Taking home some honors

Although the year of 2008–09 brought a wave of change to the athletic programs that call the South Park Blocks home, one constant remains in the world of athletics: Prime-time players and star student-athletes.

Although the year of 2008–09 brought a wave of change to the athletic programs that call the South Park Blocks home, one constant remains in the world of athletics: Prime-time players and star student-athletes.

The year’s accomplishments will be marked as another in a string of solid performances from Portland State athletics teams, coaches and players. The program that once dwelled in the basement below Oregon and Oregon State continues to make strides to establish themselves—at least in small doses.

The Vanguard takes a look back and honors some of the standout performers from the 2008–09 academic year in our annual Sports Awards.

Best Male Athlete
Andy Schantz, linebacker, football
Why: Schantz was the proverbial leader of a football team that struggled by record (4-7) but improved dramatically. His long hair, obvious passion for the game and leadership will be missed on Saturday afternoons at PGE Park this fall.

Proving his value, he became the third consecutive Portland State linebacker to land with an NFL team and will hope to earn a spot on the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers roster this summer.

Runner up: Jeremiah Dominguez, point guard, basketball

Best Female Athlete
Kelsey Kahle, forward, women’s basketball
Why: As if there were any doubt, Kahle solidified her place among the finest athletes in school history this year as she broke countless school records on the basketball court and led the Vikings to their finest season in over 12 years.

The North Marion product also spent time on the Portland State track and field team and qualified for the NCAA West Regional meet in the high jump.

Runner up: Jackie Heide, center field, softball

Newcomer of the Year
Tobin Echo-Hawk, head coach, softball
Why: In late August, Echo-Hawk took over a program that was recovering from losing their most dominant player ever in departed senior Mandy Hill. Opposing coaches in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference underestimated Echo-Hawk’s leadership and her team’s resolve.

The Vikings would finish the regular season atop the PCSC with a conference record of 15-5 and the squad claimed their second trip to the NCAA Tournament in four seasons. Echo-Hawk looks and acts like another successful replacement hire for Athletic Director Torre Chisholm.

Runner up: Jamie Jones, center, men’s basketball

Best Team
Men’s basketball
Why: If it were possible to outdo themselves after earning the school’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2008, the men’s basketball team did just that, and in just one night.

On Dec. 23, the Vikings took down the mighty Bulldogs of Gonzaga in a classic upset that received national attention and vaulted Portland State to the top of the mid-major basketball charts.

The Vikings would go on to win their second consecutive Big Sky Tournament Championship, and claimed the conference’s automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. They would lose to Xavier in the first round but continued to establish themselves as the top team in the Big Sky and one of the finest teams on the West Coast.

Runner up: Volleyball

Biggest Disappointment
Portland State athletic department axes the wrestling program
Why: In a classic case of the littlest guy in the room getting picked on, the athletic department chose to cut the sport that arguably was the least supported and, subsequently, the least successful.

Blaming academic woes and lack of competitiveness, Portland State became the second in-state school to cut their wrestling program in three years. The move leaves the returning wrestlers, coaches and Portland State wrestling community in distress as athletes were forced to consider transferring or staying enrolled at the school that took away the program they loved.

Runner up: Football team, 4-7 record

Best Personality
Aaron Woods, wide receiver, football
Why: Woods, the “Mighty Mouse” of the Vikings’ receiving corps presents a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses with his superb hands, quickness and ability to create space in the Portland State run-and-shoot offense.

Off the field, he is just as intriguing as on it, never mincing words and playing every down with courage and passion that overcomes his diminutive stature. Last season he was one of the nation’s finest receivers and doubled as a stellar kick returner.

Runner up: Kyle Coston, forward, men’s basketball