Standout runner named Athlete of the Year

Lauren Cuddihy is a member of UAA’s track and field team.

Twelve student-athletes representing each of UAA’s sports teams were recently nominated for the Bill MacKay Athlete of the Year award for the 2017-2018 athletic seasons.

This prestigious award is chosen by a UAA Athletic member staff, local media and Benton Bay representatives. Their final decision was announced on April 27 at the end-of-year Athletic Banquet, officially dictating the 34th winner of the award.


Two Kenyan locals, Caroline Kurgat and Edwin Kangogo were nominated for their respective men’s and women’s awards. In competition with the eleven other athletes, Kurgat was awarded 2018 Athlete of the Year.

Kurgat took charge of the 2017 cross-country season by becoming the first runner from UAA to ever win a NCAA Championship in cross-country. She led the 5K race and won by almost 20 seconds. She arrived at nationals already a GNAC and West Region champion.

She continued on into the outdoor track and field season, which is currently still in progress. She continues to break records and out-do her competition in both Division I and II.

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Kangogo came into season strong. He finished second place in the GNAC championships and sixth at West Regional championships. His success led him to qualify for nationals where he finished 19th in a field of nearly 250 runners.

Caroline Kurgat is the recipient of the Bill MacKay Athlete of the Year award for the 2017-2018 athletic season. Kurgat was the first runner from UAA to ever win a NCAA Championship in cross-country. Photo credit: Western Oregon Athletics


Senior Keala Kaio-Perez utilized her final year of eligibility to produce several honors and awards. Kaio-Perez became the only libero at UAA to ever win a spot on First Team All-GNAC. She finished off the season as the top contributor on the Seawolves in ace and dig averages.


The nominees for men and women’s were Brian Pearson and Hannah Wandersee.

Pearson finished his junior year of eligibility, finishing with 11 conference wins over nine losses. Pearson contributed only for half the season on the starting lineup, finishing with an average of 7.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

Wandersee contributed the highest points and rebounds per game during the season, at 14.8 and 6.3, respectively. Due to her contributions, the team was able to finish with a 27-5 record. Wandersee was also voted to the Second Team All-West Region and First Team All-GNAC.


Nordic skier Hailey Swirbul and alpine skier Tony Naciuk were nominated for the award.

Swirbul had many stand-out races for the duration of her season, including a first place debut at the U.S Nationals Cross-Country Ski Nationals in the junior women’s 10-kilometer freestyle race. She continued on the NCAA Nationals for a third place finish in the classical and second in freestyle.

Naciuk led the men’s ski team for both the alpine and Nordic side, consistently being the top scorer throughout the season. Naciuk finished seven races being in the top-20. In addition, he qualified for, and competed in the NCAA Championships, finishing at 19th in the slalom and 27th in the giant slalom.

“When I learned of my nomination, I pretty much thought ‘Wow, I don’t deserve this,’ because I did a little worse than last year,” Naciuk said. “My results this year were not impressive, but I was able to finish my races more than my teammates, so I earned the nomination through my consistency.”


Senior Olivier Mantha finished his collegiate career by securing the UAA record for saves, with a final count of 3,449. In addition, Mantha carries a 4.0 GPA and earned the title of WCHA Scholar-Athlete.


Mackenzie Miller, in just her sophomore season, finished with a Second-Team All-MPSF award and a MPSF All-Academic award, being the only one of the list with a 4.00 GPA. Miller also posted a career best of 38.200 for the all-around.

Indoor track and field

For the first portion of the track season, January-March, senior Darrion Gray and junior Danielle McCormick were nominated.

Gray finished his final indoor season by several outstanding conference performances and a national qualifying time in the 4x400m relay. At the GNAC Championships Gray broke two school records, the 60m and the 200m.

“I was very surprised, I felt like I just ran a normal season, but I got a few personal bests so that was great. I just wanted my senior year [for indoor season] to be the best,” Gray said.

McCormick was nominated due to her NCAA Championship win in the 800m. She helped the Seawolves to a 17th place national finish and secured the title of GNAC Women’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

Outdoor track and field

For the second portion of the track and field season, nominees were chosen due to performances in the previous academic year, due to the team competing for a month still after the Athlete of the Year Award is chosen. McCormick and 2017 graduate Dominik Notz were nominated.

In addition to her nomination for the indoor season, McCormick was also nominated for the outdoor team due to her All-American honors and seventh place finish for the 800m in the NCAA Championships last spring.

Notz, who graduated with his degree in chemistry just before competing in NCAA Championships, was awarded the nomination due to his effort in the 5K and 10K. The Dettingen, Germany local finished his final year of eligibility with a third place finish in the 10K and All-American honors in the 5K as well.