By Thomas Corhern
Cookeville Herald-Citizen Sports Writer
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- There is a fine balance in being a student-athlete. There's the amount of time taken on practice, travel and games. Then there's the amount of time in the classroom, studying for what is their ultimate goal: their degree.
That is what exemplifies the Tennessee Tech Man and Woman of the Year awards, someone who has shown that they are the perfect example of what it means to be a student-athlete at Tech.
This week, it is the Woman of the Year award.
To be eligible for the award, the student-athlete must be a senior or graduate student who completed their athletic eligibility in 2012-13. Criteria for the award includes athletic and academic accomplishments, as well as additional areas such as community involvement and public service.
And just like the other awards this year, it has been a strong field: Katherine Barker (women's basketball), Madison Borden (track and field), Melody Christian (softball), Kelsey Gray (volleyball), Claudia Harke (softball), Andrea Meloff (soccer), Beth Miller (cross country and track and field), Kerri Reed (soccer) and Brittney Spalding (softball).
But it was hard to argue against Kellie Cook's resume, giving her the 2013 award.
"Kellie Cook is the best of the best," said Tech women's basketball head coach Jim Davis. "I read the article with the 10 finalists, and they're all phenomenal athletes and students. Kellie just personified what that award is about. She's a fantastic student, a great player, a leader in every way. She has excelled in so many areas in her life, even outside of basketball. She's just so well-rounded."
Cook is the first women's basketball player to win the award since 2004 and 11th overall (Dana Scott, 1991; Cecilia Ramsey, 1992; Bonnie Zoss, 1993; Taunya Lovelace, 1995; Amber Clark, 1999; Diane Seng and Collin Carmichael, 2000; Rachel Gobble, 2001; Janet Holt, 2002; and Andrea Brown, 2004).
ŇWhen we (along with sister Kylie) came to Tennessee Tech, the balance between education and athletics was one of the things that brought us here," Cook said. "Of course, basketball's winning tradition did too. The people who met us on our visit were all about education, getting your degree on one hand and getting a championship ring on the other. I'm excited that I was able to do that and feel very blessed about that."
In addition to helping lead the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team to two Ohio Valley Conference regular-season titles under two different head coaches, Cook has been a very visible presence in the community.
"I feel like we have been blessed to have the opportunities that we have," Cook said, "so it's important for us to give back to the community, to help those people along the way that have supported us. Giving back is important to me, not just on Tennessee Tech's campus, but in life as well. I believe I should give back and help as much as I can."
As a four-year member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Cook has also represented all of Tech's student-athletes on the Ohio Valley Conference's SAAC chapter, and was even the OVC's representative on the NCAA level.
As president of the Tech chapter, she helped organize student-athlete participation in a long line of events — the OVC Hoops for Heroes initiative, the Cookeville Christmas Parade, the Great Move-In Day on campus, Habitat for Humanity Women's Build, canned food drives for Helping Hands and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
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