Youngstown State student-athletes, University dignitaries, Penguin Club members, scholarship endowment donors and recipients and staff and coaches helped celebrate the academic accomplishments of the Penguins on Tuesday night at the Annual Scholar-Athlete Banquet.
A packed house of almost 500 people were in attendance at the event at Youngstown State University's Chestnut Room in the Kilcawley Center. The evening culminated with the presentation of YSU/The Vindicator Athletes of the Year to men's track and field/cross country runner Austin McLean and women's tennis player Marta Burak. Both student-athletes also received Athlete-of-the-Year honors from the Horizon League this year.
SAAC President and men's track and field/cross country member Jon Hutnyan kept the event moving and entertaining throughout the night.
Speakers on the evening included President James P. Tressel, Penguin Club President Ray Briya, Horizon League Associate Commissioner Alfreeda Goff, YSU Foundation President Paul McFadden and NCAA Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Chet Cooper.
It was a bittersweet moment for Goff, who is retiring this year after a long-time tenure as an administrator in collegiate athletics and the Horizon League. She spoke about how she became part of the Penguin Family and can't wait to support YSU teams and spend time with her family in her retirement.
Goff presented the Horizon League "Raise Your Sights" Team GPA awards to the Women's Tennis team and the Mens' Tennis program. The softball team was the recipient of the community service award while Penguin Super Fan Michael Klaus earned the Sportsmanship Award.
Klaus, one of the loudest Penguin fans, received a standing ovation when he received his award. He was excited to say the least and was more than grateful when Hutnyan let him say a few words of thanks into the microphone and pump the crowd up.
McFadden announced donors of scholarship endowments and the recipients of those endowments who were in attendance.
Hutnyan read all impressive list of names of student-athletes who were in attendance that had grade-point average of 3.00 or above.
Hutnyan presented the women's SAAC Leadership Award to Marta Burak who then turned around and awarded the men's honor to Hutnyan.
To close out the night were speeches by Burak and McLean.
Burak was introduced by teammate Annina Brendel. Burak, a native of the Ukraine, thanked everyone at Youngstown State who has made her feel welcome being a long way from home. She spoke about the incredible turnaround the program has made the past three years since when she came to campus in the fall of 2011. She spoke about each one of her teammates and how sometimes its challenging to have such a diverse group, but in the end they were focused and driven to have success.
McLean was introduced by friend, training partner, teammate and fellow distance runner Eric Rupe. McLean talked about overcoming injuries and some self-doubt early in his YSU career to have success. He had some fun with his family members saying the only thing they knew about track and field was whether he won or lost a race where he was always interested in split times and mile times.