FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas Athletic Department has selected Razorback student-athletes Stephanie Carr, Jonathan Luigs, Aurelija Miseviciute and Blake Strode as the 2009 Salute to Excellence award winners, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long announced today.
These student-athletes will be honored at the newly named Razorback Red Tie Dinner at the Embassy Suites in Rogers, Ark., Saturday, Jan. 31.
"We are proud to recognize the academic and athletic accomplishments of these four extraordinary student-athletes," Long said. "Stephanie, Jonathan, Aurelija and Blake are outstanding representatives of the Razorback program and our 462 student-athletes. We look forward to a memorable evening as we celebrate the achievements of our honorees in the classroom, in athletic competition and in the community."
The event begins with a silent auction at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner, the awards presentation and a live auction. The event is open to the public and tickets for the Razorback Red Tie event are currently on sale. For more information and prices, please call 479-575-5139.
The event, formerly known as the Lady Razorback Red Tie Dinner and Auction, has been expanded to honor both male and female student-athletes whose performance throughout his or her career serves to lift up his or her sport to new heights and whose character exemplifies the goals of the University of Arkansas Department of Athletics.
Among the attributes considered for selection are: outstanding athletic achievement, demonstrated leadership ability, a strong commitment toward academic achievement and community involvement.
A senior swimmer, Carr is one of the Razorbacks’ top distance freestyle swimmers, holding the Arkansas record in both the 1,000 free (9:44.46) and the 1,650 free (16:12.90). Carr’s best times in both events this season rank in the top 30 in the country. She was also part of the team that broke an 18-year-old school record in the 800 freestyle relay (7:19.14).
During the 2007-08 season, Carr’s first after transferring to Arkansas from Georgia, she earned All-America honors in the 1,650. Carr was named an honorable-mention All-American twice before as a member of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Carr made her third NCAA Championship appearance last year swimming in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Her time of 1:49.62 in the 200 freestyle is the second fastest time in Arkansas history and her 500 freestyle time of 4:44.06 is the fourth fastest in school history.
This season, Carr has four first-place finishes, including two, in the 500 and 1,000 freestyles, in the No. 22 Razorbacks’ upset of then-No. 14 SMU.
Much more than an athlete, Carr is a standout student as well, garnering ESPN, The Magazine Academic All-District honors in 2008 as well as spots on the SEC and Razorbacks Athletic Department Honor Rolls.
The most decorated center in Arkansas history Luigs ended his career as the first Razorback center to win a national award and just the fourth player in school history to be recognized as the best at their position.
Luigs won the 2007 Rimington Trophy which goes to the nation’s best center and was a finalist for the award in 2008. He was a multiple-time all-Southeastern Conference honoree and a four-year starter for the Razorbacks at guard and center. He ended his career with 46 consecutive starts at center and the anchor of an offensive line that was known for its run blocking his junior year and for setting the Arkansas single-season passing record when he was a senior.
Luigs was honored as a First-Team All-American by the Football Writer’s Association, the Walker Camp Foundation, Sporting News, Rivals.com, CBSSports.com, Phil Steele College Football and College Football News in 2007. He earned second-team honors by the Associated Press and was an honorable mention All-American by Pro Football Weekly. Luigs’ 2008 honors include First-Team Pre-Season All-America, Phil Steele’s First-Team All-SEC, AP First-Team All-SEC, SEC Coaches’ Second-Team All-SEC and Rimington Trophy finalist.
Aurelija Miseviciute defined herself as one of the nation’s best women’s tennis players in the fall of 2007. It was during that stretch of tournaments that Miseviciute’s game rose above all others as she finished with a 27-1 overall record in route to claiming the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship. Her play did not only grab attention at the University of Arkansas, but she opened eyes on a national level rocketing from a ranking of 119 to begin the fall, to No. 1 in the spring.
After establishing herself as a force in NCAA women’s tennis, Miseviciute shifted her focus to leading the Razorbacks to team honors. In part to having the No. 1-ranked women’s tennis player leading the team, Arkansas was picked by the coaches to win the SEC’s Western Division. The Razorbacks not only won the SEC West for the first time in school history but also made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, the program’s first. Much of this success was due in part to Miseviciute claiming 56 overall wins in 2007-08, setting a school record for most singles season wins by a men’s or women’s tennis athlete. The native of Lithuania, also made it into the final four of the NCAA Singles Championships in the spring of 2008.
Miseviciute does not only reign superbly on the court, but being named SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year and a member of the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America At-Large Team proved her dominance in the classroom. Adding to her classroom achievements, she was named an ITA All-American, All SEC First-Team, a Honda Award Finalist, as well being a member of the ITA All-Star team.
Once again being ranked No.1 overall in singles, Miseviciute look determine to have another stellar fall season in 2008. She finished 16-1 overall, putting her in second-place of all-time wins with 104, only four behind the top-spot. In doubles she and teammate Ela Kaluder set a new all-time record for doubles wins with 63 for their career. In addition to climbing up the record books at Arkansas in the fall, Miseviciute also defended her ITA National Indoor title in fine fashion by claiming the crown for the second-consecutive season.
The Razorbacks men’s No. 1 tennis player, Blake Strode began the 2009 spring season ranked No. 15 in the country in singles, his highest ranking to date. He and partner Matt Hogan were ranked as the No. 14 doubles team entering the 2009 spring season.
Strode has excelled from the start of his career at Arkansas, posting a 27-7 record as a freshman, more wins than any other SEC freshman during the 2005-06 season. In central region competition, Strode finished 8-0 and closed out the season as the No. 10 regional player. On the national level, Strode rose as high as No. 19 in the singles rankings. For his on-court efforts, Strode was named to the All-SEC Second Team, only the second freshman in Arkansas history to earn All-SEC honors.
Strode came back in the fall of 2006 and advanced into the semifinal round of the ITA Central Region Championships. The following spring, Strode rose to the top of the Razorbacks lineup, going 17-7 overall and 7-4 in SEC play at the No. 1 position. Strode and doubles partner Colin Mascall were ranked as high as No. 15 in the spring of 2007, compiling a 15-8 dual record and qualifying for the NCAA Doubles Championships.
Strode also qualified for the NCAA Singles Championships where he advanced to the round of 32. Once again, Strode earned SEC accolades, this time as a member of the first team All-SEC.
Now a senior, Strode has amassed over 70 singles victories on the court while excelling in the classroom as well. A two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree, Strode was the 2008 SEC Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year, and has appeared on the SEC Honor Roll. Also in 2008, Strode was the recipient of the Central Region ITA/Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership & Sportsmanship.
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