As athletes walked into Lisner Auditorium on Thursday for the third annual Georgey Awards, they were greeted by a collection of trophies that lined the top of the stage.
The assortment included women’s squash’s first-ever Kurtz Cup, men’s rowing’s first-ever Oliver T. Carr Bowl, the Tri-Corner Hat Trophy from the inaugural Revolutionary Rivalry with George Mason and the men’s tennis Atlantic 10 championship title. Last season, none of these awards would have been on the stage.
“It seems like all the teams are doing well. If they’re not performing at their best, there’s a sense that they’re building,” said senior Adam Streeter, a member of a men’s water polo team, which finished with a winning record for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
The evening, modeled after ESPN’s Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards, served as a platform to look back on GW’s year in sports through highlights, speeches, jokes and even customized lyrics to Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” delivered by men’s soccer’s Jopus Grevelink.
Buff and blue lights flashed across the Lisner stage as hosts Paul Deasy and Erin Dickson, both water polo players, handed out awards in the shape of the Washington Monument in categories ranging from men’s rookie of the year to best athlete in a supporting role. Athletes cheered on their friends and thanked each other in acceptance speeches, reliving moments from the year.
In the past two years, athletes have said that the awards have felt a bit overblown compared to this season’s celebration, which summed up a remarkable year in GW athletics. Athletes this season hauled in conference honors and set program records, and many teams made giant leaps from just last year.
Women’s squash’s Kurtz Cup victory over national power Columbia took home the final award of the night for Best Colonials Moment, the only award that was open to the public for voting.
“I think many teams excelled this year,” senior Jackie Shea said. “The competitiveness of the awards this year really makes it that much more exciting.”
Shea’s teammate, sophomore Anna Gabriela Porras, won the newly named Elana Meyers Female Athlete of the Year Award. The award is a tribute to softball alumna Elana Meyers Taylor, who won a silver medal in the two-man women’s bobsled at the Winter Olympic Games this year. Men’s basketball’s Isaiah Armwood won Male Athlete of the Year.
As a team, men’s basketball also took home the Georgey for Team of the Year after earning its first NCAA championship berth since 2007. The team’s 24-win season was the second-most in program history, and its 11-win improvement over the 2012-2013 season ranked third in Division I entering the NCAA Tournament.
Women’s basketball also had a turnaround year. The team reached the postseason for the first time and posted its best overall record since 2008. GW had the most all-conference honorees of any Atlantic 10 team, including conference Rookie of the Year Caira Washington, who tied with gymnast Chelsea Raineri for the Georgey in that category.
Graduate student Megan Nipe, who received the Dan Black Award, could take much of the credit for the team’s improvement this season. The newly created Georgey, given to an athlete who recovered from or played through an injury during the season, was named for strength and conditioning coach Dan Black who went through rehabilitation after a motorcycle accident in October.
Nipe secretly played on a torn ACL from January through the postseason, when the team went to the sweet sixteen of the NIT.
“I don’t think anybody can represent this award quite like [Black] does. A sports injury doesn’t seem to quite fit the bill when it comes to his name, but I’m honored to have gotten it and I’m thankful,” Nipe said.
With its first A-10 quarterfinal victory since 2008, women’s basketball’s joined a fleet of other GW teams that reclaimed former glory in trips to the A-10 tournament this season.
Women’s soccer made its first A-10 tournament in 12 seasons, while men’s tennis reclaimed its conference title over VCU for its third conference championship in four years. Women’s volleyball won its first postseason match-up since 2008 and also beat conference heavyweight Dayton during the regular season for the first time since 2002.
Women’s tennis received its highest ranking in the A-10 tournament in a decade as a No. 3 seed advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 2011. Golf bounced back with a third-place finish at the A-10 championships after coming in sixth last season.
“They have a lot to celebrate,” athletic director Patrick Nero said.
There were some teams, however, that could not capitalize on their success from last year. Baseball is still mired in a disappointing season as they fight for an A-10 championship berth, and teams like softball and women’s rowing have struggled as well after boasting strong finishes last year.
Jane Wallis, a member of the women’s soccer team, received the Red Auerbach Award, named after legendary basketball coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach. The head of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which helps put on the Georgey’s, Wallis said she expects excitement to build around the annual awards.
“As we continue to excel athletically, it’s going to get even better,” Wallis said. “We’re starting to kill it on the field, court and arena and across the board, so that’s what’s going to happen.”
Sean Hurd contributed reporting