Pepperdine Celebrates Student-Athletes at Annual Honors Banquet

Maurice Hilliard Award winner Jen Karson with Athletic Director Steve Potts.

April 3, 2013

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MALIBU, Calif. - Student-athletes and coaches from Pepperdine’s 15 intercollegiate athletic teams, as well as staff members, gathered on Wednesday night to celebrate Pepperdine University's Sixth Annual Student-Athlete Honors Dinner in Firestone Fieldhouse.

Director of Athletics Steve Potts was the master of ceremonies. Krista Lopata, the Athletic Chaplain and former women's volleyball player, gave the invocation. Following a dinner catered by Marmalade Cafe, each head coach in attendance introduced their seniors.

The Wave of the Year honors student-athletes for outstanding contributions in spirit and service to the athletics program and the university community. Associate Director of Athletics Karina Herold presented the award and this year’s winners were Caitlin Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS) of sand volleyball and water polo’s Nicholas Candau (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley HS).

Racich and Candau are fixtures at all of the Waves’ home events in addition to all of their contributions to their own teams. Their positive impact to the entire culture surrounding Pepperdine Athletics is priceless.

The Scholar-Athlete of the Year, recognizing academic achievement, was given to a swimmer and a runner by Faculty Athletics Representative Don Shores. Brooke Fugate (San Diego, Calif./Rancho Bernardo HS) was the female recipient while Jesse Aston (Martinez, Calif./Alhambra HS) was the male winner.

Fugate will receive her degrees in both computer science and math this May after just three years at Pepperdine. Her grade point average entering in her final semester stood at a team-best 3.91.

“I don’t know how you can do that,” said head swim and dive coach Nick Rodionoff on Fugate’s early graduation status. “Brooke is the nicest, most easy going person there is and she always has a smile on her face. To graduate in three years with her GPA, never miss a training session and run a Bible study on top of everything else is simply astounding.

“Brooke was one of the kids who stuck with us through the ups and downs of the swim and dive program,” continued Rodionoff. “It’s largely because of her that the door is still open for the team in future years.”

Fugate is the third member of the Pepperdine swimming and diving team in as many years to take home Scholar-Athlete of the Year accolades. Jessell Owens won in 2011 followed by Klaire Korver in 2012.

A varsity cross country runner the past three seasons and a member of the track team the past two, Aston has distinguished himself in the classroom in addition to the race course. He earned West Coast Conference All-Academic first team honors both this past fall and as a sophomore. He also received WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll “gold” honors as a freshman and sophomore. Aston has either been the Waves’ #2 or #3 runner at the past three WCC Cross Country Championships.

“Jesse is a double major and is just a smart kid who does it all. He truly epitomizes what it means to be a ‘student-athlete.’” said head cross country and track coach Robert Radnoti. “We are really excited that this is the first time a cross country runner has won the award since its inception and Jesse is very deserving of this honor. We are very proud of him.”

The senior is working toward degrees in math and English and boasts a GPA of 3.81.

The Maurice Hilliard Award, in honor and memory of Pepperdine’s chaplain, coach and mentor, was presented to women’s soccer’s Jennifer Karson (Frazier Park, Calif./Frazier Mountain HS).

“I can’t think of a more deserving person than Jen,” said women’s soccer coach Tim Ward. “Jen epitomizes what it means to be a Wave. I’ve witnessed her grow in faith and the change I have seen in her since she became a believer is nothing short of remarkable. It’s special and it has impacted everyone around her for the better.

“I feel richly blessed that I have had the opportunity to coach Jen. We would never have achieved the things we did without her,” said Ward.

The award was established last year after the passing of Hilliard in March of 2012. The Maurice Hilliard Award is now an annual honor presented to a student-athlete that exemplifies the attributes of Christian faith, character and leadership. Skye Barnett, a women’s basketball alumna, was the inaugural honoree.

Following dinner and the awards ceremony there was a student-athlete formal, put on by the efforts of the SAAC Co-Presidents Karson and Drew Hacker (Moorpark, Calif./Oaks Christian HS).


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