Titans celebrate exemplary athletes at Tommy Awards

By Farah Bassyouni Apr15,2022

Illinois Wesleyan student athletes joined together in Shirk Center on Monday, April 11 to celebrate the 11th Annual Tommy Awards. 

The Tommy Awards are hosted by the Illinois Wesleyan Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and sponsored by State Farm Insurance. For the past 11 years, the SAAC has set criteria, including in-season performance and athletic conduct, to determine nominees from a variety of sports. 

The nominees are voted on by a panel composed of each team’s head coach, two SAAC representatives from each sport and various SAAC advisors. 

11 awards were distributed, ranging from Male and Female Athletes of the Year to Academic Team of the Year. 

Senior Ellen Gilbert swam away from the ceremony with Female Athlete of the Year thanks to a record-setting and record-smashing season. 

The NCAA All-American swimmer was named both the 2022 and 2020 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Swimmer of the Year, becoming the only Titan swimmer to win the award twice. 

Gilbert was also the only female athlete in the 2022 NCAA National Championships, where she managed sixth place in the 200 fly and set a personal lifetime record in the 200 IM. 

“I first pictured myself [at IWU] when I was eight years old and saw my brother swim his first meet. When it became a reality, it was more than I ever imagined it would be,” Gilbert said in her acceptance speech. 

On top of her All-American status, NCAA rankings and numerous CCIW Championship wins, the Northbrook, Ill. native was the recipient of two CCIW Swimmer of the Week awards, the Elite-25 award and the SAAC Most Valuable Swimming Student-Athlete award. 

Assistant men’s golf coach Rob Wuethrich became Gilbert’s counterpart when he was awarded Male Athlete of the Year. Wuethrich was one of the most heavily-medaled golfers of the 2020-21 season. 

The 2020 Jack Nicklaus DIII Player of the Year helped lead the Titans to two consecutive NCAA National Championships in 2019 and 2020. 

He was also a two-time All American student-athlete, the first golfer in conference history to be awarded three consecutive CCIW Golfer of the Week titles, the 2021 Most Valuable Player on the men’s golf team and a Jack Swartz award winner. 

Gilbert also wasn’t the only Titan swimmer to bring home an accolade at the 2022 Tommy Awards. Senior Mason McCauley was given Best Championship Performance of the Year following his fourth consecutive CCIW Championship title. 

McCauley dominated both the 1650 yard freestyle and the 200 yard butterfly, breaking the IWU record time of the former, which he set himself the year before. 

First-year basketball player Lauren Huber was named Rookie of the Year following an impressive debut season for the Titans. Huber garnered a CCIW Player of the Week award earlier this year due to a 50-50 shooting percentage from the floor and nearly 74 percent success rate from the candy stripe. 

I am very excited for these upcoming years at IWU, honestly I have no idea what they will hold or what it will look like,” Huber said. 

Junior sprinter Keondre Schumacher ran home with Male Rookie of the Year. Schumacher’s finishes in the 55 meter and 200 meter dashes earned him All-CCIW honors and multiple personal records. 

Both the Male Clutch Performance of the Year and Female Clutch Performance of the Year went to Titan basketball players. Senior Matthew Leritz has been no stranger to the spotlight this season. On top of his men’s victory, Leritz was nominated for Male Athlete of the Year. 

The men’s team co-captain is also a two-time All-American First Team selection, Bevo-Francis Top-100 Watchlist member, two-time 2022 CCIW Player of the Week recipient and Sikma Hall of Fame Invitational All-Tournament team selection. 

First-year Kate Palmer reeled in the Female Clutch Performance of the Year. In her first season as a Titan, Palmer made the SportsCenter Top-10 list for the same buzzer-beating half-court heave that won her the Tommy Award. 

The Tommy Awards are meant to highlight more than just athletic performance, but academic excellence as well. The women’s tennis team was awarded Academic Team of the Year thanks to an exemplary cumulative 3.8 GPA. 

This year’s Tommy Awards showed off the best-of-the-best of Illinois Wesleyan student-athletes across sports, grades and accomplishments. Whether seniors closed out their collegiate careers or first-years saw their futures, Titan Athletics were on full display this week.

“I have learned over the past 2 years that although the goal is always to win, it is just as important to enjoy the little moments and have fun,” first-year golfer and award nominee Lexi Onsrud said. “I won’t always remember what I shot on the golf course on a bad day, but I will always remember the memories I made with my teammates and coaches.”

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