KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo athletes gain conference and national attention, earning awards for success in competition and in the classroom.
Volleyball players Micayla Speidel (Columbus) and Cortney Hanson (Logansport), and cross country athletes Javier Vasquez (Frankfort), Jeremy Gilman (Kokomo), Nathan Courter (Greentown), and Kasey High (Kokomo), all were honored for their achievements at the home basketball game Tuesday, January 14.
Speidel was the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Northeast Region Freshman of the Year, and earned first team all region honors. She also was Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Association (KIAC) freshman of the year, and first team all conference.
Hanson, a sophomore, was second team all conference.
Vasquez was the first Cougar athlete to earn a place at an NAIA national competition, and was first team all conference.
Gilman, Courter, and High won the 2013 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athletes. Gilman, who graduated in December, received the award for the second year in a row. Courter and High are seniors.
IU Kokomo and its students have seen many benefits in the three years since the athletic programs began, Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said.
"We are proud of our student athletes as they distinguish themselves among others," she said. "Our athletic programs enable students to enhance their leadership skills as they work toward their degrees, and it has brought recognition to both our students and the campus. I look forward to more success in the future."
Athletic Director Brandon Podgorski expects the accomplishments of these students to attract other outstanding athletes to campus.
"Javier's qualifying for the NAIA championships has given our cross country team good exposure, and we are already reaping the benefits in recruiting," he said. "Micayla has the same effect on our volleyball program, earning prestigious honors in what's going to be an amazing college career. She and Cortney are going to be the cornerstones of the volleyball program for the next few years."
He is especially proud to see student athletes recognized for academic success, noting that the scholar-athletes are students who are at least juniors, and have a minimum GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
"It's not easy to be a student athlete, and balance that with school, and Jeremy, Nathan, and Kasey have done a great job," Podgorski said.
In volleyball, only 12 players in the conference earned all conference honors, and Coach Heather Hayes was pleased to have two players among the 12, especially in their first year of conference play.
Both worked hard, she said, and were surrounded by teammates who pushed them and made their accomplishments possible.
"I am excited for these young ladies, and for our program," she said. "Cortney and Micayla are both dynamic athletes and make extremely difficult plays look easy. They are naturally gifted volleyball players, and filled vital roles on our team."
Vasquez's success is good for himself and for the team, Coach Jason VanAlstine said.
"It has put us on the map for potential recruits, who might not have known we had a program before," he said. "Now they know not only do we have a cross country team, but we have a team with runners that can compete at the highest level. We're on our way."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.