Winners of the 2014-15 'Sports Extrys' | Part 2
I've been fortunate enough to have attended and wrote about each and every one of these moments, so the following 'Sports Extrys' list is my personal opinion of the 2014-15 best, but we encourage you to create your own and let us know who/what makes the cut on your "Best of 2014-15" list!
Women's Team of the Year: Women's Track and Field
Talk about impressive. The K-State women's track and field team finished second in the Big 12 to Texas in both the indoor and outdoor championships and has 16 student-athletes currently competing at the NCAA West Preliminaries. This year's team features four athletes who have broken school records in their respective events, including A'Keyla Mitchell, Sara Savatovic, Dani Winters and Akela Jones. I chose this team to be the 'Sports Extry' Team of the Year because, fittingly, this group of young ladies presented some of my favorite stories from 2014-15 athletic year.
Men's Team of the Year: Baseball
Wildcat fans watched a group of guys this year who was chosen to finish dead last in the Big 12 wins series against No. 3 TCU and Baylor on the road. After not making it into the Big 12 Championship in 2014, K-State earned a No. 6 seed in this year's tournament after crushing the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence to close their regular season schedule. This team - with its 22 newcomers - battled injury and adversity all year long, but came together when it mattered most. Adding to the team's success, redshirt senior Shane Conlon became only the second Wildcat in school history to earn All-Big 12 First Team honors twice in his career. Along with Conlon, pitcher Nate Griep also earned all-conference honors as he was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team. It was a fun, enjoyable group of guys to write about this year.
Coach of the Year: Bill Snyder
While Bill Snyder may deserve Coach of the Year every year, this year was an extra special one for him. It was announced in January that the beloved Wildcat coach will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015, becoming just the fourth person in the history of college football to be inducted while still an active coach.
Snyder resurrected K-State from the worst program in the nation to a top-25 contender year in and year out since he took the reins of the program in 1989, and again when he returned in 2009. He's a five-time national coach of the year honoree and a seven-time conference coach of the year recipient. He's coached the Wildcats to 16 bowl games - including 11-straight from 1993-2003 - two Big 12 Championships and has compiled a 187-94-1 record in his 23 seasons.
This past season, he led the Wildcats to a 9-4 record and saw five of his players - three of which were former walk-ons - either be drafted or sign free-agent contracts with NFL teams this spring.
Male Athlete of the Year: Tyler Lockett
It has been a fun four years of following and writing about Tyler Lockett's football career at K-State. Not only is he one of the best football players you'll ever meet, but he's one of the best people, too, and that's why he is this year's 'Sports Extrys' Male Athlete of the Year.
Lockett, a third-round draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks (can't wait to watch him on Sundays!), finished his Wildcat career as one of the top wide receivers and all-purpose players in school history. He became Kansas State's first four-year All-American and was a two-time Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year honoree. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, product broke 17 school records, including career marks for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns that were previously held by his father, Kevin. He also ranks highly in Big 12 history as he sits in the top 10 in seven categories, including tying for the top mark in kickoff-return average, ranking third in all-purpose yards and kickoff-return touchdowns, and fifth in receiving yards and kickoff-return yards... And that's just a glimpse at his football resume.
Earlier this spring, K-State Sports Extra partnered with K-StateHD.TV and highlighted Lockett's time at K-State. You can click here to view that feature.
Female Athlete of the Year: Akela Jones
Akela Jones is an exciting athlete with a personality to match. She might be all smiles in conversation, but she is a fierce competitor on the track, and in her first year with the Wildcats, she has been nothing short of extraordinary.
At this year's indoor and outdoor Big 12 Championships, Jones earned high-point scorer of the meet. At the Big 12 Indoor Championship in February, she scored 24 points after placing in the 60-meter, 200-meter and the 4x400. She then scored an impressive 26.50 points after placing in the 60-meter hurdles, the long jump, the 4x400 and 4x100 at the Big 12 Outdoor Championship earlier this month.
Her 13.31-second 100-meter hurdle performance at this year's Big 12 Outdoor Championship broke the K-State record, but it's not the only record she broke at the meet. Jones also broke the school's long jump record with her second-place, 6.43/21-02.25 leap.
Jones, a junior transfer, is currently competing at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Austin, Texas, with hopes of continuing on to the NCAA Championships later this summer.
To check out the K-State Sports Extra's Q&A with Jones from earlier this spring, please click here.
K-State Athletics welcomed four new head coaches in 2014-15, and each had an exciting first year with their respective teams. Danielle Steinberg took over the K-State tennis program, while Grant Robbins coached the men's golf squad, Ryun Godfrey coached K-State cross country and Jeff Mittie took over the women's basketball program.
Each established a new culture in their first seasons in purple, and all are excited to carry that new culture and growth into year two.
Along with the four new coaches, K-State Athletics announced Mike Dibbini as the school's first-ever head women's soccer coach. With the inaugural K-State women's soccer season set to begin in the fall of 2016, Dibbini has spent the past six months building a team and starting the K-State women's soccer program on a high note.