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Graduating Student-Athletes Honored at Annual Senior Awards Banquet




April 15, 2013

PITTSBURGH - The University of Pittsburgh Department of Athletics held its annual Senior Awards Banquet on Monday night at the Petersen Events Center, honoring the efforts of the 2013 Pitt Panthers senior student-athletes.

The Athletic Department announced the recipients of the prestigious David Sandberg Champion Award, the Blue-Gold Awards and Panther Awards, in addition to recognizing the 97 senior student-athletes for their accomplishments.

Athletic Director Steve Pederson welcomed the group of seniors, parents and coaches. "So­ many of you have accomplished so many things and that's why we're here. We're here to celebrate your accomplishments of your career at Pitt, but we're also here to give you a send-off in the next phase of your career. While you're gathered here as seniors, I hope you will come back regularly to be a part of the annual Varsity Letter Club dinner. We hope you come back for events and we hope you are a part of the Pitt family for the rest of your life. I am very proud to be associated with each and every one of you and I know our entire staff feels that way too. We're glad that we have the opportunity to celebrate and honor you tonight."  

The David Sandberg Champion Award was founded in 2003 in memory of the former Pitt wrestler and assistant coach. The award is given to a senior that exemplifies the qualities that Sandberg embraced - a dedication to academic and athletic excellence, with an unyielding spirit and passionate commitment to the improvement of the University of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities. This year's David Sandberg Champion award winner was offensive lineman, Chris Jacobson.

Jacobson was a three-year letterwinner for the Pitt football team and saw action in 46 career games while starting 30. A rare sixth-year senior, Jacobson was awarded an extra year of eligibility because he suffered season-ending knee injuries in both 2007 and 2011. An anchor on the offensive line, he was selected to play in the Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game. A Pittsburgh native, Jacobson earned his bachelor's in administration of justice and is pursuing a second degree in social sciences.

Next, the recipients of the Blue-Gold Awards were announced. The Blue-Gold Award is presented to the graduating male and female student-athletes who have demonstrated the best combination of academic scholarship, athletic achievement, leadership qualities, activities and citizenship.

The female Blue-Gold awardee was Elizabeth Kline. Kline was an invaluable member of the track team over the last four years. She was the Big East Indoor Champion in the pentathlon as a senior, becoming the 10th Pitt athlete in program history to be crowned champion. Kline also took fourth place in the indoor and outdoor pentathlon in her sophomore year. A native of Upper St. Clair, Kline will graduate with a degree in Developmental Psychology.

Zac Thomusseit, the second Blue-Gold recipient, is a 2013 All-American at heavyweight and concluded his Pitt career with 97 wins. Thomusseit was a three-time NCAA qualifier, and a two-time EWL Individual Champion. The 2013 team captain was instrumental in the Panthers' recent success, helping guide the program to an unprecedented three EWL dual titles and a trio of EWL tournament crowns. Thomusseit is a St. Paris, Ohio native who is double majoring in legal studies and communications.

Swimmer Adam Maczewski was the third and final winner of the Blue-Gold Awards. Maczewski won the Big East Championship in the 100 yard backstroke and remained undefeated in this event over his entire career. He also earned his first individual ECAC crown with a first-place finish in the 100 back as a junior and was the recipient of the American Eagle Outfitters Male Institutional Scholar Athlete Award.  Maczewski is an information science major and is originally from Warsaw, Poland.

The recipients of the Panther Awards were the next honorees recognized. This award is presented to the graduating senior athletes who have promoted Pitt athletics though his/her outstanding athletic achievements. Seniors honored with either the Blue-Gold or Panther Awards are added to the Varsity Walk on Pitt's campus between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel. There, embedded in the stones, are the names of former Pitt student-athletes who have promoted the University through athletic or academic achievements. The 2013 Panther Awards were presented to wrestler Matt Wilps and track and field athlete Jonnique Lawrence.

 Wilps, the male recipient of the Panther Award, is a two-time All-American wrestler at 197-pounds who earned 129 wins in his career and ranks fifth all-time on Pitt's wins list. Wilps is a three-time NCAA qualifier and EWL Individual Champion. A 2013 team captain who finished third in the nation, Wilps has been instrumental in the Panthers' recent success, helping lead the program to an unprecedented three EWL dual titles and a trio of EWL tournament crowns. Wilps is double majoring in economics and psychology and is from Oakdale, Pa.

The female who earned this distinction was Jonnique LawrenceLawrence claimed the 200 meter title at the Big East Championship Meet in February and also set the 300 meter dash school record of 38.20 at the Kent State Golden Flash Gala. Lawrence ran the top five fastest times for Pitt in the 200 as a senior. She will also graduate as a member of the school record holding 4x400 meter relay team. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Lawrence is a psychology major.

Earlier in the evening, Pitt's Seniors of Distinction were recognized. This is an honor awarded to varsity student-athletes who have made outstanding contributions in the athletic arena.  This year's nine honorees were: Margy Acton (volleyball), Joanna Budzis (swimming and diving), Ray Graham (football), Kelsey Herbst (swimming and diving), Hussein Medhat Mohamed (swimming and diving), Mike Shanahan (football), Holly Stevens (softball), Andrew Taglianetti (football), and Travon Woodall (men's basketball).

The evening concluded with a video acknowledging the attributes of all Pitt student-athletes.