The inaugural Eastern Michigan University athletic department “Ypsi” Awards showcased varsity sports teams, athletes and coaches in the Eagles community who exemplified academic, athletic and social excellence and leadership.
The Ypsi Awards is the current incarnation of the athletic department’s all-sports athletic banquet, which is meant to celebrate and honor the past seasons, teams and individual performances of the academic year. The idea for an ESPN Espy Award influenced banquet was brought forth by the Student-Athlete Advisory and was accepted almost immediately.
“Tonight was the work of six months,” Julia Lombardi, SAAC president said, “It’s about getting everyone together and celebrating not only athletics but academics, community service and celebrating the dedication that athletes put into their everyday lives.”
The dedication that Eastern Michigan athletes put into academics and their teams was a talking point at the award show with a video clip pointing fun at practice schedules, study tables and the lack of social lives that athletes experience during their seasons. But athletics wasn’t the only topic explored at the banquet.
The Eastern Michigan E-Club, EMU’s resident alumni entity, awarded Harry Dixon of the track and field team as well as Krista Burdick of the rowing team the E-Club Male and Female Scholar Athlete of the Year award. This award exemplified dedication to academics as well as athletics during the course of the season.
Community service is a big part of life in the athletic department at Eastern Michigan University, so it was only fitting that individual awards for male and female were given out for the athlete who demonstrated extraordinary participation in community service. Krista Burdick won her second award of the night and Brandon Zeerip of the wrestling team were honorees.
The Individual Leadership Award went to Lincoln Hansen of the football team. This award was presented to Hansen for his dedication and leadership to the football team in a year that included a coaching change and adversity in the light of a losing season. He was honored for his positive attitude and overall value to his team.
Every team also selected a Teammate of the Year in honor of woman’s basketball player Shannise Heady, who passed away in a car accident on Jan. 25. A video montage was shown as a remembrance of Heady and what she brought to her team on and off the court.
Athletic awards were also on display, including awards for Male and Female Athletes of the Year and the Men and Women’s Team of the Year.
Donald Scott of the men’s track team took home the Male Athlete of the Year, while Anna Willette of the gymnastics team was honored with the Female Athlete of the Year award.
Scott was also awarded with the Sports Play of the Year. Scott had competition from the likes of Karrington Ward of men’s basketball, Cha Sweeney of woman’s basketball, Chelsie Oddan of soccer and Chantelle Loehner of gymnastics.
Men’s cross country earned the Men’s Team of the Year Award. The men’s cross country team won the MAC Championship for the 2014 season, while also coming in fifth in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Tournament.
Woman’s gymnastics took home the Women’s Team of the Year Award. Gymnastics had a tremendous year with an overall record of 13-5, and went undefeated at home in the 2014-2015 season. Gymnastics placed fourth in this seasons MAC Championships.
The Cartwright Award was also given out at the event, and went to the team with the best overall academics, athletics and citizenship. The Women’s cross country and track and field team took home the honor.
The First Annual Ypsi Awards had memorable moments as well. Athletic Director Heather Lyke opened the banquet with a speech that honored athletes, coaches and even President Susan Martin for her involvement and support of the athletic department.
“We just want you to know how proud we are of you,” Lyke said of the student-athletes, “And we appreciate the fact that you’re doing everything you can to bring pride to this university.”
Eastern Michigan student-athletes earned 49 All-MAC honorees, 47 MAC Players of the Week as well as 20 of the 21 varsity teams winning Team of the Week during respective seasons.
The awards show was hosted by men’s basketball player Trent Perry, who helped the event flow with clever jokes about Instagram, other athletes and coaches.
The awards show closed with a showing of the Eastern Michigan University athletic department's lip-dub of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” which was filmed earlier in the year and includes all the sports teams as well as the cheerleading and dance teams.
“It has truly been a ground-breaking year for Eastern Michigan athletics,” said Anna Aldrich, SAAC vice-president. “We would like to thank you all for making this year one for the history books, and for making this year’s Ypsi Awards really one to remember.”
Follow Robert Sherman on Twitter: @r__sherman