President's Awards go to 13 Golden Eagle student-athletes

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Thirteen student-athletes have been chosen as the outstanding representative of their teams at Tennessee Tech University and are the winners of the 19th annual President’s Awards, presented by the TTU Athletics Dept. Ten of the 13 are first-time winners.

Senior Zach Bailey earned the award for the second time in men’s basketball, Beth Miller repeated in cross country and Molly Heady won the award for the second time in women’s basketball.  

“The recipients of the President’s Awards represent their teams and the University by achieving success in both the classroom and in their sport, and they are also involved in the community and on campus. We are extremely proud of each of them,” said Tech President Dr. Bob Bell.

“We have so many student-athletes who are achieving great things, and there is something special about these young women and men. Winning this award underscores their contributions to our athletic program, our student body and the quality of our University.”

One member from each of Tech’s intercollegiate athletic programs was selected based on a combination of their career academic performance and athletic accomplishments. The indoor and outdoor women’s track teams are combined for one award.

The 2012 recipients include seven seniors, three juniors and three sophomores. The recipients also demonstrate the diversity of Tech’s student-athletes, hailing from five different states plus one from South Africa. Eight are from Tennessee with one each from Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio and Florida.

The President’s Award was established in 1994.

In alphabetical order, the 2012 President’s Award winners are:

Zach Bailey  (Basketball/Senior) - A repeat winner from 2011, Zach will accept the President’s
Award for men’s basketball owning a 2.91 GPA. He ended his career with a free throw percentage of .821 to rank fifth in school history. He also had a .828 percentage from the line his senior year to rank second on the team and sixth in the OVC, and scored 260 points (the most in a single season for him) to total 776 points on his career. He averaged 7.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, and also had 37 steals and six blocks on the season. He was one of two Golden Eagles to participate in the Music City All-Star Classic. He is planning to pursue his master’s degree at Tech while working as a Graduate Assistant for the basketball program. He graduated in May.

Ben Burgess (Baseball/Senior) – A four-year starter for the Golden Eagle baseball team, Ben has been one of the most reliable fixtures of the program, finishing up among all-time team leaders in several statistical categories. Boasting a 2.92 GPA in mechanical engineering, Burgess has been named to the TTU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll three times and this season earned first-team all-OVC honors. He ranked fourth on the team with a .321 batting average and second on the squad with six home runs. He drove in 29 runs and started in 47 games, either behind the plate or as designated hitter. He also made seven appearances on the mound for Tech, all in relief roles. He ranks first all-time in at bats (810), second all-time in hits (243), second in games played (210), fourth in total bases (337), seventh in RBIs (135), eighth in doubles (40) and ninth in runs scored (133).

Rebecca Forbes (Track & Field/Senior) – Rebecca returned to action in 2011-12 following a redshirt season, and was a team leader for the Golden Eagle track & field team in her final campaign, being named captain of the team’s throwers. An outstanding student who owns a 3.819 GPA, she is a nominee for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors. After missing the indoor season, Rebecca competed in the javelin during the outdoor season. During her Golden Eagle career, she has also competed in the weight throw and shot put during the indoor seasons and the discus during outdoor competition.

Kelsey Gray (Volleyball/Junior) – Kelsey finished her junior season as Tech’s leading blocker, posting a total of 106 blocks, including 42 solo blocks. She also finished third on the team in kills with 234 and posted a team-high .256 hitting percentage. She was named to the Preseason all-OVC team and set new personal career-highs in a match including kills (17), aces (4) and blocks (12). She finished fifth in the OVC in total blocks averaging 0.96 blocks per set. Her 12 blocks against Jacksonville State is the third highest amount in the program’s history, just two behind the school record mark of 14 total blocks. She is presently fourth on the all-time blocks list at Tech with 354 career blocks. Heading into her senior season, Gray boasts a 3.69 GPA in nutrition.

John Greene (Cross Country/Junior)
– John had a breakout year and was the leader of the men’s cross country team in 2011, finishing first on the squad in every meet and setting new career-best marks every time he ran. At the OVC Championships, the junior sliced his 8K time by nearly two minutes when he completed the course in 26:44.85 to place 20th out of 74 runners. He also led Tech and set a new 10K personal-best at the NCAA South Regional with a time of 33:27. With Green’s leadership, the Golden Eagle runners captured the OVC Team Sportsmanship Award. Greene has maintained a 3.00 GPA.

Molly Heady (Basketball/Sophomore) – A repeat winner of the President’s Award, Molly finished third on the women’s basketball team in scoring and in rebounds during her sophomore season. She played in all 34 games and started in Tech’s final 29 games of the season. She averaged 8.2 points (279) and 4.6 rebounds (158) game. She also shot 43.3 percent from the field and 80.0 percent from the free throw line. She tallied at least 10 points in 10 games, including a season-high 17 against Louisiana Tech, and posted nine rebounds in five games. She also finished third on the team in steals with 31. A nominee for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, she is majoring in nursing and has maintained a 3.95 GPA heading into her junior season.

