By Eric Moyer, Associate Commissioner for Communications, Great American Conference
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – For the first time in the six-year history of the Great American Conference, the league’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year hailed from the same institution as Southern Arkansas’ Maddie Dow and Trevor Rucker took home the awards, the conference office announced on Wednesday.
The league’s sports information directors voted on the Male and Female Athlete of the Year awards; they could not vote for their own student-athletes.
2015-16 GAC FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – MADDIE DOW, SOUTHERN ARKANSAS, SOFTBALL
Dow became the second-straight softball player, and the third in league history to earn the GAC Female Athlete of the Year award following Arkansas Tech’s Jalissa Gum (2015-16) and Arkansas-Monticello’s Kayla Jackson (2011-12). She capped her career by leading the Lady Muleriders to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in her four-year career.
She became the second player in league history to pace the conference in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Her 22 home runs led all of Division II and ranked fourth across all three NCAA divisions. She ranked second in the nation in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, seventh in total bases, eighth in runs scored and 16th in RBI. She became the conference’s first consensus First-Team All-American.
Her stellar career saw her finish as SAU’s all-time leader in batting average (.363), on-base percentage (.522), hits (244), home runs (74), RBI (224), walks (175) and total bases (502), She ranked in the top-20 in Division II softball history in walks (second), home runs (fourth), total bases (tied for 10th), and RBI (tied for 20th).
In the classroom, she earned the GAC’s Crafton Tull Distinguished Scholar Athlete award each of the last two years and this year, she garnered the CoSIDA Academic All-America® of the Year as she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training.
Other nominees for the 2016-17 GAC Female Athlete of the Year
Other nominees for the 2016-17 GAC Female Athlete of the Year award included Arkansas-Monticello senior McKenzie Rice (Softball), Arkansas Tech senior Jalissa Gum (Softball), East Central sophomore Anna Mora (Cross Country/Track & Field), Harding senior A’ndrea Haney (Basketball), Henderson State junior Sarah Wright (Golf) Northwestern Oklahoma State junior Madison Garza (Softball), Oklahoma Baptist senior Olivia Charvat (Tennis), Ouachita senior Ashley Wake (Volleyball), Southeastern Oklahoma State senior Anna Bulukian (Tennis), Southern Nazarene senior Abbey Bell (Volleyball) and Southwestern Oklahoma State senior Carly Zak (Volleyball).
2016-17 GAC MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – TREVOR RUCKER, SOUTHERN ARKANSAS, BASEBALL
Rucker became the second-straight baseball All-American to take home the GAC Male Athlete of the Year honor, following Arkansas-Monticello’s Corey Wood. He helped the Muleriders win the regular-season title for the second time in his career and advance to the NCAA Regionals for the third time in his time frame.
Rucker, the unanimous GAC Player of the Year, took home the Central Region Player of the Year award from all the major outlets - National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association, the Division II Conference Commissioner's Association and the American Baseball Coaches Association – and earned First-Team All-America recognition from the NCBWA and D2CCA.
He became the first NCAA College Baseball player in at least the last six years to tally at least 20 doubles, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He finished 2017 atop the GAC in eight major offensive categories – batting average (.393), slugging percentage (.842), on-base percentage (.498), runs scored (67), doubles (20), home runs (20), total bases (165) and times hit by pitch (25).
Rucker, who started his SAU career by earning the GAC Freshman of the Year award and the GAC Tournament MVP award in 2014, closed it by becoming the league’s first four-time all-conference performer. He finished as the GAC’s all-time leader in hits (261), runs (200), RBI (154), doubles (54), home runs (42), total bases (463) and stolen bases (100).
Other nominees for the 2016-17 GAC Male Athlete of the Year award included Arkansas-Monticello junior Jalen Tolliver (Football), Arkansas Tech senior David Martin (Football), East Central senior Braxton Reeves (Basketball), Harding senior Park Parish (Football), Henderson State junior Bryant Haralson (Baseball), Northwestern Oklahoma State senior Reid Miller (Football), Oklahoma Baptist senior Jinny Parra (Baseball), Ouachita junior Tyler Mouton (Soccer), Southeastern Oklahoma State senior Raheem Wilson (Football), Southern Nazarene senior Colin Pasque (Track & Field) and Southwestern Oklahoma State senior Stefan Idstam (Golf).