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: Nathan Kirby and JB Kolod.
Nathan Kirby - Baseball - Starting pitcher
-- College World Series
-- National runner-up
-- ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year
-- Louisville Slugger All-American
-- Invited to Team USA Collegiate National Team
-- One-time Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week
-- Threw no-hitter against Pittsburgh
Normally I hate that I usually write up the baseball nominee before the team has finished playing, because I want to fit in their whole season of accomplishments. Now I hate that I waited til after they were done. I wouldn't want the final result, and the final innings thrown by Kirby, to color anyone's perception here.
Truth is, Kirby was the best player UVa had all season, and it wasn't even close, which is really saying something considering the talent level here. He pulled off an amazing turnaround from a less than stellar freshman season, and this year, validated every ounce of the excitement level surrounding him as a recruit and then some. Kirby was virtually unhittable most of the year and literally unhittable on one special night in Pittsburgh, during which he not only no-hit the Panthers but issued only one walk - that and a first-inning error were the only things spoiling a perfect game. Kirby struck out 18 hitters in that effort, one fewer than the school (and ACC) record for one game. The ACC doesn't name a single player of the year, preferring to divide it between pitchers and position players, and couldn't settle on just one pitcher, either. Nevertheless, Kirby now has the chance to become the second player to win two ACC Pitcher of the Year awards - following in the footsteps of none other than Danny Hultzen.
JB Kolod - Men's swimming and diving - Diver
-- 26th at NCAA championship meet
-- National 7th-place finish in 3-meter diving
-- National 10th-place finish in platform diving
-- First UVa diver to earn multiple all-American honors in one year
-- Set UVa records in 1-meter and 3-meter diving
-- One-time ACC Male Diver of the Week
I don't normally like to put things this way in this forum, but, the men's swim team was nowhere near up to snuff this year. Normally what happens at the NCAA meet is that a whole bunch of our swimmers go out there and bring home a gob of points, usually enough to finish somewhere between 5th and 15th. Our divers aren't usually part of this deal.
This year - it was the other way around. The swimmers were almost totally unrepresented in the point-scoring portion of the meet, and it fell to JB Kolod to carry the team, which he did, earning 19 of UVa's 23 points.
Kolod's two top-ten finishes gave him all-American status in those events; not only is he the first UVa diver ever to do that twice in one year, but those are also the highest finishes ever for a UVa diver. (Technically, the platform finish is honorable mention AA; you get the whole thing for a top-8 finish. Still - the point remains.) That, plus his springboard records, is enough to easily cement Kolod as the greatest diver in UVa's history. Earn that title and rescue a floundering effort at the national championship meet to boot - there's absolutely no doubting Kolod's credentials for Cavalier of the Year.