April 27, 2016
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - In the midst of a year of extraordinary achievement, the University of Notre Dame athletics department took time to celebrate its successes on the fields of competition, in the classroom and throughout the community at its 15th annual O.S.C.A.R.S. (Outstanding Student-Athletes Celebrating Achievement & Recognition Showcase) gala on Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.
To date in 2015-16, Fighting Irish student-athletes have won three NCAA individual national championships, while eight Notre Dame teams have advanced to the round of 16 or better in their respective NCAA Championships, highlighted by fifth-place finishes by the Fighting Irish women's indoor track & field and men's/women's fencing teams (the best-ever NCAA performance by the Notre Dame track squad), a second consecutive NCAA Elite Eight showing by the Notre Dame men's basketball program, and a New Year's Six bowl appearance by the Fighting Irish football team (under the auspices of the College Football Playoff).
Notre Dame student-athletes also have achieved remarkable success in the academic world this year, led by senior men's soccer midfielder Patrick Hodan (Brookfield, Wis./Marquette University High School) being chosen as the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America Team Member of the Year. Hodan also was one of four Fighting Irish student-athletes to earn an Atlantic Coast Conference Postgraduate Scholarship in 2015-16, with three other Notre Dame student-athletes already receiving the ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor in their respective sports.
What's more, Notre Dame claimed its ninth consecutive national title with the top NCAA Graduation Success Rate (98) for its student-athletes and saw 19 of its 22 athletics programs post GSR figures of 100 percent. Notre Dame also received 16 NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Public Recognition Awards and led all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletics programs with 16 teams earning perfect 1,000 APR scores in 2015-16.
Created by Notre Dame's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and Student Welfare & Development (SWD) office, the O.S.C.A.R.S. showcase the many accomplishments of Notre Dame student-athletes. The red-carpet gala serves to unite all students, administrators, and faculty involved in Fighting Irish athletics.
The ceremony is annually attended by more than 1,500 student-athletes, administrators, faculty and staff. Hundreds of student-athletes, representing all Fighting Irish varsity athletics programs, as well as the athletics department's cheerleaders, student managers and student athletic trainers, participate in the showcase by presenting awards and performing live on stage or in video clips.
For more information on Notre Dame athletics, visit the University's official athletics web site (UND.com), the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND (watchnd.tv), download the WatchND app, and sign up to follow the Fighting Irish on social media through Twitter (@FightingIrish), Facebook (@FightingIrish), Instagram (@thefightingirish) and Snapchat (@ndirish).
Here's a closer look at the 2015-16 Notre Dame O.S.C.A.R.S. award recipients:
Byron V. Kanaley Award
Perhaps the most prestigious honor awarded to Notre Dame student-athletes is the Byron V. Kanaley Award. Presented each year since 1927 at commencement exercises, the Kanaley Award goes to the senior monogram athletes who have been most exemplary as students and leaders. The awards, selected by the Faculty Board of Athletics, are named in honor of a 1904 Notre Dame graduate who was a member of the Fighting Irish baseball team as an undergraduate. Kanaley went on to a successful banking career in Chicago and served the University in the Alumni Association and as a lay trustee from 1915 until his death in 1960.
Emma Gaboury (Women's Swimming & Diving - Sr./Bloomfield Hills, Michigan)
Gaboury made program history with the diving squad in 2016 when she and two of her diving teammates qualified for the NCAA Championship meet, the first time Notre Dame sent more than one diver to the national meet. At the NCAA Championship, Gaboury finished 38th (252.70) in the one-meter competition and placed 29th (290.70) in the three-meter event, following top-eight finishes at the ACC Championship in both the one-meter (eighth - 271.50) and three-meter (fifth - 331.95) competitions. In addition, Gaboury earned a place on the All-ACC Academic Team for women's swimming & diving for the second consecutive year.
