Thursday, June 16, 2011

FOV Cavalier of the Year 2011, #9/#10

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 Robby Andrews and Liz Downs.

Robby Andrews - Men's track & field - Middle distance

Team accomplishments:

- 25th place finish at NCAA championships
- One of 18 teams to score at all three seasonal track events (cross-country, indoor, outdoor)

Personal accomplishments:

- National 800-meter champion at NCAA outdoor meet
- Penn Relays Athlete of the Meet for relay events
- Anchored Penn Relay 4x800 meter champion relay team
- 2nd-place finish in 1500-meter at ACC championships

As with swimming, there are quite a few choices for the top athlete on the track teams.  (It ought to be noted that if I had 13 nominations instead of 12, Stephanie Garcia would be in.)  But part of the reason the choice is so hard this year is because Robby Andrews missed two-thirds of it.

Unable to defend his indoor 800-meter championship because of a foot injury, Andrews said "oh well" and won it outdoors instead, and with a personal best time at that.  In doing so he became only the second Cavalier ever to win an outdoor NCAA championship and the sixth to garner multiple all-American nods outdoors.  Andrews called it the biggest win of his career, which is saying something considering last year's indoor championship came at the expense of a Beijing Olympian.

That'd probably have been enough to earn him a nomination, so maybe the Penn Relays honor is just icing.  Or maybe not, given the prestige of the Penn Relays.  This is the second year in a row Andrews has anchored a Penn Relays championship relay, and he's only a sophomore.  Definitely one of UVA's rising stars.

Liz Downs - Women's lacrosse - Defense

Team accomplishments:

- Made NCAA tournament

Personal accomplishments:

- One of 24 Tewaaraton Award nominees
- All-ACC
- All-South Region team
- Second-team IWCLA all-American

In past years, Liz Downs has been a little overshadowed by her teammates, because, well, she's a defender and that usually happens.  Gaudy stats get the pub.  And her teammates put up some big numbers this year, too, but the difference is this: none of them are on their second all-American selection.

In fact, Downs is described by as "the best true defender in program history."  That and having been voted Team MVP by her own teammates means: no more being overshadowed.  She was one of just three defenders voted to the position-nonspecific all-ACC team, and one of just four defenders nominated for the Tewaaraton Trophy for the country's best lacrosse player.  I like when I get a chance to give a little recognition to the people who don't show up on the stat sheet much, and Liz Downs fits the bill perfectly.

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