UC Athletics Closes Year With Awards Banquet
Kim Sykes from the women's soccer team was the Female TopCat Scholar and the winner of the Helen Norman Smith Award.

June 6, 2009

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CINCINNATI - The University of Cincinnati Department of Athletics named its Athletes of the Year, Scholar-Athletes of the Year, top senior student-athletes, Coach of the Year, and Team of the Year at its annual All-Sports Banquet, held in Fifth Third Arena.

Senior Jessie Nevitt helped the volleyball team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history. Nevitt was an AVCA Honorable Mention all-America selection, making her the first three-time all-America honoree in school history. The unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection was the only league player to finish in the top-10 in statistically in hitting percentage, kills, and blocks. She ranks on eight UC career records charts and is one of two players in BIG EAST history to eclipse 1,400 career kills and 600 total blocks. She wrapped up her UC career with 1,498 kills, and 652 total blocks.

Junior swimmer Josh Schneider was named the Male Athlete of the Year. He was an honorable mention all-America selection in the 50 freestyle for the second-straight season. He qualified for three events at the NCAA meet, and was also selected as a CSCAA First-Team Academic All-American. Schneider was named the BIG EAST's Most Outstanding Men's Swimmer at the league championship meet in February after winning three individual championships while setting UC and BIG EAST records in each event. He swam in 22 dual meet races in 2008, winning 15 and placing second seven times.

The Topcat Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards are awarded to the top graduating female and male student-athlete who have attained the highest University GPA during their academic career at UC.

The Female Scholar-Athlete Award went to women's soccer player Kim Sykes. Sykes, a journalism major with a 3.98 GPA, was the team's defensive MVP in 2009 and started every game of her career at UC, helping to guide the Bearcats to its highest finish in a BIG EAST regular season, its best overall record since the 2002 season (10-7-3), and a BIG EAST women's soccer quarterfinal appearance. She also earned her third selection to the ESPN The Magazine College Sports Information Directors of America Second-Team Academic All-District squad.

Senior Kyle Dragan took home the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. Dragan, who ran both cross country and track, is a double major in finance and accounting, earning a 3.894 GPA. During the cross country season, he notched three top-10 finishes in seven meets. In the outdoor track season, Dragan featured strong performances through the season in the 800 meters, 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, and 10,000 meters.

The most prestigious awards given to a senior student-athlete are the Jimmy Nippert (men) and Helen Norman Smith (women) Awards. They are presented annually to the senior student-athletes who demonstrate excellence in three important areas: 1.) academics; 2.) athletics; and 3.) community service.

The Jimmy Nippert Award was given to Jakub Carda of the men's swimming and diving team. Carda He was UC's institutional BIG EAST Male Scholar Athlete of the Year, only one of three swimmers in the conference to earn that honor.  Carda placed fourth in the 400 IM at the league championship meet and was a qualifier in at least three events for each BIG EAST meet he participated in as a Bearcat. The native of the Czech Republic has consistently earned high GPA marks in UC's challenging information systems program, despite working in English, a foreign language to him.

Sykes grabbed her second award of the event, earning the Helen Norman Smith Award. In addition to her classwork, and team-related responsibilities, Sykes works part-time in the sports communications office, and is also a Cincinnatus Scholar, Mary Lyn White Scholar, and a Legion of Excellence inductee. Outside of school, Sykes had taken time to give back, starting a shoe drive for Soccer Without Borders, and volunteering for the Girl Scouts of America.

Entering his third season at the helm of the football program, head coach Brian Kelly was named the UC Coach of the Year. In 2008, he led UC to a school record 11 wins, the school's first BIG EAST Conference Championship, and an appearance in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl, the first Bowl Championship Series appearance by UC. Following the close of the regular season, Kelly was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the second-straight season. He also earned American Football Monthly Schutt Sports Football Bowl Subdivision Coach of the year accolades, American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region 1 Coach of the Year honors, and was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year by Sporting News.

The UC Team of the Year went to football for the second-straight season. The football program achieved a school-record 11 victories in 2008, while posting back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. UC also won the school's first outright conference championship since 1964, and earned the school's first berth in a Bowl Championship Series game, playing against Virginia Tech in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl. The Bearcats finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak and captured all three of its rivalry trophies for the first time in the same season, the Victory Bell (Miami [OH]), Keg Of Nails (Louisville), and River City Rivalry (Pittsburgh).

2008 University of Cincinnati All-Sports Banquet Award Winners

  • Female Athlete of the Year: Jessie Nevitt, Volleyball
  • Male Athlete of the Year: Josh Schneider, Swimming & Diving
  • Female Topcat Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Kim Sykes, Soccer
  • Male Topcat Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Kyle Dragan, Cross Country/Track & Field
  • Helen Norman Smith Award: Kim Sykes, Soccer
  • Jimmy Nippert Award: Jakub Carda, Swimming & Diving
  • Coach of the Year: Brian Kelly, Football
  • Team of the Year: Football