Wrestling's Jayson Ness and track's Heather Dorniden were named the University of Minnesota's Male and Female athletes of the year, announced tonight at second-annual Golden Goldys banquet at the Radisson University. Along with the individual awards, men's golf and the rowing team were also tabbed as the teams of the year.
The voting process includes spring sports of 2007 (baseball, men's and women's golf, rowing, softball, men's and women's outdoor track & field and men's and women's tennis) and the fall and winter sports of the 2007-08 athletic year. Of Minnesota's 25 sports, 19 are represented in the nominations this year.
Ness followed his 2006-07 rookie season with a stellar sophomore campaign. Ness was the 2008 NCAA runner-up in the 125-weight class and earned his second-straight All-America honors. The 2008 Big Ten runner-up at 125, Ness went 39-2 on the season, including a 21-0 record in dual meets. Named the team's most valuable player, Ness went unbeaten in 36 matches and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for a majority of the season. The Bloomington, Minn., native led the Gophers to a second-place Big Ten finish and 10th nationally. Ness beat out golf's Bronson La'Cassie, gymnastics' Mitchell Mays, baseball's Matt Nohelty and swimming's David Plummer.
Dorniden helped both the track and cross-country teams win Big Ten titles during the course of the year. A six-time All-American, Dorniden was named the 2007 NCAA Midwest Region Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year and was also the NCAA runner-up in the 800 meter during the indoor season. Along with her track efforts, Dorniden was an all-region selection in cross-country. Hailing from Inver Grove Heights, Minn., Dorniden is the only two-time winner of a Golden Goldys award. She was named the 2007 Female Rookie of the Year last season. Dorniden won the award over rowing's Jenny Barnes, basketball's Emily Fox, hockey's Gigi Marvin and swimming's Jillian Tyler.
Men's golf became the best male team of the year after winning the 2007 Big Ten Championship with a score of 1,192. The Gophers followed with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships with a score of 1,133. The Gophers had three All-Americans in Victor Almstrom, Bronson La'Cassie and Niall Turner, with La'Cassie earning his fourth-straight honor. The finish marked the third time in six years the Gophers have placed in the top-10 in the nation.
Rowing won best female team after a phenomenal 2007 season. After posting a record-setting 150 points at the Big Ten Championships, rowing won its first conference title in school history. The Gophers followed with their first team appearance at the NCAA Championships, placing sixth overall, defeating two-time champions, California with 47 points. The Gophers won the First Varsity Eight Petite Final and became the national champions in the Second Varsity Eight event. All-American Jenny Barnes was named the Big Ten Rower of the Year.
Head Coach Wendy Davis was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year and the Central Region Coach of the Year. She also won the Golden Goldy award for the Best Women's Coach of the Year. Davis, who is a two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, started the rowing program from scratch in the 2000-01 campaign.
Tubby Smith followed with the Best Men's Team Coach of the Year honors. In his first year with the Gophers, Smith guided the Maroon and Gold to the biggest season turnaround in school history. After a 9-22 record in 2006-07, Smith led Minnesota to a 20-14 mark in 2007-08. The 11-game improvement was a tie for the second-best turnaround in the NCAA this season. With the 20 wins, it was just the eighth time in school history to have a 20-win season and the first since 2004-05. In Big Ten play, Smith and the Gophers went from 3-13 to 8-10, which tied for the biggest win increase with Purdue.
Both basketball teams were represented in the breakthrough performances. On the men's side, Damian Johnson was named the Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. In his sophomore campaign, Johnson made major improvements in every statistical category. Increasing his minutes from 9.9 to 22.6 this season, Johnson ranked fifth in the Big Ten in steals and sixth in blocks. His point production went from 1.6 points per game in 2006-07 to 7.1, while his rebounds per game increased from 1.4 to 4.7. Johnson led the team in blocks and finished second in rebounding and steals.
Leslie Knight was voted the Female Breakthrough Performance after stellar senior season. After scoring just 15 points and playing just 52 minutes in her first two seasons, Knight made 65 consecutive starts over her last two years. Earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors this season, finishing fifth in Big Ten scoring with 16.4 points per game. She improved her points per game from 8.3 to 13.6 and her rebounds per game from 4.5 to 5.9, finishing second on the team in both categories.
Jillian Tyler was named the Female Rookie of the Year for her freshman season. The standout became the NCAA runner-up in the 100 breaststroke and placed seventh overall in the 200 breaststroke and was a four-time All-American. At the conference level, Tyler became the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after winning the 100 and 200 breast as well as the 400 medley relay. In her rookie season, Tyler was the team's mvp and led the Gophers in both dual meet points and championship points. She followed her collegiate season with a second-place finish in the 100 breast and became a member of the Canadian Olympic Team.
The Male Rookie of the Year went to cross-country's Hassan Mead. In his first season as a Golden Gopher was the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and after finishing second at the 2007 Big Ten Championships. An All-American, Mead was also the team's MVP and a member of the all-region team.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR (winner in BOLD)
Jenny Barnes (Rowing)
Heather Dorniden (Track & Field)
Emily Fox (Basketball)
Gigi Marvin (Hockey)
Jillian Tyler (Swimming & Diving)
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Bronson La'Cassie (Golf)
Mitchell Mays (Gymnastics)
Jayson Ness (Wrestling)
Matt Nohelty (Baseball)
David Plummer (Swimming & Diving)
FEMALE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Katie Bethke (Soccer)
Megan Braun (Swimming & Diving)
Brook Dieter (Volleyball)
Jenny Lura (Hockey)
Jillian Tyler (Swimming & Diving)
MALE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Cade Fairchild (Hockey)
Alex Kangas (Hockey)
Hassan Mead (Cross Country)
Michael Richards (Swimming & Diving)
Adam Weber (Football)
FEMALE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Rachael Drazan (Hockey)
Briana Hassett (Softball)
Leslie Knight (Basketball)
Christine Tan (Volleyball)
Castina Wabeke (Swimming & Diving)
MALE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Tom Buske (Baseball)
Eric Decker (Football)
Justin Grunewald (Cross Country)
Damian Johnson (Men's Basketball)
Steve Miller (Swimming & Diving)
BEST WOMEN'S TEAM COACH
Matt Bingle (Track & Field)
Wendy Davis (Rowing)
Brad Frost (Hockey)
Kelly Kremer / Terry Nieszner (Swimming & Diving)
BEST MEN'S TEAM COACH
John Anderson (Baseball)
Brad James (Golf)
Steve Plasencia (Cross Country)
Tubby Smith (Basketball)
BEST FEMALE TEAM
Swimming & Diving
Track & Field
BEST MALE TEAM
FEMALE TEAM COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Track & Field
MALE TEAM COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
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