Triton Stars Shine at Banquet

    In a lovefest of acknowledgment and appreciation, UCSD’s athletic department held its annual Athletic Recognition Night at the La Jolla Marriott Hotel on Thursday.

    Lyon Liew
    Guardian

    The event honored the best athletes at UCSD, and three athletes were called regularly: Cindy Dostalek, James Nielsen and Leslie Punelli.

    Dostalek was a member of the 2000 women’s soccer Division II championship team. In addition to being honored as part of the Tritons’ title-winning squad, Dostalek won NCAA Woman of the Year and was one of 12 Athletes of the Year award winners.

    Nielsen, a cross country star, was recognized as an outstanding Senior Student-Athlete, a Vice Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete and an Athlete of the Year.

    Punelli, a stellar member of the volleyball team, also left dinner with three awards. She took home the other Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete honor, one of two Husar Family/TAA Awards and was an Athlete of the Year.

    One of the biggest ovations of the evening went to track and field’s Matt DeFord. In addition to winning a Vice Chancellor Scholar Athlete honor, DeFord was recognized for his hard work in the Triton athletic community with a Husar Family/TAA Award.

    “”It’s easily one of the greatest moments in my own life,”” DeFord said. “”When I was given the opportunity to speak, I was speechless. I felt totally connected to every person in that room. It’s something I’m never going to forget. The night as a whole was closure — not only for me, but for the careers of fellow Tritons.””

    Swimmers Jennifer Watanabe and Sandra Lopez, both Athletes of the Year, were also recognized.

    Watanabe won the Division II National Championship in the 200-meter individual medley, the 400-meter individual medley and the 200 backstroke.

    Lopez was tops in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke. Watanabe and Lopez also competed on the championship 400-meter medley relay team.

    Other Athlete of the Year recipients were Erika Alfredson and Julia Cuder of women’s soccer, Jonathon Samuels and Jason Boettner of men’s water polo, Rob Ewanio of track and field, Leea Harlan of softball, and Bobby Saadati of men’s soccer.

    Other Vice Chancellor Scholar-Athlete winners included Todd Tarplee of men’s volleyball, Jamie Walker of women’s tennis, Mike Wangler of cross country and Amie Wu of both cross country and track and field.

    Brian McManus, the coach of the championship women’s soccer team, who sports a tattoo in honor of the accomplishment, earned the Excellence in Coaching Award.

    Women’s cross country took home the John McGinnis Family Team GPA Award. Men’s cross country won the Triton Athlete’s Council Spirit Award.

    Jim Dunn, from the class of 1970 and a one-time member of the track and field team, was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni-Athlete Award.

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