Track & field All-American Caroline Kurgat repeated as the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Bill McKay Athlete of the Year after being named this year’s recipient.
The 35th annual award was presented at the athletic department’s all-sport banquet at Lucy Cuddy Hall on the UAA campus. Kurgat becomes just the fourth Seawolf to earn the award twice, joining Teri Frankie (gymnastics 1986 & 1990), Tobias Schwoerer (cross country/skiing, 2002 &2003) and Micah Chelimo (cross country/track & track field, 2013 & 2014).
Kurgat won a pair of national championships at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina. She won the 10,000 title by 36 seconds and two days later won the 5,000 by more than 11 seconds.
Her success continued into the 2019 indoor season, when she set the all-time NCAA Div. II records in the 3,000 and 5,000 at 9:07.05 and 15:28.46, respectively. Kurgat won her fourth national title – and her first in indoor track – in the 5,000 by setting a new championship meet record time of 16:06.37. Less than 30 minutes later, she anchored the distance medley relay to a runner-up finish in 11:26.00. The following day she ran another championship record of 9:15.45 to win the 3,000.
Kurgat earned the Collegiate Women’s Sports Honda Award, Google Cloud Academic All-American, USTFCCCA Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the Pride of Alaska Award for outstanding athletic achievement from the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
Kurgat has a 3.47 cumulative GPA in nursing and medical laboratory science.
Along with Kurgat, the 2018-19 Bill MacKay Athlete of the Year nominees were Chris Brake (men’s outdoor track & field), Tyler Brimhall (men’s basketball),Emmah Chelimo (women’s cross country), Sophia Hyderally (gymnastics), Chrisalyn Johnson (volleyball), Drew Johnson (men’s indoor track & field), Wesley Kirui (men’s cross country), Nils Rygaard (hockey), Liam Wallace (men’s skiing), Hannah Wandersee (women’s basketball) and Casey Wright (women’s skiing).
The award is voted upon by a committee comprised of UAA Athletics staff members, local media, and Benton Bay representatives.
In addition to the MacKay award, the department also handed out its most prestigious internal academic honor Friday, with senior women’s Nordic skier Casey Wright , junior women’s Nordic skier Michaela Keller-Miller and senior women’s track & field athlete Yvonne Jecshke sharing the 2018-19 Dresser Cup, all with 4.00 overall GPAs. A health science major from Melbourne, Australia, Wright shared the award for the second straight season.
The inaugural Pride of Alaska Award, presented by GCI, went to Kodiak native Hannah Wandersee, who helped the Seawolf women’s basketball team to a 30-3 record and earned Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. The new award goes to a graduating senior who made outstanding athletic contributions to his or her team. Candidates must have lived in Alaska more than half of their lives and have graduated from an Alaska high school.