Allison Shelly and Isaac Alderfer, with Eastern Mennonite University President Susan Schultz Huxman, were recognized as Male and Female President's Award honorees. The President's Award is given to the male and female who has most exemplified the values of the athletic department during their career through academic achievement, athletic contribution, Christian commitment, leadership, campus involvement and service. (Photos by Alyssa Breidigan)

Athletics Awards highlight six for special recognition

Six student-athletes were recognized with special awards at the April’s athletics awards banquet.

  • Allison Shelly and Isaac Alderfer were recognized as Male and Female President’s Award honorees. The President’s Award is given to the male and female who has most exemplified the values of the athletic department during their career through academic achievement, athletic contribution, Christian commitment, leadership, campus involvement and service.
  • Paris Hutchinson and Alijah Johnson were named Athletes of the Year, for most outstanding athletic achievement in current academic year.
  • Bri Redfearn and Damon Morgan were named Freshman of the Year, for most outstanding athletic achievement.

Read more about each athlete below.

PRESIDENTS AWARD: Allison Shelly – Triathlon, Cross-Country and Track & Field

Shelly was awarded the 2021-22 President’s Award by EMU President Susan Schultz Huxman. Shelly is a political science major with minors in history, journalism, community organization and development as well as honors with a 4.0 GPA from Collinsville, Miss. In her time at EMU, she has been an integral part of three different athletic teams as well as an SGA Senator and Co-President, a contributor for the Weather Vane, Senior Class Business Manager, Convocation Committee, CODI, Academic Council, Conversation Partner in IEP, Community Advisor, Young Democrats Club and part of the Harrisonburg Living Wage Campaign.

After her graduation, her future plans include a service year in the Serving and Learning Together program of Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine.

For her nomination, she also had to submit a reflection on her time at EMU, to which she replied, “Simply put, there is no way I would have had the confidence and balance I’ve felt in academic or co-curriculars in the past four years without my experience with track & field, XC and triathlon. I wasn’t plannin on running until two weeks before coming to EMU. The decison to try to get in shape has allowed me to form friendships that will continue far past college, allowed me to learn to stay strong underpressure and given me opportunities to learn from a multitude of teammates and supporters within EMU athletics staff, whom I really admire.” 

On winning the award, Shelly said, “Who would I be without my teammates, my coaches, and the experiences I’ve had because of athletics? I am so grateful to have this award as a reminder of all that EMU athletics has been for me.”

PRESIDENTS AWARD: Isaac Alderfer – Cross-Country and Track & Field

Alderfer was awarded the 2021-22 President’s Award by EMU President Susan Schultz Huxman. He is an enviromental science major with minors in photography and honors from Broadway, VA who has maintained a 3.97 GPA. While at EMU, he has re-written the record books in both cross-country and track & field. On the EMU campus, he has been involved as a leader in the EMU Explore and Earthkeepers Club, a barista at Common Grounds, a Community Advisor, a Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions student ambassador, a member of the Honors Council and Creation Care Council, part of the Intercultural Committee, a biology tutor, a contributor to the Weather Vane and has done biology research. 

After graduation, his future plans include a service year in the Serving and Learning Together program of Mennonite Central Committee in Cambodia.

For his nomination, he also had to submit a reflection on his time at EMU, to which he replied, “Being part of an athletic team at EMU has helped me to develop skills directly associated with my athletic performance, in addition to skills such as time management, conflict mediation, communication and leadership. The relationships I have build over the past four years with teammates, coaches and other athletics staff are so valuable to me and I feel confident will result in lifelong friends and mentors. While it certainly has not always been easy to balance athletics with school work and a social life, it has, in so many ways, been rewarding and worth the sacrifices involved.” 

On winning the President’s Award, Alderfer said, “It’s an honor to receive an award that acknowledges the sacrifices and commitment from the many perspectives involved in being a student-athlete.  Big hugs to all my EMU comrades.”

From left: Paris Hutchinson, with women’s volleyball coach Casey Steinbrecher and track and field coach Kyle Dickinson with Alijah Johnson.

Athlete of the Year: Paris Hutchinson, Volleyball

Hutchinson, a sophomore from Waynesboro, Va., was named the EMU Female Athlete of the Year after a season that saw her have one of the best seasons in EMU women’s volleyball history. She was named First-Team All-ODAC and Second-Team VaSID All-State. For her performance in EMU’s pair of wins over Roanoke and Lynchburg, she was named the ODAC Player of the Week. By the end of the season, she was second in the ODAC and 24th nationally with 4.00 K/S and sixth in the ODAC in total kills with 284. She also led the squad in points/set at 4.61, which was also tops in the ODAC and 22nd nationally.  

