Inaugural Golden Herkys a Success


May 5, 2016

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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa Department of Athletics recognized academic and athletic accomplishments of its student-athletes at the inaugural Golden Herkys on Wednesday at Englert Theater in downtown Iowa City.

Senior associate director for student-athlete academic services Kara Park helped spearhead the event, which more than 200 student-athletes attended.


“Over the past year we surveyed student-athletes about events and programs they would like to see, and it was clear that they wanted an awards show that was designed by them and for them,” said Park. “The Golden Herky Awards Show celebrates the yearly accomplishments of all teams and student-athletes at the University of Iowa — including athletic, academic, and community service.”

The event was an opportunity for student-athletes to socialize with their peers, while also celebrating the past year with the announcement of awards.

“The event had “awards show” or “ESPY-like” feel,” Park said. “The Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee (ISAAC) played a large part in the design and implementation of the Golden Herkys, and all athletes voted on the nominees put forth by coaches and ISAAC reps.”

“This was an opportunity to come out and have fun, get dressed up, and interact with student-athletes from other sports that you don’t get to talk to much during the season,” said UI football defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie, who arrived on the golden carpet dressed to the nines with a sport coat, bow tie, top hat, and cane.

The event was highlighted by the announcement of the Big Ten Medal of Honor and UI Athletes of the Year.

Seniors Mike Gesell (basketball) and Katie Brown (rowing) earned the prestigious Medal of Honor, which is the Big Ten Conference’s most exclusive award. Gesell helped lead Iowa to its third straight NCAA Tournament while also earning second-team academic All-America laurels. Brown, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar Athlete, is the coxswain of Iowa’s first varsity eight crew.

Juniors Desmond King (football) and Ally Disterhoft (basketball) were recognized as the Athletes of the Year. King was a unanimous consensus All-American, won the Jim Thorpe Award, received the Jack Tatum Award, and was also the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year. Disterhoft, a second-team all-league selection, averaged a program-best 17.1 points as a junior.

The football and women’s gymnastics teams were named “Most Outstanding Teams.” Kirk Ferentz, the Big Ten and National Coach of the Year, led his squad to a historic season and ultimately earned an invitation to the Rose Bowl. Larissa Libby, the Regional Coach of the Year, and the GymHawks turned heads nationally and were represented at the NCAA Championships for the first time in five seasons.

The award for “Best Upset” went to the men’s basketball team for its thrilling 83-70 win over top-ranked Michigan State in front of a sellout crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to open conference play. The win was Iowa’s third in program history over a No. 1 ranked team.

“Record Breaking Performance” was awarded to the football team for posting a perfect 12-0 regular season. The Hawkeyes were the talk of college football last fall, ascending as high as No. 3 nationally.

Men’s golfer Carson Schaake was the recipient of the “Outstanding Postseason Performance” award for sharing medalist honors at the 2015 Big Ten Championships — the first by a Hawkeye in 23 years.

“Outstanding Newcomer” was awarded to redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer of the men’s basketball team. The walk-on played a key role off the bench in all 33 games for the Hawkeyes and most recently earned a scholarship last month.

Marshall Koehn’s 57-yard field goal as time expired — the second-longest field goal in school history — to upend Pittsburgh, 27-24, inside Kinnick Stadium was voted “Best Play.”

The “Male and Female Breakthrough Athlete” was awarded to Reno Tuufuli (track and field) and Mollie Drenth (gymnastics). Tuufuli represented Team USA at the Pan Am Junior Championships in Canada last summer. He earned the roster spot by throwing a personal-best 59.06 meters on his final discus attempt at the 2015 USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Drenth represented the GymHawks at the NCAA Championships, earning first-team All-America honors when she placed third on beam; Iowa’s first All-American since 2004.

The “Male and Female Hawkeye of the Year” encompasses not only athletic achievement, but also academics and community service engagement. This year’s honorees include Nathan Burak of wrestling and field hockey’s Liz Leh.

Wrestler Sammy Brooks’ reaction during a BTN interview after winning a Big Ten title at 184 pounds inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena earned the junior the Golden Herky for the “Best Reaction to a Play.”

The men’s gymnastics and women’s cross country squads captured the “Male and Female Highest Team GPA.”

“This was awesome that we got to have this night where all the student-athletes could take off their practice attire, get dressed up, and celebrate all of our accomplishments,” said softball senior Whitney Repole.

BEST UPSET — Men’s Basketball (vs. #1 Michigan State)
BIG TEN MEDAL OF HONOR — Mike Gesell (Men’s Basketball) / Katie Brown (Rowing)
BEST PLAY — Marshall Koehn (football)
MALE/FEMALE BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE — Reno Tuufuli (Track & Field) / Mollie Drenth (Gymnastics)
BEST REACTION TO A PLAY — Sammy Brooks (Wrestling)
MALE/FEMALE HIGHEST TEAM GPA — Gymnastics / Cross Country
MALE/FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR — Desmond King (Football) / Ally Disterhoft (Basketball)
MALE/FEMALE HAWKEYE OF THE YEARNathan Burak (Wrestling) / Liz Leh (Field Hockey)

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