FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Atlantic Sun leader in the Bill Bibb Trophy (All Sports) and Sherman Day Trophy (Women’s All Sports) race thanks to four A-Sun regular season titles, three A-Sun Tournament championships and a fifth straight CCSA title to its credit with two sports remaining, the FGCU athletic department celebrated its stellar campaign Monday night during the annual Senior Send-Off and Awards Ceremony held on campus in the Cohen Center Ballroom.
Along with honoring the department’s 47 seniors, six different awards were handed out, highlighted by Eva Lehtonen (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester Adams/Florida) winning the prestigious Eagle Scholar Athlete Award, the highest honor FGCU bestows upon a graduating senior student-athlete. The award recognizes the ability of the winner to combine athletic and academic success (minimum 3.20 GPA) with community service.
Born in Finland and a resident of Rochester Hills. Michigan, Lehtonen is a four-time record holder in four different relay events (200 free, 400 free, 200 medley, 400 medley) en route to leading the Eagles to a pair of CCSA Championships after joining the team from 2010 National Champion Florida. A member of the 2013 CCSA All-Academic team, she earned CCSA Swimmer of the Week honors this season as well as being named to the 2012 CCSA All-Conference team. Lehtonen has earned a total of 9 medals, including 6 gold and 3 silver, and has set a pair of CCSA records in the 200 & 400 medley relays.
In-between her time in the pool and in the classroom, Lehtonen carries a 3.93 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in Bioengineering with a minor in chemistry and has earned Dean’s List honors every semester of her collegiate career. She has volunteered with several organizations, including Goodwill, Hope for Haiti, the Naples Botannical Gardens, Young Life, Eagle Math, Three Oaks Middle and Elementary School and the Band of Angels.
The three other finalists for the Eagle Scholar Athlete Award were women’s swimming and diving senior Maegan Butler (Orangeburg, N.Y./Tappan Zee/FAU), men’s soccer senior Deion Jones (Tampa, Fla./Freedom HS) and women’s basketball senior Brittany Kennedy (Spokane, Wash./Lewis and Clark HS/Oregon State).
Four other annual individual awards were presented on the night, beginning with the Carl McAloose Spirit Award, given to a male and female student-athlete who best exemplify Carl McAloose’s spirit and love for FGCU Athletics, as well as dedication to their team and teammates. Presented by baseball head coach Dave Tollett, softball head Dave Deiros and men’s basketball assistant coach Marty Richter, baseball redshirt senior Richie Erath (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS), softball senior Mariah Fernandez (Cape Coral, Fla./North Fort Myers HS/Daytona State College) and men’s basketball redshirt senior Eddie Murray (North Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) were all recipients of the Carl McAloose Spirit Award.
The first recipient of the Green and Blue Award in 2011 that is annually bestowed upon a staff member who personifies the proverbial definition of someone who bleeds "Green & Blue,” Senior Associate A.D. Butch Perchan emotionally presented the honor. The award was given to three of FGCU’s original coaches in Deiros, women’s basketball head coach Karl Smesko and Tollett, who all joined FGCU prior to its first year of athletics in 2001-02. The trio have been the building blocks to FGCU’s success, as they have combined for a 1119-443-4 overall record (.714 pct.), including a 294-97 mark (.752 pct.) in the A-Sun, to go along with a combined nine A-Sun regular season titles and two A-Sun Tournament championships.
The Most Inspirational Award which was renamed the Duane Swanson Sr. Inspirational Award at the 2011 ceremony was presented to women’s basketball senior Joyce Iamstrong (Chicago, Ill./Thornton Fractional South HS/Jefferson College) and women’s swimming and diving head coach Neal Studd. Swanson, who passed away on March 8, 2011, was one of the pioneers of FGCU’s quick accent into the Division I ranks, Swanson’s involvement with athletics dated back to 2002 when he met with baseball coach Dave Tollett. After that, Swanson led the charge in building both the baseball and softball complexes, not only donating generously, but also getting many others to follow in his footsteps. Swanson was also consistent donor to the scholarship fund and in 2007 he once again led the charge in building the Outdoor Sports Complex which is home to 11 of 15 FGCU programs. Prior to his passing, Swanson became the first person to ever be presented with an Honorary Letter from the athletic department.
Women’s tennis senior Morgan Bechtel (Toledo, Ohio/St. Ursula Academy) and Jones were named co-winners of the Community Service Award, which is presented annually to the student-athlete(s) who best exemplifies FGCU Athletics dedicated commitment to volunteerism on campus and in the local community.
The Eagle Team Spirit Award went to the baseball program. The Eagle Team Spirit Award is awarded to the team that exemplifies Eagle Spirit and team support.
Nominees for the 2012-13 Most Outstanding Female and Male Athlete Awards were also unveiled at the end of the banquet. The winners of this award will be announced at the “Welcome Back Picnic” in August, due to some sports still waiting on postseason awards. All nominees have either earned All-Conference first team honors or better in their respective sport or, for a few spring sports that have not yet awarded these honors, are individuals whom are believed to be under strong considerations for such accolades.
Baseball: Brandon Bednar, Brooks Beisner, Ricky Knapp and Mike Reeves
Softball: Jessica Barnes, Kristen Bembnowski, Kelsey Carpenter, Mariah Fernandez and Chelsea Zgrabik
Men’s Golf: Edward Figueroa
Women’s Golf: Georgia Price and Kristen Swindell
Men’s Basketball: Sherwood Brown, Brett Comer, Chase Fieler and Bernard Thompson
Women’s Basketball: Sarah Hansen, Joyce Iamstrong and Brittany Kennedy
Men’s Soccer: Felipe DeSousa, Santiago Echeverri and Daniel Stanese
Women’s Soccer: Ashley Ciesielczyk, Ally Kasun and Shannon Wacker
Women’s Swimming & Diving: Maegan Butler, Danielle Beaubrun, Eva Lehtonen, Julie Leth-Espensen, Jennifer Morgan, Cassie Niles, Jessie Porter, Devon Robins, Emma Svennson and Megan Wolfe
Men’s Tennis: Jordi Vives
Women’s Volleyball: Jill Hopper
Sand Volleyball: Kaitlin Holm and Whitney Masters
2013 FGCU ATHLETICS AWARD WINNERS
Eagle Scholar Athlete Award: Eva Lehtonen (Women’s Swimming & Diving)
Duane Swanson Sr. Inspiration Award: Joyce Iamstrong (Women’s Basketball) & Neal Studd (Women’s Swimming & Diving)
Carl McAloose Spirit Award: Mariah Fernandez (Softball), Richie Erath (Baseball) & Eddie Murray (Men’s Basketball)
Green and Blue Award: David Deiros (Softball), Karl Smesko (Women’s Basketball) & Dave Tollett (Baseball)
Community Service Award: Morgan Bechtel (Women’s Tennis) & Deion Jones (Men’s Soccer)
Eagle Spirit Team Award: Baseball