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Students recognized for sports achievement

Athletes from the so-called "Olympic Sports" dominated the 1996-97 awards given by the Department of Athletics, Recreation and Physical Education at the Awards Convocation and the 11th annual Celebration of Athletic Excellence Banquet.

Earning the highest awards were N. Katherine Merrilees, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science from Toronto, and Ben W. Leong, a senior in EECS from Singapore, winners of the Malcom Kispert Awards as the male and female senior scholar-athletes of the year.

Ms. Merrilees was named a field hockey All-American and a GTE College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America her senior year. She is also a two-time player of the year in the New England Women's 8 Conference. Ms. Merrilees also began playing lacrosse at MIT, and in 1996 was All-NEW 8 in that sport. In 1996 she was the winner of MIT's top undergraduate women's athlete award.

As well as maintaining a perfect 5.0 grade point average during his MIT career, Mr. Leong was a two-time captain of the pistol team and MVP in 1995-96. He has qualified for the Intercollegiate Pistol Championships both as an individual and as a member of MIT's Standard Pistol Teams. In 1996 he was named an All-America.

The Betsy Schumacker Award, given for excellence in athletic competition by an undergraduate woman, went to Myong-Sin Yi, a junior in chemistry from Elgin, IL. Ms. Yi is the best women's pistol-shooter in the history of MIT and one of best in the country. She was the 1996 national women's individual collegiate air pistol champion and led both the women's air pistol team and the sport pistol team to national championships that year. In 1997 she was one of only two women named to the All-America Pistol team.

The Howard W. Johnson Award for the male senior athlete of the year went to soccer standout Andres J. Villaquiran, a senior in economics from Cali, Colombia. In his four years at MIT, he scored 10 game-winning goals, including four game-winners this year. He was a three-time Constitution Athletic Conference All-Star and was twice named All-New England.

Gymnast Robert A. Cooper, a senior in EECS from Indianapolis, received the Admiral Edward L. Cochrane Award, given to a male senior who has shown the highest qualities of humility, leadership and inspiration in intercollegiate athletics. In addition to holding the all-time best score in MIT history in the all-around, Mr. Cooper won MIT's last meet of the year with a risky vault, despite not vaulting all year because of an injury. He was a two-year captain of the gymnastics squad and was voted team MVP during his career.

The Pewter Bowl Award, recognizing the female senior who has shown the highest qualities of inspiration and leadership in contributing to women's athletics, was awarded to Sarah J. Davis, a senior in materials science and engineering from Louisville, KY. This year she was co-captain of the women's basketball team, which posted its first winning record in 10 years. She also played both softball and soccer.

Winners of the Varsity Club Awards for the male and female freshmen athletes of the year were tennis player Mealani Nakamura of Mililani, HI, and soccer/basketball/lacrosse player John A. Schaeffer of Clinton, MA.

The Harold J. Pettegrove Award, given annually in recognition of outstanding service to intramural athletics, was presented to Reginald F. Paulding, a senior in civil and environmental engineering from Laurelton, NY.

The Burton R. Anderson Award to the intercollegiate manager of the year had two winners: Jill R. Eich, a sophomore in chemical engineering from Spirit Lake, IA (men's volleyball team manager), and Kari A. Backes, a senior in mechanical engineering from Somerville (fencing).

Gold Awards for contributions to the administration of all levels of athletics at MIT were given to Jessica L. Zysk, a sophomore in materials science and engineering from Hampton Falls, NH, and Wanda A. Chin, a senior in chemical engineering from Fairfield, NJ.

The Straight "T" Award, the highest award given for athletic excellence at MIT, went to Jacques M. de Lalaing, a senior in environmental engineering science and mechanical engineering (pistol); Lee A. Knight, a freshman from Port Washington, NY (gymnastics); Matthew B.W. Lau, a senior in EECS from Tacoma, WA (water polo); Zachary O. Lee, a graduate student in EECS from Vancouver (water polo); Ms. Merrilees (field hockey); Ms. Nakamura (tennis); John L. Wallberg, a graduate student in EECS from Thief River Falls, MN (indoor track and field), and Ms. Yi (pistol).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 4, 1997.

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