August 20, 2014

Journal Webster Althetics Awards: Players of the Year

Female Athlete of the Year: Jenny Howard

Written by Dane Watkins

First-year Track and Field Head Coach Dan Graber summed up junior sprinter Jenny Howard’s work ethic in one of their first JennyHowardmeetings this year:

“A day or two after her last volleyball game, she was up in my office asking for a training plan already,” Graber said. 

Last semester, Howard was sidelined from volleyball with a knee injury, roughly halfway through the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule.

Howard, a two-sport athlete, staked her claim this year to the title of Female Player of the Year with another record-breaking season as a sprinter for the track team. This track and field season, Howard has continued to set the pace and win races for the Gorloks and her performances have placed her in prime position to make the NCAA Division III National Championships. 

For the second year in a row, Howard has won The Journal’s Female Player of the Year award. She is the only repeat recipient this year.

Dan Graber reflected on Howard’s season with track. 

“She put in a really great winter of training,” Graber said. “She was in great shape, which is one of the reasons her 200 meter has gotten better. Right now she’s ranked eighteenth in the nation in the 200-meter. The top 22 go to nationals (NCAA Division III National Championships) in the 200. I think she has a really great shot of making it in the 100 as well.”

Last season, Howard failed to qualify for Nationals by .09 seconds in the 100-meter dash.

This year, Howard set a school record in the 60-meter dash with a 7.96 time, a personal record in the 200-meter with a time of 25.10, and then won the 200-meter with a 25.88 time at the Big Blue Invitational, according to a Webster Athletics article.

In a season that has been full of triumphs for Howard, she pointed to the St. Louis University Invitational as her own personal highlight for the year. 

“I ran a 12.38 in the 100 -meter dash, and that ranks me in the top 15 nationally. It was a really cool accomplishment And it will probably qualify me for Nationals,” Howard said.

Though she was injured for a substantial part of the volleyball season, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach Merry Graf spoke about Howard’s importance to the team.

“She’s a very smart attacker and has hit for high percentages throughout her career for us,” Graf said. “She’s a captain for the team, one of our leaders for us on and off the court.”

Still, it was hard for Howard to watch from the sidelines. 

“First of all, it just sucks watching the team play without me,” Howard said.  “It really hurt not being able to get in there and help them out.”

Though Howard pulled a muscle at the True Blue Open in Jacksonville, Ill. on April 26, Graber stressed the precautionary nature of sitting Howard out.  

“In hindsight it was more of a scare than anything,” Graber said. 

If all goes well, Howard will be heading to Nationals this year. 

Runner Up: Rachel Franck, softball pitcher/infielder

Male Athlete of the Year: Kevin Miller 

Written by Taylor Overstreet

In 2010, Kevin Miller chose to quit the Webster University basketball team and walked away from the sport due to health concerns.KevinMiller Three-and-a-half years later, Miller returned to Webster University and the basketball team. His performance earned him the 2014 Webster Journal Male Athlete of the Year. 

Webster Men’s Basketball coach Chris Bunch said that he believes that this is just the start for Miller. 

“He did a great job at taking care of himself — as in making sure he was working hard in practice to stay in good shape and stay healthy,” Bunch said. “There are some things he would still like to accomplish.” 

The Gorloks achieved a 20-9 record and were 15-3 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC), including a victory over Spalding University (Ky.) in the conference tournament championship game 55-51. Miller finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the tournament championship win, earning Webster a SLIAC Championship and a berth into the Division-III National Tournament.

Miller was named the SLIAC Tournament MVP as he averaged 20 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in the Gorloks’ two tournament wins.

Miller started and played in every game this season. He scored 409 points, averaged 14.6 points and  was second in the SLIAC with 8.4 rebounds per game during the 2013-14 campaign. Miller was named to the regular season SLIAC All-Conference First Team. 

“As the season went on, we got more confident in Kevin,” Bunch said. “It was kind of like a circle that builds on itself. You got more confident in him, he gets more confident, he scores more, he plays better.”

Miller attended Webster in 2008. In a regular season conference game that year, Miller broke his right foot in four places, which forced him to sit out the rest of the season.

He returned to Webster’s basketball court for the 2009-10 season and played only 13 games before he developed knee problems. In 2010, Miller’s doctors advised him that quitting basketball would be the best thing if he wanted to retain his ability to walk normally and maintain a normal lifestyle. Miller was also out of shape, and he weighed 420 pounds. 

After rehabilitation on his foot and knee, rigorous workout plans and strict diets, Miller returned to the Webster basketball team for the 2013-14 season, healthy and 120 pounds lighter. 

“My previous seasons at Webster were cut short due to injury, so I just wanted to give Coach Bunch a complete year, injury free,” Miller said.

Bunch introduced a new offensive playing style in the 2013-14 season that focused on getting the ball inside to the centers. 

“Our team has features that not a lot of teams have,” Miller said about the dynamic offensive play style. “We have the ability to play at a very fast pace, as well as pound the ball inside.”

Webster’s season came to an end in the first round of the Division-III National Tournament with a 71-70 loss to Illinois Wesleyan University.

Miller is classified as an athletic sophomore, and he will be returning next season.

“He plays two more years and stays healthy, he can do a lot of good things and really establish himself as one of the better players in this school’s history,” Bunch said.

Runner Up: Dylan Dean Smith Baseball Pitcher

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