Tuesday, June 14, 2011

FOV Cavalier of the Year 2011, #7/#8

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.

Over the next two weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athletes are Keith Payne and Lauren Perdue.

Keith Payne - Football - Running back

Team accomplishments:

- Didn't embarrass themselves

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC touchdown leader
- ACC per-game scoring leader
- Second-team all-ACC
- Invited to NFLPA All-Star Game
- UVA's leading rusher

OK, so, of all the sports featured in this year's nominations, football definitely had the worst showing.  And still you can tell things are improving because they didn't even get a nomination last year.  Speaking of redemption stories, here is probably the biggest and best for the season, and probably in quite a while.  Until 2010, the high point of Keith Payne's UVA career was the day he committed.  It went all downhill from there, as hype gave way to the doghouse that Payne slowly and steadily worked his way into.  He finally quit the team midway through the 2009 season when it became evident Al Groh had no intention of putting him on the field again.  Groh was a stubborn guy who wasn't big on second and third chances, but a lot of Payne's problems were Payne's own fault.

When Mike London was hired, Payne asked for another chance, to have a senior season back.  London laid down the conditions and Payne met them all, and when the season opened up, there he was, back in uniform, and with no less a position as the starting tailback.  He scored four touchdowns in the season opener and ended the year with 16 touchdowns, three more than his closest competition in the ACC, and could have had more if injuries hadn't slowed him up at the end of the year.  Payne scored so much that he ended up as the ACC's per-game scoring leader and in fourth place overall, on the list normally reserved for kickers.  Of the top ten per-game scorers in the conference, Payne was the only non-kicker.  Just exactly what Hoo fans envisioned for his senior year after all.

Lauren Perdue - Women's swimming - Sprint freestyle

Team accomplishments:

- Fourth consecutive ACC championship
- 13th place at NCAA championships

Personal accomplishments:

- ACC Swimmer of the Year
- 2-time ACC Swimmer of the Championships
- Set ACC record in 200-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle and 200 yard free relay
- NCAA 200 free runner-up
- NCAA 50 free 8th place
- Led off UVA's all-American 800 freestyle relay
- Two-event ACC champion
- 4-time ACC Performer of the Week

The epitome of ACC dominance at UVA is either men's tennis or the swim teams, and it's the swim teams that are setting records.  And in this case it's one of the youngest COY nominees; Lauren Perdue is just one of two sophomores (and no freshman) nominated this year.  Perdue broke a passel of ACC records at the ACC meet, broke them again at the NCAAs, and helped her team come from behind to win their fourth straight ACC championship, sealed when the relay that Perdue leads off took first place in the final event.

Perdue's also proven to be an elite swimmer on the national level, earning a couple of all-American awards (which in swimming are given for being top-eight in an event) and earning a second-place finish in her best event, the 200 free.  Potential future national champion?  Perhaps.  It takes a deep lineup to win the ACC title, but Perdue stands well above a crowd of teammates that's awfully hard to stand above.

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