Valparaiso University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) announced its year-end awards on Sunday evening at the 10th annual Athletic Recognition Ceremony (ARC) Awards.
Junior football quarterback Jimmy Seewald (Livonia, Mich./Divine Child) was named Valparaiso’s Male Athlete of the Year, while senior women’s basketball star Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/George Washington) was honored as the Female Athlete of the Year. Men’s soccer forward Rafael Mentzingen (Rio De Janiero, Brazil/[Bryan]) earned Male Newcomer of the Year accolades, and two-sport standout Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) received Female Newcomer of the Year honors.
Seewald earned Male Athlete of the Year honors as he quarterbacked the Crusaders to their best season since 2003, finishing the year fourth in a single season in program history in passing yards and fifth in touchdowns. Twice the PFL Offensive Player of the Week, Seewald also ranked 10th nationally among FCS quarterbacks in yards per completion.
Franklin received the Female Athlete of the Year award following a senior season where she was named a First Team All-MVC honoree. Franklin finished the season third in the Valley in scoring and fourth in rebounding, the only player to rank in the top-five in both. She ended the year fifth in a single season at Valpo for points scored, and closed her career among the top-10 in Crusader history in 12 different categories, including second in career scoring.
Mentzingen claimed the Male Newcomer of the Year accolade after earning Second Team All-Region and First Team All-MVC accolades. He shared the team lead with nine goals, tied for seventh-most in a season in program history, and ranked fourth in the Valley in both goals and points. Mentzingen scored goals in all three of Valpo's Valley wins.
Anderson brought home the Female Newcomer of the Year award after excelling as a rookie for both the volleyball and softball teams – making her the only Division I athlete to play a key role in each of those two sports. Anderson stepped into the starting setter role as a freshman for the volleyball team and was an MVC All-Freshman Team choice, tallying the most assists by a Valpo rookie in nearly two decades. On the softball field, she has become a regular in the Crusader lineup and ranked third on the team in batting average in conference play.
In addition Sunday, senior football player Frank Catrine (Springboro, Ohio/Bishop Fenwick) was the recipient of the Bill Steinbrecher Sportsmanship Award and Franklin received the Rebecca D. Carter Memorial Award, given to the male and female student-athletes who have best exemplified integrity and sportsmanship while representing Valparaiso University. Director of athletics Mark LaBarbera presented the Anderson-Hoffman Memorial Service Award, awarded to the student-athlete who best demonstrates what it means to be a champion in the community, to senior track and field thrower Andrew Guzek (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso).
New this year to the show was the Play of the Year award, a tightly contested race which went to Mentzingen for his superlative individual effort to net a goal in the MVC Tournament against Drake. This year’s awards were rounded out by the Unsung Hero Awards, presented to football’s Ryan Clarke (Hopatcong, N.J./Hopatcong) and volleyball’s Catherine Ament (New Carlisle, Ind./New Prairie), and the Performance of the Year Awards, won by softball’s Emily Richardson (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest) for her no-hitter earlier this season against North Carolina Central and the men’s track and field duo of Alexander Bruno (Bloomington, Ill./University) and Ben Sekuloski (Lowell, Ind./Lowell), who both broke decades-old school records during the indoor season at Notre Dame and combined for a relay school record as well at the same meet.
The awards were voted on by SAAC, which has representatives from all 21 of Valparaiso’s athletic teams, and by Valpo Athletics coaches and staff members. Sunday night’s program also featured recognition of all the student-athletes who have earned athletic or academic honors this year and a number of videos throughout the show.