Martinez, Austin earn top athlete honors at UCR

The UC Riverside Athletics Department hosted its 2008-09 Athletics Awards Ceremony on Tuesday evening at The Barn on UCR’s campus, honoring the achievements of the 2008-09 Highlander student-athletes and staff.

This year, the UC Riverside Athletics Department handed out five awards to distinguished student-athletes for their accomplishments during the 2008-09 season. The first award went to Men’s Golfer Scott Clayton, the recipient of the Harper Scholar-Athlete Award, presented annually to the UCR varsity athlete – a freshman, sophomore or junior – whose athletic and scholarly achievements are deemed most outstanding. The recipient must have a GPA of at least 3.20.

Clayton finished tied for third this season at the Big West Men’s Golf Championship, which is the second highest finish ever at the championship by a UCR men’s golfer. During his academic career at UC Riverside, the San Bernardino, CA native has all As except for one A-minus.

Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field athlete Danielle Evans was the winner of the evening’s second award, the Lindy Award, given annually to the student-athlete or service group member who has demonstrated exceptional dedication by participating in extracurricular activities in the community and at the university, during the current school year and who is in satisfactory academic standing.

Evans is the current president of SAAC, a captain on the track team, president of the track and running club at UCR, a mentor for her church group, secretary of the Black Graduation Committee, a member of African Americans in Humanities, and a frequent helping hand at basketball games and special development events. Not only is she an excellent student, but she was UCR’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the Big West.

Men’s Soccer player David Watson was the recipient of UCR’s Best Teammate Award presented annually to the UCR student and varsity athlete whose actions both on and off the field exemplify the concepts and ideals of team and teamwork.

This past spring, the men’s soccer program was hit with a number of injuries and barely had enough players to compete in matches. Watson, who finished his playing career in the fall, began coming to 8:30 am practices and traveling for matches so the team would have enough players and subs to be competitive. That kind of initiative and selflessness is the perfect embodiment of what a teammate should be.

The Male and Female Student-Athlete of the Year awards went respectively to Highlanders men’s basketball player Kyle Austin and women’s cross country and track & field athlete Brenda Martinez.

The men’s basketball program this year set a number of Division I-era standards including overall wins, conference wins and highest finish in the Big West, and Kyle Austin was a big reason why. The sophomore transfer led the Highlanders in scoring and minutes played and was second in rebounding and free throw percentage, while earning First-Team All-Big West honors in the process. In doing so, he became the first UCR men’s basketball player to earn First-Team accolades from the Big West.

Brenda Martinez was named an All-American in indoor track this year after finishing seventh in the mile at the NCAAs. She was recently named Big West Female Track Athlete of the Year after winning the 800m and 1500m at the conference championship, and her times in those events are both among the top 20 in the entire world. After competing in the US Olympic Trials last summer, she is set to compete in the USA Championships this June in Eugene, Oregon.

Throughout the evening, the Highlanders also celebrated their Big West All-Conference award winners, Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) members, graduating seniors, and Big West Scholar Athletes.