CATSYS event highlights best of the best academically and athletically
ESPY style awards ceremony featured Luke Walton as emcee, the top moment from UA sports in 2016-17 and a lip syncing performance
Luke Walton opens up the festivities at the first ever CATSYS on April 19 in McKale Center. Walton hosted the event alongside long time friend and Emmy Award winner and voice of the Lakers, Chris "Geeter" McGee.
It was a memorable night for Arizona Athletics as they hosted their first-ever CATSYS Award Banquet honoring all student-athletes on Wednesday in McKale Center. The student-athletes were welcomed to the event with a red carpet and live music by recording artist Kelley James.
Former Arizona basketball player and current Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton hosted the event alongside Chris ‘Geeter’ McGee, an Emmy Award winning-anchor and host for the SpectrumSN and the Lakers’ pre- and post-game show. Both Walton and McGee shared their gratitude for being a part of the first-ever CATSYS and put on a show for the student-athletes.
The award ceremony was the athletic department’s very own version of the ESPY Awards held yearly by ESPN. The CATSYS was a night filled with music, laughter and many awards given out to honor and feature student-athletes, both in academics and athletics.
Arizona softball third baseman Katiyana Mauga and volleyball setter Penina Snuka were awarded the Ruby Award for the top senior female student-athlete. Mauga has hit 86 home runs at the UA and currently leads the Pac-12 with 19 home runs. Snuka earned the award as she is ranked No. 2 in Arizona history for both career assists, digs and is the all-time leader in sets played.
Others nominated for the Ruby Award were Danielle O’Toole (softball), Sage Watson (track and field) and McKenna Witt (beach volleyball).
Track and field senior Aaron Castle was awarded the Sapphire Award for the top senior male student-athlete. Castle is a three-time All-American, three-time Academic All-American and three-time All Pac-12 performer.
Also nominated for the Sapphire Award were Kadeem Allen (men’s basketball), J.C. Cloney (baseball) and Tyler Fowler (swimming and diving).
The athletic department awarded women’s golf senior Wanasa Zhou as Valedictorian. Zhou currently holds a 3.98 GPA as an accounting major. Zhou is a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic first-teamer and is currently second on the team with a 73.4-stroke average.
The Wildcat Way of Excellence Award was an award that showed more than the student-athletes’ abilities on the field, court, track or pool. The award honored the student-athletes who have spent many hours giving back to the community.
Arizona women’s basketball posted an average of 20.9 community service hours per team member and was awarded the Athletics Director Cup for Community Service.
The Junior Male Athlete of the Year nominees were George Cunningham (golf), J.J. Matijevic (baseball), Justin Wright (swimming) and Dusan Ristic (basketball). Justin Wright received the award as he took seventh in the 200-meter butterfly at the NCAA Championship and broke an Arizona record twice during the championships.
Claire Green (track and field), Krystal Quihuis (golf) and Gabi Stoian (soccer) were all nominated for the Junior Female Athlete of the Year. Green was given the award as she broke an Arizona indoor record in the 3,000 meters and went on to earn second-team All-American honors in the 3,000 meters after taking fourth in the mile at the MPSF Conference Championships.
The Sophomore Male Athlete of the Year was awarded to Arizona baseball catcher Cesar Salazar. Salazar has played in 34 games this season and is batting .294 with a home run and 19 RBIs. Last season in a crucial game against Mississippi State, Salazar got a two-out single, sending Arizona to their 17th College World Series.
Also nominated for the award was Blair Bish (swimming), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (football) and Allonzo Trier (basketball).
Kendra Dahlke (volleyball), Haley Moore (golf), Katrina Konopka (swimming) and Addi Zerrenner (cross-country) were all nominated for the Sophomore Female Athlete of the Year Award.
Moore received the award due to currently being awarded Pac-12 Golfer for the month of February. Moore won the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate shooting 6 under-par leading to her first-ever colligate win.
Freshman student-athletes grabbed ahold of their awards with Lauri Markkanen from men’s basketball was awarded Freshman Male Athlete of the Year. Markkanen scored 576 points and is tied for the second-most points scored by a freshman in Arizona history.
For the female award, it was Jessie Harper from softball. Harper is currently hitting .343 and slugging .764, which ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12 and has 16 home runs, which is second among freshman nationally. Other nominees were Samantha Falasco (soccer), Dejah Mulipola (softball) and Alyssa Palomino (softball).
Other nominees were David Laskin (men’s golf), Nick Quintana (baseball) and Justice Summerset (track and field).
Former Arizona student-athletes, Donna Pierson with gymnastics and Dr. William Prickett with football were awarded the Silver Anniversary Award. The award is given to former athletes who competed a minimum of 25 years ago. Pierson and Prickett continue to make an impact with the community and the UA.
Student-athletes Tiffany Riley (track and field and women’s cross-country), Daniela Georges (women’s swimming), Natalia Forero (women’s golf), Kyle Lewis (baseball) and Hannah Stevens (women’s soccer) were nominated for the Unsung Hero Award. Arizona baseball’s Kyle Lewis took home the award for his hard work and dedication to the sport.
During the CATSYS, student-athletes were able to engage in a live polling to vote on three different talents: a lip sync battle between baseball player Robby Medel and basketball player Ray Smith, the Arizona baseball team’s Major League video directed by senior infielder Sawyer Gieseke and GymCat Gabrielle Laub singing her original songs in McKale Center.
After voting throughout the night, Laub won the votes and was awarded the Arizona’s Got Talent Award. Recording artist Kelley James gave Laub the opportunity to play the electric guitar on stage and perform in front of her teammates and other student-athletes.
The final award was the Team Performance of the Year Award that was voted by the Arizona ZonaZoo. Arizona baseball team took home the award for their trip to the 2016 College World Series.
The CATSYS came to a close as Walton and McGee put on their Arizona basketball jerseys and brought all the seniors from each sport together on stage for their final goodbyes.
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