Seawolves go 7-for-7 in GNAC awards
In addition to their unprecedented team success, University of Alaska Anchorage athletes made individual history as well in 2011-12 by winning Player/Athlete-of-the-Year honors in all seven of its Great Northwest Athletic Conference sports.
The Seawolves, who recently finished No. 16 nationally in the final Learfield Sports Directors' Cup Div. II standings, boasted the GNAC's top performers in women's basketball (Hanna Johansson), men's basketball (Taylor Rohde), men's cross country (Micah Chelimo), women's cross country (Ruth Keino), men's outdoor track & field (Chelimo), women's outdoor track & field (Susan Tanui, co-winner) and volleyball (Jackie Matthisen).
In addition to becoming the first school to take top individual honors in 100 percent of its sports, the Seawolves produced the second-most POY/AOY winners in league history, trailing only Western Washington's nine from 2010-11. This marked the 11th season of GNAC play, with the league currently sponsoring 16 sports; two awards are given in football, baseball and softball.
"Team success and individual awards often go hand-in-hand, but it is impossible to achieve either without outstanding contributions by teammates," said UAA athletic director Dr. Steve Cobb. "Our incredible season is a tribute to all of our student-athletes, who share in these accomplishments."
The Seawolves finished no lower than third in any of their GNAC sports, winning titles in women's basketball and men's and women's cross country, placing runner-up in men's basketball, volleyball and women's track & field, and placing third in men's track & field.
Chelimo, a junior from Kapkoi, Kenya, became the first man in GNAC history to sweep the Athlete of the Year awards in both cross country and outdoor track & field. After capturing GNAC and West Regional cross country titles in the fall, Chelimo went on to win the national title in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in May, along with a runner-up finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He was tabbed the Male Athlete of the Meet at the GNAC Championships and was the West Region Male Track & Field Athlete of the Year in coaches' voting.
Johansson, a senior from Gothenburg, Sweden, was voted the 2011-12 GNAC Female Athlete of the Year earlier this week, to go along with a pair of All-America honors and a CoSIDA Third Team Academic All-America award. The 6-2 center averaged 14.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists to help the Seawolf women's basketball team to a 30-5 record, the GNAC regular-season and tournament titles, and the program's third West Region title in five seasons.
Keino, a senior from Kapcheno, Kenya, capped an undefeated regular season with the GNAC and West Region individual titles in cross country, leading the Seawolves to 'three-peats' of both team titles. The three-time All-American capped her career with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, leading the Seawolves to a No. 6 national placing.
Matthisen, a senior from East Anchorage High School, was an honorable mention AVCA All-American and consensus first-team all-region pick as the Seawolf volleyball team finished 18-9 overall and came within one match of winning the GNAC title. The 5-10 outside hitter was No. 2 in the league with 4.14 kills and 4.53 points per set, and she finished No. 3 on UAA's all-time kills list.
Rohde, a senior from Phoenix, was named the NCAA Div. II National Player of the Year by Division II Bulletin, along with consensus All-American and Daktronics West Region Player of the Year awards. The 6-9, 255-pound center averaged a GNAC-best 19.8 points and 62.7 percent shooting, plus 8.0 rebounds per contest, as the Seawolves went 23-7 overall and 15-3 in the GNAC.
Tanui, a sophomore from Eldoret, Kenya, became the first Seawolf woman to earn two track & field All-America honors in the same season. The co-winner of the GNAC Women's Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year honor - along with Seattle Pacific's Brittany Aanstad - Tanui became the highest-placing Seawolf woman ever at NCAAs with a runner-up performance in the steeplechase. She was also eighth in the 5,000 meters at NCAAs.