Garrett McGrath (Men's Fencing - Sr./Mesa, Arizona)
McGrath was a four-time NCAA Championship qualifier in epee and a two-time All-American, highlighted by his NCAA runner-up finish as a sophomore in 2014. He also was a two-time conference champion (2013 Midwest Fencing Conference, 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference) and helped the Fighting Irish secure two ACC titles (2015, 2016) and a Midwest Fencing Conference crown (2013). In the classroom, McGrath was named the 2016 ACC Men's Fencing Scholar-Athlete of the Year and appeared on the All-ACC Academic Team in that sport for the second year in a row.
Quentin Monaghan (Men's Tennis - Sr./Chatham, New Jersey)
As a junior, Monaghan became the 18th All-American in Notre Dame men's tennis history, advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Singles Championship and finishing the year at No. 7 in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings. This season, he entered the national doubles rankings for the first time in his career and remains ranked among the top 40 in singles.
Katie Naughton (Women's Soccer - Sr./Elk Grove Village, Illinois)
Naughton was the first three-time captain in Fighting Irish women's soccer history, graduating in December 2015 with bachelor's degrees in anthropology and Spanish from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters following a career in which she was a three-time all-conference selection and a CoSIDA Academic All-America Second Team pick last fall. In January, Naughton was a second-round selection by the Chicago Red Stars with the 19th-overall pick in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft and earned a spot on Chicago's opening-day roster earlier this month.
Molly Seidel (Women's Cross Country/Track & Field - Sr./Hartland, Wisconsin)
Seidel, believed to be the first four-time NCAA individual champion in school history, has won national titles in every event she competed in during the last calendar year; 10,000 meters (2015 outdoor track & field) cross country, and 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters (both 2016 indoor track & field). Seidel also was named the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Women's Division I National Athlete of the Year in both indoor track and cross country and she was recognized as the Great Lakes Regional Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. In addition, she won the Honda Sport Award in cross country and made the watch list for the Bowerman Award (considered the Heisman Trophy of track & field).
At the conference level, Seidel already has earned top honors in 2015-16 as the ACC Women's Cross Country and Women's Indoor Track Performer of the Year, as well as the Women's Cross Country and Women's Indoor Track Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and she claimed her second All-ACC Academic Team selection in both cross country and indoor track & field. She also won the 3,000-meter (9:02.24) and 5,000-meter (15:19.64) races at the conference championship, with her 5,000-meter time setting an ACC Championship meet record.
Francis Patrick O'Connor Award
In 1993, the University of Notre Dame began presenting the annual Francis Patrick O'Connor Award, named in honor of a former Notre Dame wrestler who died in 1973 following his freshman year at Notre Dame. He was the son of Jane and William "Bucky" O'Connor (he played football at Notre Dame in 1942, '46 and '47) from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The award is presented, upon nomination by their head coaches, to the student-athlete who best displays the total embodiment of the true spirit of Notre Dame as exemplified by their contributions and inspiration to their teams. Among the qualities considered in nominating individuals - as attributed to Pat O'Connor - are caring, courage, confidence, encouragement, humility, humor, honesty, kindness and patience.
Kaila Barber (Women's Track & Field - Grad./Middleburg Heights, Ohio)
Barber has been an elite sprinter for the Fighting Irish in 2015-16, finishing seventh in the 6-meter dash (personal-best 7.53 seconds) and fourth in the 60-meter hurdles (8.20 seconds) at the ACC Championship. She went on to finish sixth in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Championship (8.07 seconds) after clocking a personal-best time of 8.05 seconds during the preliminary heats. Most recently, she was named the ACC Women's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Week on March 29.
Connor Klekota (Men's Soccer - Sr./Amherst, Ohio)
Klekota is a repeat winner of the Francis Patrick O'Connor Award after selflessly serving as a team captain during the 2015 season. One of the steadiest players on the Notre Dame men's soccer roster, Klekota led through hard work, determination and professionalism, scoring two goals and adding one assist in a career-high 22 starts as part of the Fighting Irish midfield in 2015. He also played a pivotal defensive role in all 10 Notre Dame team shutouts.
