Sunday, June 10, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #3/#4

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. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few 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, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Briggy Imbriglia and Jarmere Jenkins.  (And yes, tomorrow I'll have my outspoken-as-always opinion on the rather unwelcome change of leadership on Carr's Hill.)
Briggy Imbriglia - Men's diving

Team accomplishments:

-- ACC champions (15th title)
-- 15th at NCAA championships

Personal accomplishments:

-- School-record meet score of 376.50
-- NCAA Zone A champion (platform diving)
-- UVA's first-ever diving all-American with HM mention at NCAAs
-- Academic all-ACC (second selection)

We like to debate things like, "is so-and-so the best athlete since such-and-such?"  Fill in your own blanks.  This year that particular mad-lib was filled in with Mike Scott and Ralph Sampson.  That was because there aren't a whole lot of people willing to get in heated Internet debates about the swim team.

Even if there were, there'd be no need for the debate: UVA has never had a better diver than Francis Joseph "Briggy" Imbriglia.  And it's not even close.  The school record that he broke during the ACC championships was his own that he set a few weeks prior.  Historically, UVA's men's swim team has won its championships despite never getting any points from its divers; Imbriglia's 13 points at the ACC meet this year went a long way toward the narrow margin of victory.

He's also only the second UVA diver to compete in the NCAAs (the first in about 30 years) and the first to compete at the NCAAs in all three diving events - 1 meter, 3 meter, and platform.  Also first to win a zone (regional) championship etc. etc.  Point is, most everything Briggy Imbriglia does these days has never been done by a UVA athlete before, and he's no slouch on the academic side either.  It makes him one of the easiest choices I've ever had for a COTY nomination.

Jarmere Jenkins - Men's tennis - #1 singles

Team accomplishments:

-- ACC champions (6th consecutive year)
-- Reached NTI (indoor) national semifinals
-- Reached NCAA final

Personal accomplishments:

-- Three-time ACC Player of the Week
-- ITA singles all-American
-- USTA Futures doubles champion at Plantation Open (with Drew Courtney)
-- Winner of VNB Challenger Sportsmanship Award
-- 17-3 record at #1 singles

The men's tennis team is so damn good that it's practically automatic they have a representative.  And there are a lot of good choices.  Freshman Mitchell Frank, for example, was the ITA Rookie of the Year, and had the team's best record.

But I have a policy of only one per team, and the long list of quality possibilities means that the men's tennis nominee is a standout player every year.  Not only was Jenkins a team captain who played #1 singles almost the whole year, he took part in a lot of "extracurricular" tennis tournaments too.  For example, Jenkins (as well as women's tennis coach Mark Guilbeau) helped the US to victory in the 2011 Master'U BNP Paribas Championship, an intercollegiate international tennis tournament.  Jenkins is the first UVA player ever selected by USTA to participate.

Jenkins also plays on the USTA Futures Tour, where he and Drew Courtney took the doubles title at the Plantation Open, Jenkins's second doubles title on the tour.  And in the world of actual NCAA competition, Jenkins finished the year ranked #4 in the country, with his best win of the year coming against Duke's Henrique Cunha in a two-set sweep - Cunha was ranked #4 at the time and finished the year #5.  Every year there's a strong COTY entry from the tennis courts, and it's no different this time around.

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