LEXINGTON, Ky. –The 20th annual CATSPY Awards were held Wednesday at the Central Bank Center to recognize athletic and academic performances during the 2021-22 year in the UK Athletics Department. With multiple winners in some categories, 61 individuals were recognized as well as nine teams.
Headlining the awards were the Teams of the Year – women’s basketball, football, rifle, men’s soccer, women’s track and field, and volleyball.
Dramatic finishes were a recurring theme for the top Cat squads. Women’s basketball overcame a rash of injuries to win 10 games in a row late in the season, capped by a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the Southeastern Conference Tournament which gave UK the championship over South Carolina, a team that went on to win the national championship. The football team won 10 games, including a thrilling come-from-behind win over Iowa in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl. Rifle also had a climactic ending while winning a second-consecutive national championship, its fourth natty since 2011. Men’s soccer followed the script with an overtime goal in the title tilt to win the Conference USA Tournament championship. Women’s indoor track and field equaled its best finish in school history by landing on the third-place podium at the NCAA Championships. Volleyball again dominated the league en route to its fifth-consecutive SEC championship.
The Male Athlete of the Year was oscar tshiebwe, the unanimous National Player of the Year in men’s basketball. The Female Athletes of the Year were Rhyne Howard of basketball and Abby Steiner from track and field. Howard earned first-team All-America honors for the third-straight year and was the overall No. 1 selection of the WNBA Draft. Steiner shattered several NCAA, SEC and school records and ran the second-fastest indoor 200 meters in world history.
The Mr. And Miss Wildcat awards – dedicated in honor of the late Bruno Agostinelli, a UK men’s tennis All-American and past Mr. Wildcat winner – are presented to Wildcats who have represented all-around excellence in athletics, academics, character and service during their Kentucky careers. Named Mr. Wildcat for 2021-22 were Tshiebwe, Luke Fortner, Will Levis and Josh Pascal of football and will shaner from rifle. Miss Wildcat went to Steiner, swimmer Riley Gaines, Kayla Kowalik softball, Maasai Russell from track and field, and Alli Stumler of volleyball.
Baseball and gymnastics were the Academic Teams of the Year. Five Wildcats- Renee Abernathy softball, Sarah Michaels of track and field/cross country, Casey Ott of women’s golf, Kelly Rodriguez of women’s swimming and diving, and Ben Wendell of men’s soccer – earned Scholar-Athletes of the Year while maintaining career grade-point averages of 4.0.
Awards reflecting dedication and perseverance are the Blue Heart Award and Heart of a Wildcat. Mason Hazelwood baseball, Miranda Jimenez from women’s soccer and football’s JJ Weaver won the Blue Heart Award for overcoming injuries to return to action and make significant contributions to their teams. Heart of a Wildcat went to the new STUNT team, initially comprised entirely of walk-ons, which advanced to the national tournament in its first year of existence.
A total of 31 Wildcats were recognized with the Elite Performance award that highlighted outstanding plays, moments and performances of the past year. A list of those honorees is below.
Christi Thomas of the UK Sports Network was the host of this year’s event.
A complete list of awards is below:
Community Service Award
Tori OrcuttWomen’s Swimming and Diving
Scholar-Athletes of the Year
Sarah MichaelsWomen’s Track and Field/Cross Country
Casey OttWomen’s Golf
Kelly RodriguezWomen’s Swimming and Diving
Ben WendellMen’s Soccer
Academic Teams of the Year
Bill Keightley Assist Award
C. J. LeightonSoftball
Jack McGuinnessSwimming and Diving
Kendall Roller, Baseball
Heart of a Wildcat
brian faustMen’s Track and Field
Rikke Svejgard NielsenWomen’s Golf
Female Rookie of the Year
Male Rookie of the Year
Luke BrownTrack and Field
Blue Heart Award
Miranda JimenezWomen’s Soccer
Female Athlete of the Year
Abby SteinerTrack and Field
Male Athlete of the Year
barb denistonCenter for Academic and Tutorial Services
Elite Performance Award
Allison Buesseler, rifle – in a tight match, clinched the NCAA Championship on the final relay; also GARC air rifle champion
Jensen Castle, women’s golf – lowest score in school history; won United States Amateur championship
Keaton Danielmen’s track and field – SEC champion in the outdoor pole vault*
Gillian Daveywomen’s swimming and diving – SEC champion in the 200 breaststroke
Liam Draxmen’s tennis – ITA National Player of the Year, NCAA singles semifinalist*
Dre’una Edwards, women’s basketball – 27 points and the game-winning 3-pointer vs. South Carolina to win the SEC Tournament
Chase Estepbaseball – SEC Player of the Week while leading UK to series win over No. 8 TCU
Riley Gaineswomen’s swimming and diving – SEC champion in the 200 butterfly and 200 freestyle, including SEC record in the 200 fly
Jan Hoffelnermen’s soccer – shutout against West Virginia
alexis holmeswomen’s track and field – SEC champion, indoor 400 meters
Rhyne Howardwomen’s basketball – Rhyne Howard Day performance in win over Auburn
Kayla Kowaliksoftball – school-record season batting average of .495, won Johnny Bench Award for nation’s best catcher*
Lance Langmen’s track and field – SEC Champion, indoor 200 meters
Charles Lenford Jr.men’s track and field – SEC champion, discus throw*
Will Levisfootball – performance in win at Louisville
Jordyn Rhodeswomen’s soccer – scored all three goals in win over Marshall
Wan’Dale Robinsonfootball – game-winning drive in Citrus Bowl win over Iowa
stephanie schoonover, softball – no-hitter vs. louisville
will shanerrifle – NCAA smallbore champion and Olympic gold medalist
DeAndre Squarefootball – game-clinching interception in Citrus Bowl win over Iowa
Abby Steiner, women’s track and field – second-fastest indoor 200 meters in world history; set American record and two-time NCAA champion in that event
oscar tshiebwemen’s basketball – Rupp Arena record 28 rebounds in win over Western Kentucky
Mary Tucker, rifle – top aggregate score at NCAA Championships; olympic silver medalist
Trevin Wallacefootball – blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in win over Florida
Ty Ty Washington Jr.men’s basketball – school-record 17 assists in win over Georgia
cameron wheeler, men’s soccer – goal vs. louisville
Mason Wilbymen’s swimming – first-team All-America in the 200 butterfly
Raena Worley, gymnastics – 39,750 all-around score vs. michigan state
4×400-meter relay, men’s track and field (Kenroy Williams, Lance Lang, Dwight St Hillaire, Kennedy Lightner) – SEC outdoor champion*
* achieved in May 2021, which occurred after the 2021 CATSPYs
Team of the Year
Women’s Basketball–SEC Tournament Champion
Football – Vrbo Citrus Bowl Champion
Rifle – NCAA Champion, second consecutive season; Great American Rifle Conference champion
Men’s Soccer – Conference USA Tournament Champion
Women’s Track and Field – Third Place, NCAA Indoor Championships
Volleyball – SEC Champion, fifth consecutive season