Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Buchar and López earn top student-athlete honors

Skier John Buchar and gymnast Jessica López, both juniors, were named Male and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively, at DU’s 73rd annual student-athlete awards banquet May 12 at the Ritchie Center.

The celebration, which was hosted by student-athletes Peter Mannino and Alyssa Hampton, honored each of Denver’s 17 intercollegiate sports programs and included awards for outstanding individuals and teams.

Buchar earned the Male Athlete of the Year Award after sweeping the slalom and giant slalom at the NCAA Championships. On the final day of the competition, DU was in second place prior to Buchar’s second run. As the final Pioneer to compete, Buchar’s victory clinched both his second individual title and Denver’s record 19th NCAA team championship.

Buchar became only the second skier in DU history and fourth overall to claim both slalom and giant slalom individual national NCAA titles. On the season, Buchar won five of 11 races and took second in two others.

DU’s first-ever three-time All-American in 2007, López turned in a 2008 season that is perhaps the best in school history. She led the Pioneers in average on all four events and the all-around and finished the season with 24 wins in 44 routines. She led the team in wins on vault (5), bars (6), balance beam (6) and floor exercise (7) and had nine all-around wins in 11 starts. López finished the season as the No. 4-ranked all-arounder in the country. It was her 9.9 on floor exercise in the final routine of regionals that sent the Pioneers to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.

Men’s lacrosse player Jamie Lincoln won the Pioneer Sportsman of the Year, which honors the most outstanding male first-year student-athlete. The 2008 Great Western Lacrosse League (GWLL) Newcomer of the Year, Lincoln helped lead the Pioneers to their second NCAA tournament in the past three years. Lincoln earned First Team All-GWLL honors with a record-setting rookie campaign of 44 goals and 48 points. Lincoln set the DU Division I record for goals in a season.

Women’s swimmer Grace Kittle won the Pioneer Sportswoman of the Year after an outstanding freshman season. Kittle became just the second DU women’s swimmer ever to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships, where she finished 17th in the 200-breastroke, the best finish ever for a female Pioneer. At the Sun Belt Conference Championships, she led the Pioneers in the 100 breaststroke, won the 200 breaststroke and also helped win two relays. In just one season at DU, Kittle already holds the school record in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, 200 and 400 medley relays, and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

Diver Aaron Feight and cheerleader Lacey Henderson were named Comeback Players of the Year. Early this season, Feight, who has diabetes, overcame an infection in his pericardium, the tissue that lines the heart, to win the consolation final of the men’s 3-meter diving at the NCAA Championships, becoming the second All-American in DU swimming and diving history. The two-time Sun Belt Conference Diver of the Year won both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives at the SCB Championships.

At the age of 9, Henderson was diagnosed with cancer and her right leg was amputated at the thigh. Henderson did not let her prosthetic leg limit her, and as a Denver freshman this year she tried out for and became a key member of the cheerleading team.

Hockey player Tom May and basketball player Brooke Meyer received strength and conditioning awards. The honors are based on test scores, improvement in strength and conditioning over their careers, and the ability to use strength and conditioning to improve their athletic ability.

DU athletics representative Nancy Sampson honored Nordic skiers Rene Reisshauer and John Stene for earning NCAA postgraduate scholarships, and hockey player Andrew Thomas who earned a Western Collegiate Hockey Association postgraduate scholarship.

Athletics Vice Chancellor Peg Bradley-Doppes presented the gymnastics team with the Gold Vest Award, which is the highest honor bestowed by the department. The gymnastics team qualified for its second consecutive NCAA Championships this season, finishing the year ranked 12th in the nation. In addition to their outstanding community service and school spirit, the gymnastics team recorded an overall team GPA of 3.51.

Click here for a complete list of award winners.

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