Jaylon Smith (Football - Jr./Fort Wayne, Indiana)
Smith, who was named a consensus football All-American for 2015 by the NCAA, was a first-team pick by the Associated Press, Walter Camp Football Foundation, American Football Coaches Association and The Sporting News. He also was a first-team selection by Sports Illustrated, USA Today, CBS Sports and Athlon Sports, as well as a second-team choice by the Football Writers Association of America.
The 2015 Butkus Award recipient as the nation's top linebacker, Smith led Notre Dame in total tackles (114), solo tackles (69), assisted tackles (45), pass breakups (five) and fumble recoveries (two). He also ranked third on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss. He was the first Notre Dame player with at least 114 tackles, nine tackles for loss and five passes defended since Courtney Watson in 2003. Smith also was one of just three players at a contract bowl-eligible school in 2015 with at least 114 tackles, nine TFLs and five passes defended.
Smith turned in some of his best individual performances late in the season, recording at least 10 tackles in five of Notre Dame's last seven games, including a career-best 15 stops at No. 9 Stanford on Nov. 28. In that game, the Fighting Irish held Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey to just 94 yards rushing and 113 offensive yards, both his lowest totals during the Cardinal's final 12 games of the season.
Megan Sorlie (Softball - Sr./Wichita, Kansas)
Sorlie returned from an injury sustained in the middle of the 2016 season (her senior campaign) to make an even larger impact in the Notre Dame outfield. Her determination to return to the Fighting Irish lineup never wavered and she has become an inspiration to her fellow teammates with her ability to confront every challenge head-on. This year, Sorlie has set career highs in doubles (6) and RBI (19) in 37 games (31 starts), batting .321 with a .411 on-base percentage through Monday's action.
Barbara Sullivan (Women's Lacrosse - Grad./Garden City, New York)
Sullivan holds Fighting Irish single-game, single-season and career records for caused turnovers and draw controls. Likely to become a three-time first-team All-American next month after earning her second first-team all-ACC citation earlier on Wednesday, Sullivan was a finalist for the 2015 Tewaaraton Award, becoming only the sixth defensive player in the award's history to reach the final stage of the national player-of-the-year competition.
Community Champion Award
This award has been established to recognize the contributions of a Notre Dame student-athlete to the University community and the community at-large, who embodies the spirit of leadership, commitment and selflessness, and who strives to make Notre Dame - as University President Father John Jenkins puts it - "a healing, unifying, enlightening force for a world deeply in need." Conferring this award recognizes student-athletes who study for the sake of learning, give for the sake of giving, and understand that personal accomplishment is never achieved alone.
Casey Africano (Softball - Sr./Huntington Beach, California)
Africano is a repeat selection of Notre Dame's Community Champion Award, due in no small part to her tireless work ethic in community service as a Notre Dame athletics leader in that realm. She has regularly set the Fighting Irish softball program standard for community service hours and participation throughout her four years at Notre Dame. Africano also has taken the lead as a key Fighting Irish Fight for Life ambassador and spent the majority of her 2015 summer in the International Summer Service Learning Program in Ghana, serving as a senior high school instructor while working to develop a sustainable income for the local school system to continue providing for the children in the surrounding area during her service opportunity.
Lena Madison (Women's Track & Field - Sr./New Buffalo, Michigan)
Madison finished 14th at this year's ACC Indoor Championship in the weight throw, but it's her contributions outside the throwing circle that have been most noticeable. Madison is heavily involved in Notre Dame's Green Dot violence prevention initiative, works with the student organization Shades of Ebony, and serves as a peer educator for the Gender Relations Center of Notre Dame. A team captain for both her junior and senior years, Madison also serves as the SAAC Monogram and Career Chair.
Eva Niklinska (Women's Fencing - Jr./Granger, Indiana)
Niklinska is a three-year starter and monogram recipient as an epeeist on the Notre Dame women's fencing squad, as well as a member of this year's All-ACC Academic Team in that sport. She also has been active in the University's Student Council - most recently serving as junior class president during the 2015-16 academic year - and on various academic committees and councils. This year, she served as a weekly volunteer at the Sister Maura Brannick, C.S.C., Health Center, which provides primary health care services to the uninsured residents of St. Joseph County, and also contributed to her own "HandwrittenHearts" organization that she founded in 2011 to deliver handwritten letters and seasonal gifts to patients in the oncology and renal wards at the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, Indiana.
