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. The full list of nominees 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; 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. Today's athletes: Denny McCarthy, Mark Cockerton, and Courtney Swan.
Denny McCarthy - Men's golf
-- Won Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate
-- Won Jim West Intercollegiate with second-best score by an ACC team in history
-- Won Wolfpack Intercollegiate
-- Runner-up at ACC championship
-- Finished sixth at NCAA championship
-- PING and Golfweek all-America second-teams
-- First UVA golfer to be named to Ben Hogan Award watchlist
-- VaSID golfer of the year
-- Maryland State Amateur champion
In fits and starts, the UVA men's golf team is starting to do things on the national scene. Right now you've got Steve Marino as just about the only major UVA alum on the tour, but that could change when Denny McCarthy graduates. This year's edition of the team was up and down in unprecedented ways; for example, they started that Bank of Tennessee tournament 10th of 14 teams and won it over the following two days. The team's 45-under-par performance at the Jim West Intercollegiate has only ever been beaten once by an ACC team - a Georgia Tech tourney win in 2005. UVA's previous best score had been in 1993.
McCarthy is the team's top player, easily, and he's rocketed up the leaderboard over the past three years at the NCAAs. As a freshman he was 77th; last year he was 22nd; this spring, 6th. That's the second-best finish by a Hoo, ever; not even Marino ever finished in the top ten. The best? Dixon Brooke, the 1940 NCAA champion. McCarthy might need to match that before we declare him the best ever UVA athlete at his sport, but he's still out there making history.
Mark Cockerton - Men's lacrosse - Attack
-- NCAA 8 seed
-- All-ACC selection
-- USILA third-team all-American
-- Second-straight 40-goal season
Mark Cockerton's career got off to a bit of a slow start, which is understandable since UVA lacrosse always has upperclassmen in the way. With 29 goals spread across his first two seasons, he didn't seem to be on pace to write himself a spot in the record books. That changed in a hurry. Here at the end of his senior season, Cockerton has become the 15th player in UVA history to record 100 career goals; perhaps even more impressively, his junior year (I did say that these nominations sometimes have a lifetime-achievement aspect) is the 4th-highest-scoring single season in UVA history.
And for an encore, Cockerton followed up a 49-goal season with a 47-goal one, placing that season 6th on the all-time list. Cockerton is now only 1 of 3 Hoos in history to have two 40-goal seasons; he joins Doug Knight and Chris Bocklet in that category, and like those two, has two seasons in UVA's all-time top 10. Given the illustrious names in UVA lacrosse history, finding a spot among them and accomplishing something many of them didn't, that's an eye-opener for sure.
Courtney Swan - Women's lacrosse - Attack
-- Reached NCAA Final Four
-- Tewaaraton Trophy nominee
-- Elite 89 Award
-- IWCLA second-team all-American; first-team all-South
-- Second-team all-ACC
-- Academic all-ACC
-- Second-most draw controls in UVA history (single-season)
-- Third-most draw controls in UVA history (career)
Courtney Swan is a pretty good scorer, as scorers go; her 53 goals was 21st in the country, and 80 points was 16th. (Women's lax is higher-scoring than men's, largely because you can't club the shit out of the ballcarrier.) That's really not what lands her here, though; more than just about any UVA athlete, Swan is the total package.
For one, a few breaks her way this coming season could see her break two Brittany Kalkstein records for draw controls, both single-season and career; Swan already came within one this past season (96, to Kalkstein's 97.) For another thing, that Elite 89 Award? One is awarded in every sport; it's for the athlete at the NCAA "championship site" (for lacrosse, that would be the Final Four) with the highest GPA. It's not that old of an award; it was first awarded in 2009-2010, and Swan is the second UVA athlete to receive it. Getting recognized for both athletic and academic elite-ness; that's the very definition of a Cavalier of the Year.