Hutchinson helped EMU to a record-setting season as the Royals finished with seven ODAC wins, their most conference wins in two decades.

“Receiving the ‘Female Athlete of the Year’ award is such a special honor,” Hutchinson said. “The group of finalists were all so deserving! As a sophomore, I still have much to learn and improve on. But I’m lucky to be a student-athlete at EMU. I am truly humbled by the faith that those around me, have within me. I would not have accomplished this without my amazing teammates, coaches, trainers, and all who have been by my side. Thank you for continuing to motivate me to be the best I can be each day.”

Male Athlete of the Year: Alijah Johnson, Track & Field

Much like Hutchinson, Johnson has one of the best years in EMU track & field history. The senior from Upper Marlboro, MD, qualified for 2022 NCAA Indoor National Track & Field Championships in the 200m. He was named USTFCCCA All-Region for the 60m and 200m. Durin the indoor season, he was named the ODAC Men’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Week. For his performance at the ODAC Championships, he was named Second-Team All-ODAC in the 200m and Third-Team All ODAC in the 60m. His name is currently etched in the record books as he set the EMU record in the 200m and 60m. His successful season earned him First-Team VaSID in sprints. 

He has followed that up with a stellar outdoor season, setting the ODAC and EMU record in 200m at the Dennis Craddock Coaches Classic. He currently has the eighth fastest time in the nation in the 100m and the second fastest time in the nation in the 200m. This past weekend at the ODAC Championships, he picked up second place in the 100m and was the ODAC Champion in the 200m. If his current times hold, he will be making his second straight trip to the NCAA Outdoor National Championships at the end of May. 

“I was very happy when I heard my name called for the Athlete of the Year,” Johnson said. “I felt like my journey as a student athlete had come full circle since I had won Freshman Athlete of the Year as well. All of the hard work, ups and downs of being a student-athlete is paying off and I’m excited for what lies ahead.”

From left: Basketball coach Jenny Posey with Brii Redfearn and Damon Morgan with track and field coach Bob Hepler.

Freshman of the Year: Brii Redfearn, Basketball

Redfearn burst onto the scene in her first collegiate game against Apprentice. The Fairfax native dropped 19 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in the Royals 76-44 win. For that performance, she was named the ODAC WBB Player of the Week. She continued her strong season, finishing second on the team with 11.5 PPG and leading the Royals with 8.7 RPG, which was second in the ODAC and led all freshman.She was the only player in the ODAC with a 20 rebound game, and she actually did it twice, grabbing 20 against Wilson College and 22 against Bridgewater. She finished the season with seven double doubles. Along with her basketball success, she is also a member of the EMU outdoor track & field team. At the Dennis Craddock Coaches Classic, Redfearn was part of the 4×100 relay team that set the EMU record. 

“I am more than blessed with the award of Freshman Of The Year,” Redfearn said. “I’ve certainly had periods when I felt like life was winning and I was losing. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates or my coaches setting me up for success and always pushing me to be the best athlete I can be. I will always appreciate them and give them the credit they deserve. When I felt like I was failing them, they let me know that it’s all in my head, ‘it’s a mental thing’ but the secret to the game is learning how to lose. This is just the beginning of my journey as a collegiate athlete. – 23”

Freshman of the Year – Damon Morgan, Track & Field

Morgan started his success during EMU’s indoor track & field season. During the year, he had two top-five finishes during the season. He was part of the 4×400 relay team that finished fifth at the ODAC Championships. He raced to the EMU indoor record books, sitting top-10 all-time at EMU in 60m and top-five all-time at EMU in the 200m. He picked right back up where he left off in his first outdoor season, setting a PR in the 100m and 200m at the Washington and Lee Track Carnival. He continued to add his name to the record books, adding his name to the top-10 in both the 100m and 200m. He finished his outdoor season with a third place finish as part of the 4×100 relay team at the ODAC Outdoor Championships. 

“It’s an honor to have won Male Freshman of the Year, I’m just glad that my name was in the conversation,” Morgan said. “I was only able to walk this path because of Alijah Johnson. He has been a great mentor academically as well as athletically. He has left some big shoes for me to fill but I will NOT let him down.”