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Bob Dixon

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Middlesboro, KY 40965

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Go Big Blue!

Blair Green, Student-Athletes Honored at Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 21st annual CATSPY Awards were held Monday at the Central Bank Center to recognize athletic and academic performances during the 2022-23 year in the University of Kentucky Athletics Department. With multiple winners in some categories, 44 individuals were recognized as well as eight teams. The 2023 CATSPY Awards cover accomplishments earned from April 2022 through April 2023.

Blair Green (UK Athletics Photo)

Headlining the awards were the Teams of the Year – volleyball, rifle, men’s tennis, men’s soccer, gymnastics and women’s track and field.

Meeting and exceeding expectations was a theme for Wildcat squads during the year. Kentucky volleyball won its sixth-straight Southeastern Conference Championship, while UK rifle won the Great American Rifle Conference regular-season title for the fourth year in a row. The rifle team earned an NCAA podium finish, while volleyball advanced out of the Lexington Regional to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Men’s tennis and men’s soccer put together some of the most memorable runs in UK Athletics history last year. Cedric Kauffmann’s team has made the SEC Tournament Championship finals each of the last two years, bringing home the trophy this year in dramatic fashion. The championship, which was won just yesterday, was the first for the program since 1992. Last year, men’s tennis proved it was one of the nation’s best with a run to the NCAA Tournament Championship, earning a program-record finish as runner-up. Men’s soccer put together an undefeated regular season en route to a Sun Belt regular season and tournament championship, while advancing to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

Gymnastics and women’s track and field capped off the team of the year honors after record-breaking seasons. Gymnastics finished in a program-tying sixth at the NCAA Championships, a program-tying fourth at the SEC Championships and one of three teams in the nation that scored 49 or higher on every event in every meet. Women’s track and field rewrote the record book finishing third at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Championships, tying the school record for most points scored at the event. The 4x400 relay team set a collegiate record and took home the event crown, while Abby Steiner stole the show with a 200-meter individual title in collegiate-record time.

The Female Athlete of the Year award was given to Steiner, who shared the award last year with WNBA superstar Rhyne Howard. On top of the 4x400 gold, Steiner won the 200-meter dash at the outdoor national championships, holding a collegiate record. Men’s tennis star Liam Draxl was named the Male Athlete of the Year after another incredible season at No. 1 singles for the Wildcats, helping UK earn a win over No. 1 Virginia, advance to the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor Championships and earn the 2023 SEC Tournament Championship.

The success of the 2022 spring sports propelled UK to a school-record ninth-place finish in the final 2022 NACDA Directors’ Cup national all-sports standings.

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. Eli Cox from football was named Mr. Wildcat for 2022-23, while Miss Wildcat went to women’s track and field star Masai Russell, swimmer Kaitlynn Wheeler, Kayla Kowalik of softball and Raena Worley of gymnastics.

Men’s golf and women’s swimming and diving were the Academic Teams of the Year. Four Wildcats – Kaitlin DeGuzman of gymnastics, Aaron Withrow of track and field/cross country and Lauren Poole and Caitlin Brooks of women’s swimming and diving – 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. Blair Green of women’s basketball, CJ Fredrick from men’s basketball, Trevin Wallace from football and gymnastics’ Kaitlin DeGuzman and Bailey Bunn 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 Wendell and Vickie Bell for their unwavering support and dedication to UK Athletics and its student-athletes.

A total of 16 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

Kenneth Horsey, Football

Tori Orcutt, Women’s Swimming and Diving

Scholar-Athletes of the Year

Kaitlin DeGuzman, Gymnastics

Lauren Poole, Women’s Swimming and Diving

Caitlin Brooks, Women’s Swimming and Diving

Aaron Withrow, Men’s Cross Country

Academic Teams of the Year

Women’s Swimming and Diving

Men’s Golf

Bill Keightley Assist Award

JT Orem, Women’s Basketball

Clay Ferguson, Men’s Basketball (Athletic Training)

Callie Blandford, Swimming and Diving

Maigan Willams, Track and Field

Heart of a Wildcat

Wendell and Vickie Bell

Mike Lyden Courage Award

Chris Oats

Scratch Award

Ellie Eades, Women’s Tennis

Makenzie Wilson, Gymnastics

Heman Nama, Men’s Tennis

Supporting Role

Maddie Berezowitz, Volleyball

Antonio Reeves, Men’s Basketball

Marissa Wenzler, Women’s Golf

Alex Degen, Baseball

Female Newcomer of the Year

Sofia Ceccarello, Rifle

Male Newcomer of the Year

Casper Mols, Men’s Soccer

Levi Sandidge, Men’s Swimming and Diving

Jordan Anthony, Men’s Track and Field

Deone Walker, Football

Blue Heart Award

Blair Green, Women’s Basketball

Trevin Wallace, Football

Kaitlin DeGuzman, Gymnastics

Bailey Bunn, Gymnastics

CJ Fredrick, Men’s Basketball

Female Athlete of the Year

Abby Steiner, Women’s Track and Field

Male Athlete of the Year

Liam Draxl, Men’s Tennis

Elite Performance Award

Ellie Eades, women’s tennis – Clinching point in Kentucky’s upset vs. South Carolina, advancing UK to the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Tennis Tournament

Azhani Tealer, volleyball – Set new school record for blocks assists with 13 vs. South Carolina

Stephanie Schoonover, softball – No-hitter vs. top-25 ranked North Texas with a school-record 18 strikeouts

Raena Worley, gymnastics – Second-highest all-around score in school history at NCAA Regionals with a 39.775

Sofia Ceccarello, rifle – Won gold at GARC Championships with a career-high tying 599 in air rifle

Abby Steiner, women’s track and field – 2022 NCAA Outdoor Champion in 200-meter dash, holding collegiate record

Masai Russell, women’s track and field – Set collegiate record this season in 100-meter hurdles and finished second at NCAA Indoor Championships in 60-meter hurdles

Karimah Davis, Dajour Miles, Abby Steiner, Alexis Holmes, women’s track and field – Broke the collegiate record in 4X400 relay en route to SEC gold

Oscar Tshiebwe, men’s basketball – First Wildcat with 35-points, 20-rebound game since 1976 (37pts/24rebs vs. UGA)

Chris Rodriguez, Jr., football – 31 carries for 197 yards and two touchdowns in win over No. 16 Mississippi State

Taha Baadi, men’s tennis – Come-from-behind, third-set tiebreaking victory helped UK defeat No. 1 Virginia

Levi Sandidge, men’s swimming and diving – First UK swimmer since 2006 to earn gold at SEC Championships, winning 1650 freestyle

Keaton Daniel, men’s track and field – SEC outdoor pole vault champion in 2022 and indoor pole vault champion in 2023

Alex Goff, men’s golf – Finished second individually at the 2023 SEC Men’s Golf Championship

Teams of the Year

Men’s Tennis – NCAA National Runners-Up, SEC Tournament Champions

Gymnastics – NCAA National Semifinals, No. 6 Final Ranking

Rifle – Third Place, NCAA Championships, Great America Rifle Conference Regular-Season Champions

Men’s Soccer – Sun Belt Regular-Season and Tournament Champions, Undefeated Regular Season, NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Women’s Track and Field – Third Place, NCAA Outdoor Championships

Volleyball – SEC Champion, sixth consecutive season; NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Mr. Wildcat

Eli Cox, Football

Miss Wildcat

Kayla Kowalik, Softball

Masai Russell, Women’s Track and Field

Kaitlynn Wheeler, Women’s Swimming and Diving

Raena Worley, Gymnastics

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