiefs.

Men’s basketball player Dexter Turner was selected as the S.T.A.R. Award recipient, given to the student/athlete that displayed a good work ethic, dedication to academics and achieved perfect attendance in Waubonsee’s athletic monitoring program. Turner demonstrated these attributes and more while helping lead the Chiefs’ to a second consecutive Region IV Division II Tournament title. A six-foot-two sophomore forward from Beloit, Wisconsin’s Memorial High School, Turner tallied a team-leading 9.8 points-per-game in the Chiefs’ ball control offense. The Liberal Arts major also pulled down 5.2 rebounds per contest, while shooting 42 percent from the field and 71 percent from the charity stripe on the way to being named to the All-ISCC Second Team. Turner led Waubonsee in scoring in the Region IV title game en route to earning Region IV All-Tournament honors for the second straight year.

Former athletes David L. Bacon, Carlos H. Gil, and Graham Hill, along with administrator Dr. John J. Swalec and the 1975 Chiefs’ Baseball team, made up Waubonsee’s Athletic Hall of Fame class for 2011.

A 5-foot-10 shooting guard from West Aurora High School, Bacon was the marquee performer on a pair of nationally ranked Waubonsee teams, leading them to the Skyway Conference title each of his two years. He earned All-Region and All-Skyway Conference First Team honors as a freshman in 1989-1990 before being named an NJCAA First Team All-American his sophomore year. On the way to Waubonsee’s first-ever Region IV basketball championship in 1990-1991, Bacon was named the Most Valuable Player of both the Skyway Conference and Region IV, as well as Waubonsee’s Male Athlete of the Year. He now serves as the assistant pastor at Grace Deliverance Outreach Ministry in Aurora, while also working for the Weyerhaeuser Company.

After learning the game of soccer at Aurora West High School, Gil brought his talents to Waubonsee in 1982. His freshman year, Gil recorded 23 goals and 21 assists to help Waubonsee break into the NJCAA national rankings, earning All-Skyway Conference and All-Region IV First Team honors along the way. As a sophomore, Gil netted 43 goals, and more awards followed, including NJCAA Second Team All-American status, and both the Skyway Conference and Region IV Player of the Year honors. After his Waubonsee playing days were over, Gil took over as the Chiefs head coach, guiding Waubonsee to the Region IV finals for the third consecutive year before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on a full soccer scholarship. He has worked for AIM Engineering and Surveying in Florida the last eight years.

Tennis player Graham Hill played just one year for the Chiefs, but what a year it was. Undefeated at number one singles, he earned the Skyway Conference and Region IV titles in that category and at number one doubles with partner Ryan Brazas, ultimately leading the entire Chiefs squad to the two crowns. Not surprisingly, Hill was named the Player of the Year for both the Skyway and Region IV and went on to a 12th place finish at the NJCAA National Tournament—the highest finish ever for a Waubonsee tennis player. After his outstanding season for the Chiefs, Hill played tennis at the University of Arizona until an injury cut short his collegiate career. He then spent time as a coach before eventually returning to the court to play professionally in New Zealand.

Today, Hill works as an Energy Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., while pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Denver and giving tennis lessons at the Lakeshore Athletic Club in Denver.

Waubonsee Hall of Fame inductee and President Emeritus Dr. John J. Swalec had a longer tenure in which to make a lasting impact on Waubonsee athletics, guiding the college from 1981 to 2001. During his two decades as president, Waubonsee grew by more than 50 percent, and he was labeled a “pacesetter” by the American Association of Community Colleges for establishing landmark initiatives such as the Athletic Department’s Student-Athletes Taking Academic Responsibility (S.T.A.R.) Program. He served on the NJCAA’s Board of Directors, the NJCAA’s Executive Committee, the State of Illinois Athletic Board, and as the Chairman of the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference. Dr. Swalec’s passion for athletics began during his time as a standout wrestler at Illinois State University (ISU) and grew as he coached the sport in later years. He has been inducted into ISU’s Wrestling Hall of Fame, the NJCAA National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame, and the NJCAA Region IV Hall of Fame.

The first whole team inducted into Waubonsee’s Hall of Fame, the 1975 baseball team helped put the college on the athletic map. Coach Bill Prince’s squad advanced all the way to the NJCAA Region IV Tournament Championship game at a time when all 45 schools in Illinois participated in one division. Undefeated in league play, the team captured Waubonsee’s first Skyway Conference title in baseball before going on to win a Region IV Sectional crown and finishing as the Region IV State Runner-up. They had a school-record 10-game winning streak, which stood until 2010. The pitching staff had a team earned-run-average (ERA) of 3.48, the fourth best in school history, and three of their pitchers are still in the top 15 for strikeouts per game. Their team fielding average of .942 still stands as the fifth best mark in Chiefs’ history.

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 back-to-back league titles for the first time ever. Men’s basketball coach Dave Heiss was acknowledged for his 500th career coaching victory. Several team accomplishments were also recognized throughout the evening, including the Men’s Cross Country team advancing to the NJCAA National Meet for the fourth consecutive year, the Women’s Soccer team winning the Region IV title for the second time in the last three years, and the Men’s Basketball team reaching the National Tournament for the third time in the last four years.

About Elburn Herald

The Elburn Herald has been serving the Kaneland communities since 1908. To reach our editor, Keith Beebe, email info@elburnherald.com, or call (630) 365-6446, ext. 105. To reach our owner/publisher, Ryan Wells, email RyanWells@elburnherald.com, or call (630) 365-6446, ext. 107.

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