A-Sun Recognizes Achievement During Spring Meetings

Thursday, June 07, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Atlantic Sun Conference met with officials from its member institutions, recognized several student-athletes for their accomplishments in 2011-12 and honored a member of its staff during its 2012 Spring Meetings.

Retiring this summer, Steve Sturek received recognition and a plaque for his 22 years of service to the A-Sun as Senior Associate Commissioner for Compliance and Legal Affairs. In his position, Sturek administered all aspects of the A-Sun compliance program. He earned his undergraduate degree at Iowa State and was a member of Iowa State's famed "Dirty Thirty" football squad where former A-Sun Commissioner Lou McCullough was his position coach. Sturek also earned his law degree from Creighton University and practiced law for 20 years, spending seven years as a major felony prosecutor. He earned an M. Ed. from Georgia in 1990.

East Tennessee State University received its award as the Bill Bibb Trophy winner for the sixth consecutive time, the trophy awarded to the school with the best overall finish combining men’s and women’s sports. The Bucs edged Kennesaw State by 4.5 points to claim the 2011-12 Atlantic Sun All-Sports championship. ETSU is the award’s only winner in six years, but this year’s race was the tightest since the league began awarding the trophy in 2006-07.

The Buccaneers also received the Jesse C. Fletcher Trophy, the award given to the school with the best finish in men’s sports. The Bucs won championships in men’s tennis and men’s outdoor track and field and their 144 points were the most recorded by any men’s team in the award’s history.

Kennesaw State received the Sherman Day Trophy, as championships in golf and softball and strong showings in tennis and volleyball led the Owls to the 2011-12 Atlantic Sun Conference Women’s All-Sports Race title. The Owls claimed their second Sherman Day Trophy in the last three years, and KSU has finished first or second in each of the last four years.

As always the A-Sun proudly honored its Student-Athletes of the Year, naming Courtney Chihil (Florida Gulf Coast University) and Whitney Kiihnl (Lipscomb University) as A-Sun Female Student-Athletes of the Year and Mick Hedgepeth (Belmont University) as the A-Sun Male Student-Athlete of the Year.

Chihil, one of the Eagles’ captains, played in 31 of 32 games this season and helped FGCU to the fifth-best winning percentage in the nation. Her 3.86 GPA in nursing also earned her a spot on the inaugural A-Sun Academic All-Conference team. A Capital One Academic All-District 4 First Team and Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association (DI-AAA ADA) Women's Scholar-Athlete Team selection, Chihil finished the season as FGCU’s leader in minutes and ranked among A-Sun leaders (in conference games only) in seven categories (assist/turnover ratio, free-throw percentage, field goal percentage, assists, steals, three-point percentage and scoring). She ended her career ranking at or near the top five in five major categories in FGCU history.

Her performance at the A-Sun Tournament earned All-Tournament team honors and she wrapped up her four-year career at FGCU with 1,016 points (5th), 122 made three-pointers (6th), 603 rebounds (3rd), 199 steals (1st) and 333 assists (4th). Chihil also picked up a pair of team awards as she was named the team’s Co-Player of the Year and the Eagle Award winner.

A standout at pitcher for the Lady Bison softball team, Kiihnl was the 2012 Atlantic Sun softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Now a Lipscomb alum with a degree in biology, she completed her career with a 3.63 GPA. A three-time All-Academic Team honoree, Kiihnl was also a member of the Capital One/CoSIDA District 3 All-Academic team and is the first Lipscomb softball player to earn Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. On the field the second-team all-conference selection went 22-12 with a 1.79 ERA and 211 strikeouts for the Lady Bison this season. The Batesville, Miss., native has been accepted into the physician’s assistant program at Harding University and will continue her academic career in the fall.

For the second straight year, Hedgepeth is a member of the DI-AAA ADA Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete Team. He was also named the association’s recipient of the 2011-12 postgraduate scholarship for men’s basketball. Hedgepeth was also one of 10 finalists for the prestigious Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and a two-time Capital One Academic All-District First Team selection. The 6-9 forward/center received academic-all conference honors all four years, and this year was one of six student-athletes named to the inaugural Atlantic Sun Academic All-Conference Team for men’s basketball. Hedgepeth holds a 3.70 GPA in his chosen major of accounting, and plans to pursue a master of accountancy.

On the court, he left a lasting imprint upon the Bruin record book. In Belmont’s NCAA era, Hedgepeth ranks in the top 10 in five career statistical categories; first in games played (134), third in rebounds (692), fourth in blocked shots (78), fifth in field goal percentage (.540) and ninth in scoring (1,191). Hedgepeth was a two-time Second Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree and the 2011 Atlantic Sun Tournament Most Valuable Player.

Chihil will also serve as the A-Sun’s NCAA Woman of the Year nominee. In its 22nd year, the Woman of the Year Award honors female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academic achievement, athletics excellence, community service and leadership.

To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must have completed intercollegiate eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2011 spring season, graduated no later than the end of the summer 2012 term and achieved a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.5.

The A-Sun also announced Maksim Levanovich (Stetson University) and Brittany Duerk (Lipscomb) as its NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners. The 2011-12 Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men's tennis, Levanovich posted a 64-19 record in singles and 65-19 mark in doubles competition during his career. He is a four-time A-Sun All-Tournament team member, a three-time All-Academic Team member and was a member of the A-Sun All-Freshman Team in 2008. Levanovich maintained a 3.85 GPA while majoring in International Business.

Brittany Duerk was a dual-sport student-athlete for the Lady Bison who joined the outdoor track and field team mid-season after the conclusion of her senior basketball season. Duerk graduated with a 3.85 in biochemistry. Competing in throws for Lipscomb, she just missed medaling at the A-Sun Championships with a 36.14m javelin throw. Duerk was also in the top five of several statistical categories for the Lady Bison basketball team, and was a three-time Academic All-Conference selection.

KSU also received the award for winning the annual SAAC Fundraising Initiative, raising a total of $6,745.81. Overall, the eighth annual Atlantic Sun Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) fundraising competition raised more than $22,000 to benefit charities selected by the SAAC at each of the 10 A-Sun institutions. Resulting from of a number of initiatives throughout the 2011-12 year, the A-Sun SAAC raised a total of $22,209.68 to benefit organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society and Relay for Life, The Golden Soldiers, Inc., Alexis Kaiser Foundation, The Contributor, the Gibbs Cancer Center in Spartanburg, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Boys and Girls Club, Coaches vs. Cancer, Harry Chapin Food Bank, and Children’s Miracle Network. It is the highest total since 2008-09.

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University. Northern Kentucky becomes the A-Sun’s newest member on July 1, 2012.