Arguing between Sharon Day, Lisa Modglin or Kylie Atherstone for Cal Poly’s Female Athlete of the Year is like trying to decide whether to have ice cream, cookies or cake for dessert – it’s all good, but everybody has to make a choice.
Atherstone was last week’s choice, and now it’s time to forecast the Male Athlete of the Year.
This group has been whittled down to four candidates. Three are All-Americans and the fourth is on his way to becoming one. In no particular order, here are my considerations for Cal Poly’s Male Athlete of the Year:
Darrell Vasquez (Wrestling – Senior 133-pounder)
Are you ready to rumble? Forget the Floyd Mayweather-Oscar de la Hoya fight this weekend. Who wants to see Frank Stranzl take on Cal Poly All-American Darrell Vasquez?
I’m not a big guy, but I like to think I could throw down on most 5-foot-6, 133-pound guys. Not so much against Vasquez.
No matter how hard I tried, this was the only scenario my daydream cooked up: I saw myself soaring through the air, my feet floating above my head. It was glorious. Then came pain and lots of it as I landed awkwardly on my back. Next, a piercing scream as Vasquez turned me into a human pretzel.
The rest of the daydream is a bit hazy, but it ends with me motionless on the ground and Vasquez drinking an ice-cold Gatorade as a group of paramedics try to resuscitate me.
Vasquez might not be the biggest wrestler on the team, but he had a huge season for the Mustangs. His season ended with a fifth-place finish in the 133-pound weight class at the NCAA Wrestling Championships and All-American honors.
His performance highlighted Cal Poly’s No. 27 finish at the NCAA Championships. Even though he didn’t get as much publicity as an All-American deserves, he won’t slip past consideration for Male Athlete of the Year.
Phillip Reid (Cross country/track and field – Junior distance runner)
Reid didn’t sit behind UC Santa Barbara’s Mike Chavez in the 1,500-meter run this weekend.
Reid didn’t wait for an opening and try to out-kick his opponent to the finish line. His strategy was simple – lead the entire race.
When Chavez tried to close the gap, Reid would simply push his foot on the pedal and put Chavez in his rear-view mirror once more.
Without anybody running alongside him, Reid powered his way through the race. Paced only by the sound of Chavez’s footsteps, Reid ran his way to a 3:43, an Olympic “B” standard, qualifying the junior for a chance to run at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2008.
In the fall, Reid finished No. 21 at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., earning the junior All-American honors. Reid’s contribution to the team score helped the Mustangs finish No. 13 at the meet, Cal Poly’s highest-ranked team this academic year.
How important was Reid’s performance toward his team’s national ranking? Take Reid out and put in Cal Poly’s next-best finisher and the Mustangs drop to No. 29 at the NCAA meet.
No athlete on this campus meant more to their respective team than Reid.
Kyle Shotwell (Football – Senior linebacker)
As the final seconds disappeared on the Detroit Lions’ draft clock during the last pick in this weekend’s NFL Draft, I held some hope that Kyle Shotwell’s name would be called.
Even if it was the last pick, “Mr. Irrelevant” in draft terms, Shotwell’s name belonged on the draft board along with former Mustang teammate Courtney Brown, who went 212th overall to the Dallas Cowboys.
NFL scouts chose to pass on Shotwell, the 2006 Buck Buchanan Award winner. They decided that Justin Durant of Hampton was worthy of a second-round selection. For the record, Durant ran the same 40-yard dash time (4.5 seconds), had a nearly identical build (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) and similar statistics.
The two major differences: Shotwell was voted the top defensive player in Division I-AA and Durant was the top I-AA player taken in the draft.
Shotwell’s campaign for the draft was an uphill battle from the start. Despite mopping up the competition in I-AA ranks, he couldn’t garner a bid to the NFL Scouting Combine – the snub of the year at Cal Poly.
Most scouts passed on Cal Poly’s Pro Day on March 26 and didn’t get to see Shotwell’s abilities in person, but he will get his chance to prove his worth beginning with the Oakland Raiders’ mini-camp, which starts Friday.
Grant Desme (Baseball – Junior right fielder)
Desme is Cal Poly’s version of “The Human Torch” vis-…-vis the Fantastic Four. There’s no such thing as a slump for the junior right fielder – he’s been on fire since day one.
Desme leads the Mustangs in batting average (.388), home runs (12), RBI (47), slugging percentage (.694), walks (27), stolen bases (10) and total bases (118). These numbers have warranted his addition to the Dick Howser Trophy Watch List, an award given to the top collegiate player.
We won’t know whether Desme wins the award before the Night of the Mustang. However, the prestigious national recognition is enough to add Desme to Cal Poly’s Male Athlete of the Year watch list.
The pick: Reid
The easy pick is to select a third football player in a row – Jordan Beck, Chris Gocong and now Shotwell. I can already hear the football players grumbling, but Shotwell’s not my pick for this award.
Reid is on his way to All-American honors in two sports, has qualified himself for Olympic Trials consideration and led his team to a No. 13 national ranking. Shotwell had a great season, but Reid nudges him out for the 2006-07 Male Athlete of the Year.