As some of Eastern Washington University’s best student-athletes hit the finish line Tuesday night, they took one long look back. Getting there was half the fun.
They also looked at the big picture, one that’s much larger than the big screen at the fifth annual EeeWoos awards show held at Showalter Hall.
• For Brad Wall, the four-time Big Sky Conference 400-meter champion, his Eastern experience went far beyond some “great days on the track.” The 2013 Male Career Achievement winner also excelled in the classroom, earning a 3.54 grade-point average while working in the school’s sports information department.
Wall, a journalism major, also lived the sportswriter’s dream: After one meet, he interviewed himself, then sent the story to the regional media.
Along the way, he also met the girl of his dreams, Stephanie Dye. The wedding is next month.
• For Laney Brown, a standout volleyball player who was voted the Student-Athletic Advisory Committee Triple Threat Citizen Award, the finish line was crossed long ago.
That came at the Special Olympics, where the Eagles’ volleyball team has always pitched in. One year, Brown encouraged an autistic boy to the tape by holding out his favorite toy, a plastic lizard.
Brown spent even more time with the American Childhood Cancer Society.
“You see how strong these families are, and how much struggle they go through,” said Brown, who was voted Most Inspirational Player by her teammates after filling in at setter following injuries to other players.
“As a student-athlete you feel privileged, so it’s taught me how to appreciate every moment.”
Brown also volunteered for the Betz Elementary “Jump Rope for Heart” Event and the Second Harvest “Help the Hungry” Sport Night. She also found the time to earn a 3.86 GPA and earn a degree in recreation management.
“I’m very dedicated to my planner,” said Brown, who played in 90 career matches for the Eagles.
• For Jeff Minnerly, a football player who was honored as the Student-Athlete of the Year, the first steps came at home.
“My mom (Kathleen) was always on me as soon as I got home to do my school work, and my dad (Jeff) was always there to help me when I couldn’t wrap my head around things,” said Minnerly, who moved from quarterback to safety and helped the Eagles win the FCS national championship in 2010.
“My parents made a great team and there’s no way I win this award without them,” Minnerly said.
Besides being a three-year starter, Minnerly carried a 3.75 GPA while double-majoring in finance and electrical engineering. That was part of the journey, and not always easy.
“Honestly, you can’t really balance it all,” Minnerly said. “Sometimes you sacrifice school, sometimes you sacrifice your sport a little but, sometimes your social life.”
In the end, it was all worth it. Minnerly’s favorite memory? That’s easy.
“You can’t beat a national title, and that’ll be the answer for the next 30 or 40 years,” Minnerly said.