Eastern Mennonite University held its annual Athletic Honors Celebration on May 2. The highlight of the night was the announcement of the 2021 President’s Awards, given to Megan Breidigan (Douglassville, Pa./Daniel Boone) and Jaylon Lee (Newport News, Va./Denbigh).
The culmination of EMU’s athletic year and traditionally a banquet with catered meal, last year’s event was moved entirely into an online format. Fittingly, this year was a hybrid model. Only the seniors and other honorees were invited, along with the EMU Athletics staff, to physically distanced seating in Yoder Arena. No food was served. Masks were worn. And a late change to the schedule of the ODAC Track & Field Championships kept that team from being able to attend, leading to recorded videos from Coach Bob Hepler for the Athlete of the Year presentations.
But all the changes couldn’t dampen the simple joy of being together to celebrate the achievements of the EMU student-athletes.
As part of the evening, the EMU Athletic Department handed out athletic and academic awards from the 2020-21 season. All 39 of the senior student-athletes were honored during the show as well, as the seniors each received an EMU Alumni jacket.
Director of Athletics Dave King hosted the evening. Click here to watch the entire Athletic Honors Celebrations.
As the highlight of the evening, Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman presented the President’s Awards, based on academic achievement, athletic contribution, Christian commitment, leadership, campus involvement and service. They are the highest athletic award given out by the university.
A four-year starter as a defender for the women’s soccer team, Breidigan held a 4.0 GPA with a major of secondary English education along with a minor in psychology. She earned a select award to the Academic All-District Team as well as an Academic All-State Team. Breidigan played in 55 games over her career and helped the defense record 19 shutouts during that time.
Breidigan has been involved in many campus and community activities while at EMU. These include Executive Royal Ambassador Tour Guide, Fellow of Christian Athletes Leadership Team, University Choir, and the Weather Vane, while most recently she was named as Teacher of Promise.
“Playing soccer at EMU gave me the opportunity to meet some of my best friends and learn valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution and resiliency,” Breidigan said. “The title of ‘student-athlete’ carries with it responsibilities that I learned should be embraced, and not taken for granted. I am so grateful to everyone who invested time and effort in my growth as both a soccer player and a person.”
Lee, the male recipient of the President’s Award, has been a four-year member of the baseball team as a center fielder. He has a 3.30 GPA as a recreation and sports management major, adding minors in kinesiology and coaching. Lee is a multi-tooled player for the Diamond Royals currently holding a career batting average of .313 with 19 home runs, 85 RBIs, 84 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. He has earned weekly and postseason awards from conference, regional and national levels.
On campus and in the community, Lee has been a manager for Paralympic Games, a student assistant at Stone Bridge Elementary School for kids with disabilities, an executive of EMU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and a faithful fan at any EMU sporting event he can attend.
Lee was very appreciative of being given a chance to be part of the EMU baseball program. “The athletic department doesn’t just care about academics and athletics performance but they care about how we are as young adults,” he said. “They don’t try to form you into someone we’re not, but allow you to grow and understand that it is okay to be yourself. EMU creates a lot of leaders that are able to step into big roles in the job force or whatever they plan to do.”
The 2020 President’s Award honorees were invited to the night as well for an in-person celebration of their accomplishments: Leah Wenger (Broadway, Va./Eastern Mennonite) from women’s soccer and Bailey Hall (Daleville, Va./James River) from baseball.
The Athletic Department staff also voted for Athlete of the Year winners. Junior Allison Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) claimed the women’s honor while junior Isaac Alderfer (Broadway, Va./Broadway) was named the top male for the second year in a row.
Shelly earned All-Region status from both the indoor mile and 3000m, and landed on the All-State Second Team for middle distance. At the outdoor ODAC Championships, Shelly earned points in three different events for the Royals. She also participated on EMU’s women’s triathlon team.
Alderfer had aan unparalleled spring semester, as the middle distance runner broke EMU program records for the indoor 800m, indoor mile, outdoor 800m and outdoor 1500m. His mile time of 4:11.91 also broke the ODAC record, and he took down an ODAC Championships meet record in the 1500m at the outdoor meet. Alderfer finished No. 3 in the nation in the indoor mile, and is currently No. 4 in the nation in the outdoor 1500m. He ran in eight indoor and outdoor regular season meets and was named ODAC Athlete of the Week after seven of them. Alderfer also claimed numerous All-ODAC, All-Region and All-State awards.
Paris Hutchinson (Waynesboro, Va./Wilson Memorial) of women’s volleyball was named the Female Freshman of the Year while Ethan Spraker (Vinton, Va./William Byrd) earned the Male Freshman of the Year award for the baseball team.
Hutchinson led EMU with 156 kills this year, averaging 3.55 per set. Both numbers were top-4 in the ODAC. She was also second for the Royals with 108 digs and 15 service aces. She had double digit kills in nine of 13 matches, including a season-high 19 against rival Bridgewater. Hutchinson was also named the ODAC Player of the Week during the season.
On a senior-laden team, Spraker earned a starting spot at second base and was one of only four Royals to play all 19 games during the regular season. He has a .220 batting average with 12 runs scored and seven RBIs. Spraker tied for the team lead with three sacrifices and added a solid .963 fielding percentage.
As part of the celebration, four seniors gave short reflections: Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) from men’s basketball, Rachel Sauder (Lyndhurst, Va./Stuarts Draft) from women’s soccer, Hannah Johnson (Staunton, Va./Wilson Memorial) from women’s basketball, and Leiyan Kariuki (Nairobi, Kenya/St. Patricks) from men’s soccer.
Carrie Bert, assistant director of athletics, presented the Academic Achievement Awards to each team’s individual junior or senior with the highest GPA. Those awards went to:
- Gage Riddick (Gates County, N.C./Gates County) in baseball,
- Eli Roeschley (Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby) in men’s basketball,
- Chyna Roberts (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) in women’s basketball,
- Caleb Hostetler (Marshallville, Ohio/Smithville) in men’s cross country,
- Allison Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) in women’s cross country and track & field,
- Skylar Hedgepeth (Smithfield, Va./Smithfield) in field hockey and women’s lacrosse,
- Jonas Beachy (Grants Pass, Ore./Hidden Valley) in men’s soccer,
- Megan Breidigan (Douglassville, Pa./Daniel Boone) in women’s soccer,
- Emily Campbell (Broadway, Va./Broadway) in softball,
- Isaac Alderfer (Broadway, Va./Broadway) in men’s track field,
- Elizabeth Miller (Archbold, Ohio/Archbold) in women’s triathlon,
- Jacob Durren (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) in men’s volleyball, and
- Bethany Shultz (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) in women’s volleyball.