MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Finals week has arrived on the campus of West Virginia University. A string of seven days that induces a crazy case of stress and fear for many students, it also causes many to shift into a reflective state, remembering all the great times they have experienced in Morgantown over the last nine months.
Mountaineer student-athletes are not immune from many of these emotions. The end of the spring semester draws to a close a busy year filled with classes, practices and competitions, and when they have a free moment, time spent at their counterparts’ games and matches, cheering on their fellow Mountaineers.
Friendships run deep within the WVU athletic department. While student-athletes spend many hours with each other in study hall and in the stands, time together away from academic and athletic requirements is few and far between.
In an effort to build fellowship among the Mountaineer student-athletes, the WVU Student-Athletes Advisory Committee (SAAC), the voice of student-athletes on WVU’s campus, is presenting the first Blue & Golden Globes Awards dinner this evening at Touchdown Terrace at Milan Puskar Stadium. A night built around celebrating the WVU student-athlete, attendees will have the opportunity to walk a red carpet, enjoy a delicious dinner and honor those who have spent countless hours supporting their fellow student-athletes and the Morgantown community.
“We haven’t been able to get all the WVU student-athletes at one event in a long time, and we felt it would be great to get the athletes together and recognize everyone’s accomplishments in a fun setting,” said junior Evyn McCoy
, a middle blocker on the WVU volleyball team. “There are a lot of activities planned for the night. The members of SAAC felt that it is important for the teams to interact with each other. A lot of the initiatives we’ve taken this year have been in an effort to integrate the teams, and I think this awards dinner is a good way to end the season for everyone.”
The evening’s headline will be the award presented to the winners of the new “Top of the Mountain Challenge,” a contest initiated by the SAAC board. The challenge pits the teams against one another to see who can earn the most points for attendance at sporting events, social media presence and personal, academic, athletic and service achievements. Points were awarded when certain criteria were met, and a tally board was on display inside the WVU Academic Center all year so the teams could see where they ranked against the others.
“We wanted the student-athletes to get more involved within the WVU campus and the athletic department,” said junior Ali Connelly
, a midfielder on the WVU women’s soccer team. “Building a WVU athletic community is very important to us. We want the student-athletes to work together. We are all naturally competitive, too, so we made sure there is a really nice prize that will be awarded at the dinner. Our goal is to make this challenge stick and to grow it next year.”
“I see this challenge not only as an opportunity for the student-athletes to interact and support the other sports, but also as a fun, competitive way for the teams to battle against each other,” echoed McCoy. “It’s fun to watch the teams earn points.
“When you make the commitment to compete in collegiate athletics, you’re privileged to be a part of a great experience, and it’s important to see that everyone enjoys that opportunity at WVU. It’s a challenge to keep up with the other teams, and we all want our team to be at the top.”
Keli Cunningham, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and SAAC advisor, is proud that the challenge, as well as tonight’s awards dinner, is a product of student-athletes’ visions.
“Historically, we’ve held an academic banquet that celebrates academics and community service achievements, but this event will go a bit further and incorporate a number of other areas that the student-athletes have come up with,” she explained. “The thing I really like about this event is that it was envisioned by the student-athletes, and they took an active role to see it come to fruition. This dinner elaborates on our academic banquet.”
Additional achievements that will be honored this evening include the announcement of the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll and the 2013-14 Male and Female Student-Athlete Community Service Outreach Award honorees. That award recognizes a student-athletes commitment to community service. Connelly earned the honor last year and believes giving back to the community is one of the most important responsibilities a Mountaineer student-athlete holds.
“It’s really important to give back, whether it’s by helping kids or cleaning up a neighborhood – it’s just important for the community to see that student-athletes aren’t just here to play sports. We do care about the community we live in,” she explained. “There’s more to life than just playing sports.”
An integral part in the conceptualization of this evening’s event, Connelly, on the cusp of her final year at WVU, is focused on making the four-year college experience for Mountaineer student-athletes a better one. She is excited for the student-athletes to gather at one place for a night filled with recognition and laughter. Ensuring that those in attendance sport smiles all evening, the SAAC board members also will hand out awards that recognize off-beat, personality-driven attributes, such as “Coach of the Year” and “Comeback of the Year.”
“We want everyone to enjoy themselves and have a good night,” she explained. “There are some fun awards that will be going out tonight. We had a lot of great nominations from the teams, especially for “Best Game Face” and “Most Hours Clocked in the Training Room.” It’s going to be fun.”
On the eve of a weekend that will see many WVU students tucked in a corner with their noses in a book, the Mountaineer student-athletes are ready to celebrate each other before the official close of the 2013-14 season. Achievements in the classroom and in the competition arena will fuel a lifetime of opportunities, but it’s the memories made with peers that the Mountaineers will hold close forever.
This evening’s dinner is closed to the public and media.