INA – Rend Lake College student-athletes were honored Thursday night for their prowess on and off the playing field.
The annual RLC All-Sports Banquet recognized 157 students in 15 different athletic programs at the college. Awards for most valuable player, highest GPA by a male and female, and most improved in academics were handed out. There was also an award for the toughest player of the year - off the field.
Labeled the “Perseverance Award” by its creator, Dr. James Chow of the Orthopedic Center of Southern Illinois, this honor goes annually to an RLC student-athlete who shows vigor, determination and discipline in the most adverse of situations. Jenn Robinet, an athletic trainer at both RLC and OCSI, explained that the recipient is a player who goes through what is most likely the hardest thing for a competitor to face. This athlete is benched by an injury, however shows the tenacity to rehabilitate and eventually get back in the game.
Robinet presented the award to this year’s recipient, Justin Cantrell of McLeansboro. Cantrell was sidelined by a shoulder injury early in the baseball season. The freshman underwent successful surgery at the end of November and is currently in the tail end of his rehab program with Robinet.
“I’m hoping that within the next week or two he will be released,” she said. “He will definitely be back [playing] next season.”
RLC competes in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference and Region XXIV of the National Junior College Athletic Association in wrestling, basketball, baseball, softball, golf, tennis, track and field, cross country, dance, cheerleading, and volleyball. The year is over for many of the programs, however things are still happening for the baseball team, region final four softball team, NJCAA Championship-bound women’s golf team, regional-bound men’s golf, and the national championship women’s and men’s track and field teams.
The track and field teams made 2008 a highlighted entry in RLC record books. Earlier this year, the women’s team won the first-ever national championship for women’s athletics at the college and the men’s team won their first-ever indoor title. With numerous individual champions, both teams will be vying for titles at the upcoming NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
National champion Elkanah Kibet, along with world-mile run leader and national champion Boaz Lalang, shared the men’s MVP award while track and cross-country national champion Pasca Cheruiyot accepted the award for the women’s program. RLC track and field standout and multi-event national champion Jessica Merriweather received the top underclassman award on the same day she qualified at the U.S. Olympic high jump trials. Cheruiyot was awarded MVP for the women’s cross country season and men’s national cross country champion Ben Cheruiyot received MVP.
Academic and athletic All-American wrestler Aaron Jones received a co-MVP award with teammate and fellow All-American Matt McLaughlin while golf coach Cindy Corn gave sophomore and University of Southern Indiana-bound Angela Dehning the team MVP honor.
Corey White received the Most Valuable Pitcher award and Chase Kittinger the Most Valuable Player award from baseball coach Tony Etnier. Coach Dave Ellingsworth’s co-MVPs in softball were sophomore Julie Hathaway and freshman Amanda Brendel. Jennie True received the Laker Girl’s MVP.
Coach Glenn Box recognized his two graduating sophomores, Jasmine Mack and Angelica Harris, by giving them their game jerseys and retiring women’s tennis coach of 13 years, Diane Metzger, honored each member of her final team with flower bouquets and a few tears. Metzger presented sophomores Jessica Ray and Audrey Gillespie with the co-MVP awards.
Bobbi Shadowens, head cheerleading coach, recognized sophomore cheerleaders Tiffanie Morlan, Lauren Steffy and Mackenzie Thomas with special gifts. Sophomore Holly Atkins was also recognized, but was not in attendance. Golfer David Griffin received team MVP for having the low-stroke average thus far in the Warriors’ season and volleyball coach Sara Crews awarded her libero, Brianne Barton, and setter, Michelle Kramper.
Freshman Brian Gamber was given an award by coach Tim Wills for his performance throughout the basketball season. Gamber was accompanied by his father, the Honorable Judge Terry Gamber, who is a member of the Mt. Vernon Township High School Sports Hall of Fame.
RLC Learning Enhancement Center Assistants Travis Hood and Amy Cook had the privilege of presenting awards for the team that improved the most academically, the team with the highest overall GPA, and the male and female student-athlete with the highest accumulated GPA.
The golf programs nearly won every academic category.
Lady linkster Renee Ryterski received highest GPA among female student-athletes and Kibet took top honors in the men’s division. Both are 4.0 students graduating May 9. Ryterski, 20, of DuBois will attend McKendree University in the fall on a golf scholarship. Kibet, 24, of Eldoret, Kenya will attend Auburn University on a cross-country scholarship.
Men’s golf took highest GPA with a combined 3.07 and academic most improved team with a 0.45 increase. Women’s golf won highest GPA with a combined 3.38 and academic most improved team with a 0.23 increase.