Justin Kirstein (Tennis/Senior) – Justin compiled the top win-loss record on the Golden Eagles tennis team in 2012 and was instrumental in guiding Tech to a regular season OVC championship, before accepting the Johnny Donnelly Maverick Award. He finished with a perfect singles record of 8-0 in conference play, and a 7-0 doubles record with his playing partner, Alejandro Augusto. He finished his career with 98 total victories, including 59 wins in singles action which ranks 11th all-time at Tech. A marketing major, Justin graduated from Tech with a 3.67 GPA and was a nominee for CoSIDA Academic All-America.

Greg Kitts (Golf/Sophomore) – A three-year member of the Golden Eagle golf squad from Caryville, Tenn., Greg played in all 11 tournaments during the year, shooting 32 rounds in competition and maintained a 74.8 stroke average to lead the team. He carded nine rounds under par, and posted three Top 10 finishes and five in the Top 20. After sitting out the 2009-10 season as a redshirt, Kitts won the Most Improved Player Award last year as a freshman. His top finish this year came at the Hummingbird Invitational in the fall season where he went two-under par and placed sixth individually. Two weeks before that, he scored his lowest round and tournament score of the year when he shot a second-round 67, and wound up at three-under par at the F&M Bank APSU Intercollegiate to place 15th. He has maintained a 3.312 GPA.

Beth Miller (Cross Country/Junior) – Beth was a key contributor to the cross country team’s efforts in her second season on the roster, and is a repeat winner of the President’s Award. During the fall, she ran in six of Tech’s seven meets and was consistently among the team leaders. Her season best of 20:01 came at the Jacksonville State Invitational. Majoring in food, nutrition and dietetics, she owns a perfect 4.0 GPA and was a nominee for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.

Lindsey Reed (Soccer/Senior) – Lindsey was one of five players to start all 19 contests and played every minute of every game for the Golden Eagle soccer team in 2011. She was named the OVC’s Defensive Player of the Week after the Adidas Gamecock Soccer Classic. Reed was also a nominee for two of the most prestigious awards available to Tech Athletes in the 2012 Derryberry Award and the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. A chemical engineering major who graduated in May, she maintained a 3.97 cumulative GPA and plans to attend medical school. She received the OVC Academic Medal of Honor for both the 2008-09 and 2010-11 school years and has been on the Dean’s List from the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2012. Lindsey was named captain of the Golden Eagles her sophomore season and has served in the role since. She was a regular volunteer within the Cookeville Community and throughout the greater Denver region.

Holly Thomas (Softball/Senior) – For the third time in her career, Holly led the Tech softball team to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, where she was a standout on her way to earning all-tournament honors. The senior ace earned 20 victories and hurled a grueling 23 complete games. Her ERA of 2.11 and opposing batting average of .204 were the best in the OVC. She ranked second in the conference in wins and was among the leaders in each positive category. Holly struck out eight or more batters on eight occasions including a career-high 11 against Eastern Kentucky without allowing only one walk. She threw six games without allowing an earned run and 20 games in which she gave up two or fewer. Holly pitched a near-perfect game at Tennessee State, allowing only one batter to reach base. She wrapped up the season with a 20-14 record, including four wins in the OVC Tournament. She was a May graduate with a 3.73 GPA, and was a nominee for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.

Brandy VanEtten (Golf/Sophomore) – Brandy posted four Top 20 finishes on the season in her second year on the Golden Eagle roster, including a Top 10 showing at the BSC Ann Rhoads Invitational. She notched a 17th place score at the OVC Championships to lead the Golden Eagles. A sophomore from Jacksboro, Tenn., she ranked second on the squad with a 19-round stroke average of 80.2 for the year, bettering her freshman campaign by nearly four strokes. Brandy is a business major with a 3.338 GPA.

Corey Watson (Football/Senior) – A December graduate, Corey was an outstanding defensive player on the OVC Championship Golden Eagle football team, helping to post a 7-4 overall record and a 6-2 mark in the OVC. He was also a multiple post-season award winner for his academic success. Voted CoSIDA Academic All-District, he was also chosen as a National Football Foundation Scholar and was selected to the FCS ADA Academic All-Star team. He was voted the team’s Defensive MVP and won the Tech Pride Award. A starter at outside linebacker, he ranked second in the OVC and led the Golden Eagles in interceptions with three, returning them for a combined 75 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the team and ranked third in the OVC with 10 passes defended, and was fifth on the team and 30th in the OVC in tackles. He was named the OVC Defensive Player of the Week for his role in Tech’s ro ad win at Jacksonville State.