Dorniden, Ness named male and female athletes of the year

Men’s golf and women’s rowing were named Minnesota’s top teams.

Mark Heise

Even Goldy Gopher sported a tie as the Minnesota athletic department put on its own version of a red-carpet affair, hosting the second annual Golden Goldy awards ceremony Sunday at Radisson Hotel.

In an effort to honor outstanding achievements from its athletes, the formal ceremony included everything from food to awards to speeches, and yes, even a red carpet.

Sophomore forward Damian Johnson of the men’s basketball team said he found the event very enjoyable, comparing it to the Academy Awards. Johnson even complimented the food, although he admitted to still being hungry.

“There was a lot of finger food and appetizers,” he said. “I’m used to a bigger meal so I’m still kind of hungry, but it was pretty good.”

Johnson was one of the two athletes to win Breakthrough Athlete of the Year, along with women’s basketball senior forward Leslie Knight.

Both athletes seemed surprised to win the award, although the pair had both shown great strides this season on the court.

Johnson led the team in blocks this season with 46, and grabbed 59 steals as well. Knight meanwhile became a consistent threat offensively, averaging 13.6 points per game, the second-most on her team.

The rowing squad won the women’s Team of the Year award, with coach Wendy Davis fittingly winning the women’s Coach of the Year.

Coach Tubby Smith won the men’s side of that award for his quick turnaround of the basketball program, while the men’s golf team earned Team of the Year honors with their strong 2007 spring season.

Perhaps the most prestigious individual award came late in the presentation however, announcing the male and female Athletes of the Year.

Sophomore wrestler Jayson Ness beat out senior gymnast Mitchell Mays and junior baseball outfielder Matt Nohelty for the men’s award, posting an impressive 39-2 record on the year.

Ness said he was rather surprised to win the award.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all, there were a lot of guys up there I thought would get it before I did,” he said. “But I’m definitely honored to be the one to win out of all the people up for the award.”

In the same way, sophomore Heather Dorniden of the track team seemed surprised to beat out junior basketball forward Emily Fox and junior hockey forward Gigi Marvin to become the female Athlete of the Year.

Dorniden won the Rookie of the Year award last year, and put together solid times in both track and cross country, helping to lead the track team to a Big Ten championship during the indoor season this year.

And while Dorniden didn’t expect the award, she did already have an idea of where she would put it.

“I’m lucky enough to live in the attic of my house, and up to the attic there’s a little shelf,” she said. “I stick my Goldy awards there; it’s kind of a special spot.”

Also winning individual awards this year were freshman swimmer Jillian Tyler and freshman cross country runner Hassan Mead, both earning Rookie of the Year honors.