The Mills College Athletics, PE, and Recreation department held its 34th annual Athletics Awards Banquet on Wednesday, April 13 in Haas Pavilion. The program featured awards in several categories including scholarship, leadership, community service, and athletic excellence.
The first awards of the evening highlighted the efforts of Mills student-athletes in the classroom. This year thirty-one Cyclones received recognition as Mills College Scholar-Athletes for maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above. The swim team and cross country team were honored for the highest team GPA for the spring 2015 and fall 2015 semesters. Individual GPA awards went to the student-athlete on each team with the highest cumulative GPA: Mara Harwood (cross country), Annie Wolf (rowing), Ariahna Sanchez (soccer), Danelis Padron (swimming), Jade Escalante (tennis), and Emma Rigby (volleyball).
Members of three teams were recognized nationally for their academics. The swim team earned the Team Scholar All-American Award from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America for the spring 2015 semester. With a team GPA of 3.72, the team achieved the highest GPA of the 406 collegiate swimming and diving programs recognized by the CSCAA across all divisions. In addition, five rowers were named Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar-Athletes and four tennis players were named Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar-Athletes. At the conference level, a total of 16 student-athletes achieved Great South Athletic Conference All-Academic Team honors.
The academic awards culminated with the presentation of the Trefethen Award, presented annually to the graduating senior with the highest cumulative GPA. This year’s recipient, Mara Harwood was a two-year member of the swim team and most recently a runner on the cross country team. Her commitment to both athletics and academics is extraordinary and she will graduate from Mills in May after three years with a degree in Biopsychology.
The APER service award, established to recognize outstanding contribution to and support of the Mills Athletics program, was awarded to Resident Director Michelle de Sousa Moore. A constant presence at athletics events, de Sousa Moore has been an incredible source of support for athletes and coaches. Her energy and enthusiasm inspire others and she is truly one of the Cyclones’ number one fans.
This year’s Alumnae Athletic Achievement Award winner was Lani White, class of 1968. An incredibly accomplished athlete, White has competed in fencing, tennis, golf, downhill and freestyle skiing, and polo. She is also a leader in her community, working for conservation and animal rights, rescue, and protection. In recognition of her conservation efforts and for opening her property to public trail access, the Lani White Trail was named in her honor. She has served as the Assistant West Coast Coordinator of the Fund for Animals, Co-director of the Aspen Society for Animal Rights, and was the Colorado representative for the Horse Protection Association.
APER introduced a new award this year, Rookie of the Year. The inaugural recipient of this award was first year swimmer, Morgan Leishman. Leishman contributed to the team in and out of the water. She rarely missed an “opportunity double practice” and was critical in hosting recruits on campus. In the pool she broke 15 school records in 9 different events. In the classroom, Leishman began her academic career with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
Three individual student-athletes were awarded APER’s highest individual awards. Senior, Graciela Olguin was presented with the Janet Holmgren Student-Athlete Service Award for amazing service to Mills College and to the greater Bay Area. Olguin is a two-year member of the rowing team, president of Mills Leaders Across Borders, president of the Mills chapter of URGE, a national organization which stands for Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, a member of Mujeres Unidas, and works with the California Family Health Council. Head rowing coach, Sara Nevin, says, “I have yet to find something Graciela can’t do,” highlighting their willingness to support the team in any way possible.
Graduate student and four-year rower, Tess Filbeck Bates, was awarded the Myrt Whitcomb Leadership Award. This award is presented to a student-athlete in recognition of outstanding leadership on their team, within APER, and within the broader Mills community. Over her four years on the rowing team, Filbeck Bates has developed into a strong leader who puts the team first. She is on the record books for every category in the erg room, but more than that she uses a growth mindset to push herself and her team. Head coach, Sara Nevin, notes that Tess “is a teammate who makes her teammates better.”
The Dorothy Keller Athletic Merit Award was given to senior, Tayla Muise. A four-year member of the soccer team, Muise has been a sincere presence in APER since her first year at Mills. She is tireless in her commitment and service to the department, putting herself into everything APER. Head coach, Laura VanWart, highlights Muise’s perseverance and grace under adversity, noting her dedication, commitment, and constant efforts.
The Athletic Achievement Award is given only when the athletic feat is of such significance that is rises to the national level. This year it was awarded to swimmer, Melissa Berkay, and head swim coach, Neil Virtue. Berkay, who transferred to Mills for the spring semester, broke 13 school records in 4 different events and became the first Mills swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships. Her performance at NCAA’s placed her among the top 16 finishers in the country, earning her an All-American Honorable Mention.
By coaching Melissa to All-American status, head coach, Neil Virtue raised the Mills swim program to the national level. In his 14 years at Mills, Neil had 7 consecutive years of qualifying a swimmer for NAIA National Championships and has twice guided his team to the highest GPA in the nation among Collegiate Swim Coaches Association of America teams. Neil also serves as the advisor to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, facilitating department-wide events and leadership opportunities for Mills student-athletes.
The final portion of the evening recognized six four-year student-athletes. These Cyclones have given countless hours to their teams and to the APER department. A four-year commitment to athletics is an outstanding accomplishment and APER is lucky to have such devoted leaders on our teams.
Congratulations to all of the award winners and to all of our student-athletes on an impressive year!