April 30, 2003
Bowling Green, Ky. - The Western Kentucky University Department of Athletics honored nearly 200 student-athletes on Wednesday (April 30) for their academic achievements at the school's annual Academic Athletic Awards Banquet, held in the Garrett Conference Center Ballroom on the WKU campus.
All of these student-athletes boast a grade-point average of 3.0 or better (cumulative and/or for the 2002 fall semester).
In addition, Brian Lowder (Sr., Bowling Green, Ky.), a starting strong safety on the NCAA Division I-AA national championship Hilltopper football team, and softball standout Kristalyn Smith (Sr., Portage, Mich.) were named the 2003 WKU Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year. The awards are given annually to the two graduating seniors with the highest cumulative grade-point averages.
Lowder posted a perfect 4.0 GPA in government and sociology. The son of Larry and Barbara Kitchens, Lowder was a first-team Verizon Academic All-American in the fall, the first Hilltopper to receive the honor since 1995. He was also named to the I-AA Athletic Directors Academic All-Star team, and a member of the Gateway Conference All-Academic squad. He made a career-high 96 tackles during the 2002 season, ranking second on the team. He also totaled a career-best 12 stops at I-A Kansas State, as well as in the National Championship game against McNeese State.
Smith, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rick Smith, has earned a 3.7 GPA in public health and is getting her teaching certification. In 2002, Smith was a first-team Verizion Academic All-American, becoming the first Hilltopper softball player to earn the honor. She was also a first-team all-Sun Belt Conference selection last season and is WKU's all-time leader in RBI's. Smith also holds the SBC season record for winning percentage by a pitcher.
WKU also recognized three other academic All-Americans - volleyball record-breaker Sara Noe (Sr., Louisville, Ky.) and football standouts Jason Michael (Sr., Louisa, Ky.) and Peter Martinez (Sr., Nashville, Tenn.). Noe, a finance major with a 3.44 GPA, was named to the Verizon District IV Academic team. She shattered both the Western career and season assist records in 2002, leading the Lady Toppers to both the Sun Belt East Division championship and SBC Tournament titles. Her efforts earned her the 2002 Sun Belt Player of the Year and SBC Tournament Most Outstanding Player. She was also named to the all-South Central Region first team and was WKU's 2003 Female Athlete of the Year.
Michael, WKU's staring quarterback on the national championship football team, was named Western's Male Athlete of the Year after accounting for 2,303 yards of total offense in his final season, the third highest total in school history. He also posted the second best season pass efficiency rating in school history at 157.11. He became the fifth quarterback in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in his career, finishing fifth on the list with 1,038. Michael was a second-team Verizon Academic all-District IV pick and a I-AA Athletic Directors Academic All-Star team with a 3.84 GPA in civil engineering technology. He was also an honorable mention all-Gateway Conference selection and was a first-team Gateway all-academic team pick.
Martinez etched his name in the Hilltopper football record books over his career, leaving WKU as the all-time leader in points by a kicker (279) and field goals made (49). A 2002 honorable mention all-Gateway selection, Martinez ranked 14th in the nation with 1.2 field goals per game, and was in the top 45 in scoring at 6.87 points per contest. He also set a school record with 18 field goals in 2002. An agriculture major with a 3.35 GPA, Martinez was a first-team Verizon academic all-district IV pick and a second-team Gateway all-academic selection.
Three programs were also honored as academic All-American teams. Coach Jason Neidell's women's soccer team, Bill Powell's women's swimming squad and Travis Hudson's women's volleyball team all earned the award. This was the third Academic All-American team award for volleyball, making them one of only seven schools in the country to three-peat the award. Volleyball also earned the Scholar Team Award with a 3.35 GPA, the highest cumulative GPA of any team on campus.
Western also honored a Senior Scholars team, consisting of ten graduating seniors with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or better. Joining Lowder, Michael and Smith on the team were Janette Pike (women's track and cross country), Gord Veldman (men's swimming), David Lower (baseball), Chris Tinius (men's soccer), Carol Brown (women's swimming), Brittney Long (women's track) and Austin Oyler (men's soccer).