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Locally: Whitworth All-American swimmer Ryan Grady named recipient of Dennis Spurlock Award

UPDATED: Mon., May 9, 2022

Whitworth swimmer Ryan Grady headed to DIII swimming nationals on March 16.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Whitworth swimmer Ryan Grady headed to DIII swimming nationals on March 16. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
From staff and news services

Swimming All-American Ryan Grady, who set four individual school records and two Northwest Conference marks his last year, was named recipient of the 2022 Dennis Spurlock Award when the Whitworth athletic department recognized its outstanding senior athletes for the 2021-22 school year.

The award, in memory of the former Pirates All-America quarterback (1958-61), was established to honor Whitworth student-athletes who model the characteristics of the award’s namesake, specifically modesty, poise and leadership in addition to excellence in athletics performance, drawing respect for the school, the team and the individual.

In addition to the individual records, Grady was a member of three relay teams that set school marks. He concluded his career at the 2022 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships, where he finished fourth in the 200-yard breaststroke, ninth in the 200 individual medley and 11th in the 100 breaststroke.

Men’s basketball player Jordan Lester received the Aaron Leetch Inspiration award, softball’s Maddy Thomas was named Senior Female Athlete of the Year and baseball outfielder Jaxsen Sweum the Senior Male Athlete of the Year.

The Leetch award was created in 2015 to honor the memory of the former Whitworth director of athletics who perished in a plane crash in April of that year. It recognizes a student-athlete who embodies inspiration, passion, perseverance and dedication to their sport.

Lester was part of the men’s basketball program for five seasons (2017-18 through 2021-22) after transferring from the University of Robert Morris. But he was able to play only one full season (2018-19) because each of the other four ended early, never happened or he was injured. He was always there though, supporting and encouraging teammates and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees while retaining his eligibility.

Thomas battled through a severe hip injury in 2022 to play designated hitter, instead of her usual position as catcher. She batted .294 and led the team with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs and led the conference in walks (27), earning honorable mention All-NWC. She ended her career as Whitworth’s all-time leader in home runs (39) and slugging average (.725).

Sweum led the Pirates in batting average (.314), home runs (12), doubles (12), RBIs (27), walks (23) and runs scored (31) this season. His team-leading .720 slugging average ranked second in the NWC and he was third in home runs, earning first team all-conference recognition.

College scene

Washington State fifth-year senior Michaela Bayerlova was named the 2022 Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Singles Player of the Year and senior teammate Savanna Ly-Nguyen received all-conference honorable mention, the Pac-12 announced last week.

The first Cougar honored as the conference player of the year, Bayerlova also was named first-team All-Pac 12 for a third time after being second team last season.

Also last week, the native of Krumbach, Germany, was selected to play in the 2022 NCAA Division I women’s singles championships May 23-28 in Champaign, Illinois. She is ranked No. 36 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and has a 17-2 singles record, including 12-2 at No. 1, and 6-1 against nationally ranked players.

Bayerlova’s third trip to nationals ties Erica Perkins for the most in program history. Bayerlova also played in 2018 and 2019 as a freshman and sophomore. In 2019, she had a first-round win, the first player in school history to win a singles round at the NCAAs.

Ly-Nguyen, playing predominantly No. 2 singles, was 13-7 in dual matches, 6-3 in the Pac-12.

Alyssa Benthagen, Central Washington’s junior catcher from University HS, was a unanimous selection to the 2022 All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference softball team. She hit .312, tied for the conference lead with 11 home runs and tied for seventh with 35 RBIs.

Haley Loffer, College of Idaho’s senior shortstop from Lake City HS, collected two awards when the Cascade Collegiate Conference passed out 2022 softball honors. She was named to the All-CCC first team and was the conference Golden Glove recipient for her position.

Ashton Cathey, Southern Oregon’s junior first baseman from Mt. Spokane, was on the All-CCC second team; Shelby Starr, Eastern Oregon senior outfielder from Timberlake, earned All-CCC honorable mention; and College of Idaho senior Kylie Smith from Coeur d’Alene HS was the Golden Glove winner at second base.

• Gonzaga had two top-15 finishers in the West Coast Conference men’s golf championships, in which the Zags tied for seventh. Senior Charlie Magruder, with a final-round 5-under par 67, tied for ninth at 3-under 213, and junior Zach Stocker (Central Valley), off a 6-under 66 in the final round, tied for 15th at 215.

GU’s other finishers: Matthew Ruel, redshirt senior, tie 33rd, 224; Holden Backs, sr., 37th, 226. The Zags subbed their fifth player in the final round. Sophomore Jace Minni shot 155 in the first two rounds and sophomore Aaron Reinhardt shot 75 in the final round.

Max Sekulic, a Washington State redshirt senior from Rycroft, Alberta, who finished 21st in the 2022 Pac-12 Championships, received honorable mention on the 2021-22 All-Pac-12 men’s golf team.

Sekulic collected his first collegiate win at the Visit Stockton Invitational in late October at 16-under 197 for 54 holes, had six top-25 finishes and led the Cougars in rounds played (28) and scoring average (71.12).

Megan Billeter, the Western Washington junior from Mt. Spokane, and her Vikings teammates didn’t fare well in the NCAA Division II West Regional women’s golf championships last week in Stockton, California. Billeter, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference co-player of the year, was 64th at 24-over 240, and the Vikings were last in the 12-team field at 60-over 924.

• Washington State crews collected four victories with two fifth-place finishes, and Gonzaga crews had two second-place finishes and a fourth during the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships April 30-May 1 in Sacramento.

WSU: Men’s novice B 4+ final, 1st; men’s varsity 8+ petite final, 1st; men’s novice 8+ grand final, 5th; women’s varsity 4+ grand final, 1st; men’s novice 4+ grand final, 5th.

GU: Men’s novice 4+ petite final, 2nd; men’s varsity 8+ grand final, 4th; men’s 2V 8+ final, 2nd.

• Whitworth freshman defender Kenzie Hemman was named to the All-Northwest Conference Women’s Lacrosse second team and Pirates teammates Kylee Walker, a junior attacker, and senior midfielder Madison Perry were honorable mention.

Letters of intent

Gonzaga men’s track/cross country: Caleb Richardson, distances, Gonzaga Prep.

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