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AUSPY Awards honor top Tigers

AUBURN - The Auburn athletic department held the inaugural “AUSPY Awards” at the Auburn Arena Monday night, honoring the top athletic and academic achievements by Auburn student-athletes during the 2010-11 academic year. Formerly known as the Tiger Torch banquet, the AUSPY Awards featured a Hollywood-style production, a "blue carpet" entrance into Auburn Arena and student-athlete talent performances.

Pitcher Corey Luckie was the male Scholar Athlete of the Year.

"The first-ever AUSPYS was a great night because we honored our best and brightest and celebrated the unbelievable spirit our student-athletes have," athletics director Jay Jacobs said. "We are so proud to have a record number of 235 Top Tigers with a 3.0 or higher GPA this year in addition to so many other academic honors, including the male and female winners of the SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Award for the first time in history. I just want to thank our student-athletes, the faculty and staff for helping these outstanding young men and women reach their full potential in the classroom."

Baseball pitcher Cory Luckie was the male Scholar Athlete of the Year and swimmer Erica Meissner was the female Scholar Athlete of the Year. Women’s cross country won the highest women’s team GPA with a 3.39, and the men’s golf and cross country teams each had a 3.25 to tie for men’s highest team GPA.

A record 235 student-athletes were honored as Top Tigers, an award presented each year to those who achieve a minimum 3.0 grade point average for the last academic year or for their careers. Among the Top Tigers, 15 achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA, while 22 were international students.

In six musical performances, student-athletes displayed their talents away from the playing fields and classrooms. Football player Jorrell Bostrom sang and played the guitar. Men’s golfer Will McCurdy performed dueling banjos. Volleyball player Lauren Mellor played a violin solo. Track and field athletes Hunter Haynes and James Swasey rapped. Gymnastics manager Shanna Henderson and track athlete D.J. Smith each sang solo performances, while football player Dee Ford provided keyboard arrangements for each.

"The night went as well as anyone could have planned,” Luckie said. “The talent performances were amazing, and I felt like the student-athletes thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I hope that this event will continue to grow year after year and that it will be something that everybody looks forward to at the end of every year.

A new component to this year’s awards was several athletic awards. Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and NCAA swimming champion Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace were named the Athletes of the Year, while track athlete Maya Pressley and football player Michael Dyer received Rookie of the Year awards.

The football and volleyball teams were named recipients of the male and female Teams of the Year, while the soccer team captured the Spirit Award, presented to the team that accumulates the most spirit points by attending the most Auburn sporting events.

"I thought for this being the first AUSPYs ever, it was fantastic,” soccer player Addie Ragsdale said. “SAAC has been trying to find a way to get the entire department together for a fun and exciting night, and I think we have finally found a good fit. Now that most teams have their own separate facilities, interaction within the Auburn family is that much more important."

The soccer and football teams each received the Best Comeback award. The recipients were honored for overcoming extreme hardships during a game or season to triumph over an opponent.

Soccer player Sammy Towne and football player Zac Etheridge were each presented with the Inspiration Award. The Inspiration Award was created to honor the student-athlete that persevered through extreme personal obstacles.

Towne overcame a collapsed lung twice, including surgery after the second episode, prior to her senior year. The defender returned to the pitch, playing in 20 games in 2010, while helping the Tigers to a NCAA postseason appearance. Etheridge suffered a potentially career-ending neck injury midway through his junior season but made a full recovery and started his entire senior season as Auburn won the BCS national championship.

The War Eagle Moment award, presented to the team that had one of the most momentous plays or games during the year was given to the baseball team for their walkoff win on a Crede Simpson home run against Clemson in the 2010 NCAA Baseball Regional.

Special academic awards presented included the Virgil Starks III Passion Award, which went to co-winners soccer player Addie Ragsdale and diver Dan Mazzaferro for their outstanding work in academics, community service, team work and personal growth. The award was named in honor and memory of Starks, who was senior associate athletic director death until his death in November 2009.

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