(Hobbs) New Mexico Junior College athletes were honored for their achievements at the 51st Annual Awards Presentation Tuesday, May 8th at the Lea County Events Center.
The Dutch Klein Thunderbird Award, NMJC's most prestigious athletic award, was given to Esther Gitahi, with the Thunderbirds Track and Field team. Gitahi is a six-time National Champion, 13-time All American, the 2017 National Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year, the NJCAA 3000 Meter Steeple Chase national record holder, and she holds five NMJC school records in track. Originally from Nakuru, Kenya, Gitahi has received a full scholarship from the University of Alabama, where she will start in the fall as a junior.
The Female Athlete of the Year was awarded to Alexes Bryant of Cibolo, Texas. Bryant was a center on the women's basketball team, who averaged over 18 points per game, the highest of any TBird this season, with over 56% average in field throws. Bryant was NJCAA First Team All-American, and was named WJCAC (Western Junior College Athletic Conference) Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, and Newcomer of the Year. She will be attending Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the fall on a full scholarship.
The Male Athlete of the Year was Ryan Cox, TBirds golfer, from Billericay, England. Cox placed second at the NJCAA District 2 Championship, and was nominated for the second year for the Jack Nicklaus NJCAA Player of the Year award. He was First Team All-Conference, First Team All-District, All-American, won an individual tournament, and had seven top five individual finishes. Cox will attend James Madison University on a golf scholarship.
The Female Academics Athlete of the Year was Swaize Lee from Brownfield, Texas. Lee had a 4.0 GPA while competing on the rodeo team in team roping, breakaway and barrel raising. She won the women's All-Around title at the Howard College rodeo this year, and was voted Homecoming Queen in February.
(anything else)…she mentioned she didn't know where she is going next year??
The Male Academic Athlete of the Year was golfer Preston Ewing, from Pueblo West, Colorado. Ewing has maintained a 4.0 GPA in his two years at NMJC. He was an Academic All-American, also. He will be attending Northeast Oklahoma State on a golf scholarship.
Nine student-athletes were also recognized for their academic achievement of 4.0 GPA, which placed them on the President's Honor Roll: Kai Zhane Chan, Preston Ewing, Harvey Hill, Swaize Lee, Andrew Ni, Brent Pronger, Ashley Reid, Ryan Robertson and Weverson Taxoto.
New Mexico Junior College also recognized awards given to the Thunderbirds coaches this past season.
Keith Blackwill won the National Women's Coach of the Year f for two years in a row, and Jeff Becker was named the Assistant Track and Field Coach of the Year. Drew Sanders was given the WJCAC Coach of the Year. Alex Furr was named the National Assistant Coach of the Year for 2-year colleges by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
Twenty Eight All-American certificates were given to members of the Track and Field team; and medals were given to several members of the Women's Basketball team for competing in the final 8 at the national championship.