Kyle Richardson (Baseball - Sr./Park Ridge, Illinois)
A true leader in the community for Irish baseball, Richardson connected with the Movember Foundation last Fall and rallied his teammates to participate in the annual November grass-roots movement of growing out mustaches to raise money and awareness for men's health, most notably prostate cancer. With the entire Notre Dame baseball team on board, the Fighting Irish raised more than $35,000 and finished in the top 30 nationally among all Movember groups, finishing first among all college groups, sports teams and organizations.
Andy Ryan (Hockey - Sr./Brighton, Michigan)
Ryan was Notre Dame's nominee for the 2016 College Hockey Humanitarian Award, in addition to serving as the Fighting Irish hockey team's SAAC representative and participating in the University's renowned Rosenthal Leadership Academy. He also led the Notre Dame hockey team's involvement with the Fighting Irish Fight For Life program, the University's Green Dot violence prevention initiative, and the athletics department's Habitat for Humanity build.
On the ice, Ryan, who served as an alternate captain during the 2015-16 season, led a young defensive corps that included three sophomores and two freshmen to go along with a sophomore goaltender. He scored a career-high two goals in Notre Dame's opening-night win at Penn State, and went on to add eight assists for 10 points.
The Trophy Award was established in 2006 to recognize the team who has demonstrated a commitment to community through its unparalleled service to Notre Dame, as well as South Bend as the surrounding communities. The Trophy Award is sponsored by the Notre Dame Monogram Club and the Notre Dame Alumni Association.
This marks the fifth time in six years the Notre Dame softball team has claimed the Trophy Award in recognition of exemplary team community service. The Fighting Irish have become a mainstay for this honor due to the program's ever-growing Strikeout Cancer initiative that is held each April. Through Strikeout Cancer, Notre Dame softball has raised more than $150,000 to directly benefit pediatric cancer patients since 2011.
Top Gun Award
The Top Gun Award is given annually to the Notre Dame graduating senior student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average and who has competed on a Fighting Irish intercollegiate team for at least three years.
Michael Shipp (Men's Soccer - Sr./Lake Forest, Illinois) Shipp received the Top Gun Award after posting back-to-back 4.0 GPA efforts in the classroom during the 2015-16 academic year. A 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team selection and All-ACC Academic Team choice, Shipp will graduate with a pre-professional studies degree from the College of Science in May and plans to attend medical school.
Chuck Linster Award
The Chuck Linster Award is given annually to a senior member of Notre Dame's cheerleading, student manager or student athletic trainers programs who has the highest grade-point average. For 44 years, Chuck Linster was a member of the Notre Dame athletics department as a team photographer, and his contribution reflects his invaluable service and commitment to excellence. Linster's contributions behind the scenes were invaluable as are those of the University's cheerleaders, managers and athletic trainers.
Cara Lucas (Student Manager-Hockey - Sr./Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Lucas is a finance major in Notre Dame's nationally-ranked Mendoza College of Business with a 3.95 cumulative grade-point average. After receiving her bachelor's degree during next month's commencement exercises, she will join UPMC's financial management rotation program as a financial analyst.
Team GPA Award
This award is presented annually to the Notre Dame varsity athletics programs that register the highest combined grade-point average during each of the preceding two semesters, as well as overall during that two-semester span.
Women's Cross Country
The Notre Dame women's cross country team earned all three Team GPA awards this year after compiling a 3.557 GPA during the spring 2015 semester, a 3.521 GPA in the fall 2015 semester and an overall 3.539 GPA during the 2015 calendar year.
Chris Masters, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2001 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women's basketball and women's golf programs. A native of San Francisco, California, Masters is a 1996 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, earned his master's degree from Kansas State University in 1998, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).