From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday (a bit late this year) 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: Eric Bird and Jordan Young.
Eric Bird - Men's soccer - Midfield
-- National champions
-- Record 34th straight NCAA tournament appearance
-- NSCAA 2nd-team all-American
-- 1st-team all-ACC
-- Team leader in goals, points
-- 2nd-round selection in MLS SuperDraft
-- Preseason Herrman Trophy watch list
-- ACC all-academic team (2nd selection)
Maybe we should be rooting extra-hard for men's soccer. In each of the last six seasons, a UVA team has won a national title in all but one of them. In two of those years, the Hoos brought home more than one title; both years, men's soccer was the first.
The Hoos' run to - and through - the College Cup was a chip right off the old Tony Bennett block. Defense, defense, defense, so much so that the College Cup announcers ripped the tactics every chance they got. Eff 'em. These tactics, plus a season that was at best, pretty good, left little chance for statistical stardom; Bird's team-leading goal total was just five, the lowest total for a team leader in forever. Bird also missed most of the NCAA tournament with a groin injury. This team didn't have much firepower.
Nevertheless, Bird was an all-American anyway, for the second year in a row. And for the second year in a row, team captain and all-academic student. And it was just getting here that was hard enough; Bird's first two seasons were effectively wasted by a severe knee injury that saw two torn ligaments and over a year of rehab. From being held up on crutches to holding up both a team and a trophy, that's one hell of a journey.
Jordan Young - Men's track and field - Throws
-- 2nd place at ACC meet
-- 17th place at NCAA championships
-- 5th place in USTFCCCA program standings
-- 6th-place finish in discus (1st-team all-American)
-- 7th-place finish in hammer throw (1st-team all-American)
-- 10th-place finish in shot put (2nd-team all-American)
-- Only male athlete to qualify for three individual events at NCAAs
-- ACC meet Field MVP
-- Set school records in hammer throw and weight throw
Quietly, the men's track and field program is, pardon the pun, making strides. Good things are happening. This small revolution is being led by guys who chuck heavy things as far as they can. Jordan Young has some competition in the form of fellow sophomore Filip Mihaljevic. Both are changing the school record books, and both look like really strong candidates for the Rio Olympics next year; Young for Canada, Mihaljevic for Croatia.
For now, Young is the more accomplished of the two. He was the only athlete in the country to qualify for three individual events at the NCAAs, and he finished as an all-American in all three. That combined with his trophy for Field MVP at the ACCs firmly establishes him as the conference's top thrower. Only a sophomore, it's likely that what Young is doing now, impressive as it is, is only a precursor to much greater things.