Roger Neel’s radio-trained voice narrated the 71st annual Varsity Athletics Awards Banquet that commemorated over 400 Bearcats on memorable seasons and careers at Binghamton University. The night was filled with emotion; while the athletes reminisced on their seasons or careers at BU, they also looked eagerly toward the future.
Softball senior infielder Stephanie Bielec and men’s lacrosse redshirt junior defender Sal Fama both looked back on their time at BU with speeches that evoked both laughs and ‘aw’s’ from the audience. In addition to the powerful reflections, 11 awards were handed out throughout the night, ranging from academic achievement to awards recognizing long careers at Binghamton. Six of the 91 seniors honored took home awards for their illustrious career achievements.
Senior swimmer Travis Blank and women’s soccer senior defender Hannah Shankman were honored for their academic achievement. Blank accumulated a 3.73 GPA in biomedical engineering, and Shankman amassed a near-perfect 3.98 GPA in history and philosophy, politics and law.
Senior wrestler Steven Schneider was awarded the John Bilos Male Alumni Award, while women’s basketball senior guard Imani Watkins and track and field graduate student Keishorea Armstrong both earned the John Bilos Female Alumni Award. Baseball senior catcher Jason Agresti earned the Jake Pitler Award for career achievement and leadership.
Watkins is the all-time leading scorer in Binghamton women’s basketball program history and the program’s second 2,000-point scorer, while Armstrong is the most decorated athlete in Binghamton women’s track and field program history.
Even though many of these athletes take the awards as a final token of their time at Binghamton, Armstrong’s days as an athlete are not quite over yet. Armstrong will be competing in the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s and NCAA East Regional Meet with a chance to advance to the national stage.
Softball senior outfielder Jessica Rutherford took home the Jessie A. Godfrey Award for career achievement and leadership. She also acknowledged that her run here is not over yet. With a win against Maine yesterday in the America East (AE) Tournament, Rutherford and her team have their eyes set on a deep run.
“It’s definitely starting to set in that my time here is almost up, but we still have a lot of games left to play,” Rutherford said.
Although Armstrong and Rutherford still have time to represent Binghamton, women’s basketball senior center Alyssa James, who was also honored with the Jessie. A Godfrey Award, is ready to move on from Vestal, New York.
“Being a fifth-year student, I’ve been in college for so long that I’m ready to go,” James said. “Everybody says it goes by so fast, but whether I get a job or go play overseas, I’m ready to go.”
James’ illustrious seasons at BU includes setting the AE record for blocks in a season, at 92, and earning AE Defensive Player of the Year for three consecutive years (2015-18).
Regardless of where the athletes stand in their careers at Binghamton, the common pattern between them all was a deep honor being represented in front of their peers.
“The past three years, I was really in awe seeing what other female athletes were able to accomplish,” Watkins said. “Now it being myself this year, it just proves that I’m in a category with a lot of great women that have come through this university.”
While the night may have carried more weight for the graduating student-athletes, the finalists for Athlete of the Year ranged from freshmen to seniors.
Men’s soccer freshman midfielder Noah Luescher, freshman diver David Walters, redshirt sophomore wrestler Frankie Garcia and cross country redshirt senior Eric Holt rounded out the male candidates. Watkins, Armstrong, women’s soccer redshirt junior forward Kayla Saager and volleyball junior outside hitter Gaby Alicea are the female candidates.
The winners will be announced in June after the conclusion of the spring season.