Ryan Chartrand

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…it’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Sharon Day!

Rocketed to earth as an infant when the distant planet of Krypton exploded, she is disguised as a mild-mannered student at California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo, fighting a never-ending battle for truth, justice and freedom against all Big West Conference foes, especially those dastardly Gauchos!

It’s three weeks before Cal Poly’s annual athletics department awards banquet, Night of the Mustang, and the race for Male and Female Athletes of the Year are tightly contested.

Day (track and field), Kylie Atherstone (volleyball) and Lisa Modglin (softball) are clearly the frontrunners on the women’s side while Kyle Shotwell (football), Phillip Reid (cross country/track), Darrell Vasquez (wrestling) and Grant Desme (baseball) are making noise on the men’s side.

Even though the Mustang Daily has no say on who receives the award, we’re here to provide our handicapping of the athletes in contention:

Day, senior high jumper

For those of you not well acquainted with Cal Poly’s version of Superwoman, Day is the school’s only Division I national champion in its 12 years at the highest level of collegiate competition.

She won the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field title in the high jump as a sophomore in 2005, clearing 6 feet, 4 1/2 inches. Oh, and she earned first-team All-Big West honors that same year.

Her accomplishments earned her Female Athlete of the Year honors for 2005-06. However, Day’s previous accolades have no bearing on this year’s award.

Day’s kryptonite, a broken foot, kept her sidelined for the 2006 track and soccer seasons. However, she has made a tremendous comeback on the track this season. Day is currently ranked No. 4 nationally in the high jump and has split a 55-flat anchor leg on Cal Poly’s 4×400 relay, a time that would put her in the top 85 nationally in the 400.

Let’s put it this way – have you ever seen Disney’s “The Incredibles?” The only reason Day missed out on their casting call was due to a technicality – DNA results proved that she doesn’t have any super-human abilities. Her freakish athletic talent says otherwise, but the plot and character “Buddy” did spawn from Day’s ability to compete with various other super heroes during the casting call.

Odds: 5-1

Atherstone, sophomore outside hitter

Atherstone’s superpower is an awe-inspiring spike that triggers a collective, “Oh,” from the crowd. Just ask any of the several opposing players who received volleyball facials via Atherstone about the sophomore’s spiking ability.

Atherstone was somehow selected Big West Co-Player of the Year – I say somehow because there’s no way anybody in the Big West matched the season Atherstone had.

Nothing against Long Beach State’s Alexis Crimes, but where did her team place in the Big West standings? They were second, right behind No. 17 Cal Poly. It was a crime awarding co-players of the year.

Atherstone averaged nearly one kill more per game than Crimes and was third in the Big West in serving aces per game. Crimes was fifth in kills per game and second in blocks.

Then, to further the injustice, Crimes and UC Santa Barbara’s Olivia Waldowski received All-American Honorable Mention. Atherstone? She didn’t make the cut.

Even though she didn’t garner All-American honors, Atherstone was selected to the USA Volleyball A2 team, one step below the national team. Not too shabby for someone who has yet to celebrate her 21st birthday.

Odds: 3-1

Modglin, senior center fielder

Modglin is listed at 5-foot-4, and, excusing the faux-pas estimation of a woman’s weight, she can’t tip the scales at much more than 100 pounds. Compare that to some of the more prolific baseball home run hitters of this era – Barry Bonds and Davis Ortiz. Modglin is the antithesis to steroid-era baseball.

Words like big or bulky have become synonymous with power hitting, yet Modglin ranks among national leaders in home runs and slugging percentage. Not to mention, for most of this season she has maintained a batting average above .500 – that’s just nutty!

If Modglin can maintain her tirade on opposing pitchers, All-American honors are an inevitability.

Aside from national recognition, Modglin also has a major stake to Female Athlete of the Year based on what she means to her team. Modglin leads the squad in batting average, runs scored, RBI, home runs, triples, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, stolen bases and is one of two position players yet to record an error.

The votes will be cast before postseason play begins, but the big question for Modglin is whether she can help lead her team to an NCAA Tournament berth, or will the Mustangs be snubbed for a third straight year?

Odds: 3-1

My pick to win it all:

There very well could be co-Female Athletes of the Year and each of these athletes is deserving, but Atherstone gets the nod for leading her team to the NCAA Tournament round of 32 and a No. 17 national ranking. If the voting were completed after the postseason wraps up for track and softball, we may find Day celebrating a national championship in the high jump and/or Modglin leading the softball team deep into the postseason. Such is the flaw with the award.

Stay tuned for next week as I survey the top male candidates.

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