NJCAA announces 2012 Graber, Rowlands and Plarksi Award winners
July 9, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The NJCAA announced its annual student-athlete of the year awards Monday for the 2011-12 academic year.
Indian River State College (Fla.) sophomore swimmer Tryshia Centeno received the Betty Jo Graber Award as the NJCAA’s top female student-athlete, while Iowa Central Community College sophomore distance runner Stanley Kebenei was tabbed as the top male student-athlete with the David Rowlands Award. Earning the Lea Plarski Award for her dedication to athletics, academics and community service was Elgin Community College (Ill.) sophomore women’s basketball player Cassie Dumoulin.
2012 Betty Jo Graber Award – Tryshia Centeno
Indian River State College, Fla. – Swimming & Diving
Following one of the most impressive seasons in the history of NJCAA swimming, Indian River State College (Fla.) sophomore Tryshia Centeno was named the 2012 Betty Jo Graber Award winner. The Graber Award is presented annually to the top female student-athlete in the NJCAA.
“I’m really proud,” Centeno said. “It is so awesome. It shows that the hard work that we put in during our training really paid off.”
Centeno enjoyed an abundance of success in 2012, claiming seven titles at the NJCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. Playing vital roles in Indian River State’s four relay championships, the breaststroke specialist led the Pioneers to victory in the 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle relay and 400-yard freestyle relay. Individually, Centeno won the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley.
“My favorite memory is definitely from this year’s nationals,” Centeno said. “It was awesome being in our home town. Last year was my freshman year, so it was different and this year I knew what was coming and was prepared for it.”
Cementing her place in the NJCAA record books, Centeno set seven NJCAA records during her sophomore season. At the championship meet alone, Centeno broke four records including – the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.81), 200-yard breaststroke (2:14.48), 200-yard individual medley (2:01.20) and the 400-yard medley relay (3:42.95).
“It’s also about the amount of work that she put in,” said Indian River State head coach Ryan Mallam. “She’s probably the hardest trainer on the team. She never settles and always thinks she can do better. Even after breaking records, she’d be disappointed because she always thought that she could swim faster.”
Centeno’s performance at the championship meet led to her being named the 2012 NJCAA Female Swimmer of the Year. Across the course of her two-year career at Indian River State, Centeno earned 11 national championships and was an 11-time NJCAA All-American. Centeno was also recognized for her sportsmanship with the 2012 Indian River State College Women’s Swimming Pioneer Pride Award.
Translating her success in the pool to success in the classroom, Centeno accumulated a 3.56 grade-point average as a Pioneer and received the Indian River State College Top 10% Student-Athlete Award.
“Since I was little, I’ve always been focused on academics,” Centeno said. “My parents would always push me to get good grades and to succeed in sports.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Centeno first obstacle to overcome when she arrived at Indian River State was the language barrier.
“When I first sat down with her, her English wasn’t that strong,” Mallad said. “That was a challenge in itself – being able to communicate our ideas on what she would need to improve on it order to swim as fast as she could. She not only worked hard physically, but she worked really hard understanding what we were telling her. That is what set her apart from everyone else and led to her success.”
Continuing her swimming career in the NCAA, Centeno will head to Auburn next season. After watching her develop into a star at the junior-college level over the past two seasons, Mallam is confident that Centeno will continue to succeed as a Tiger.
“She’s going to keep putting in the work and dropping those times,” Mallam said. “The numbers that she’s going to put up are going to be even more impressive as the years go by.”
2012 David Rowland Award – Stanley Kebenei
Iowa Central Community College – Cross Country/Half Marathon/Track & Field
Iowa Central Community College sophomore distance runner Stanley Kebenei has been showered with accolades over the past two years. The honors continued for Kebenei this week as he claimed 2012 David Rowlands Award, presented by the NJCAA to the nation’s top male student-athlete.
“I am so proud,” Kebenei said. “I’ve been working so hard for this ever since I came to junior college.”
During his time at Iowa Central, Kebenei dominated the NJCAA’s long distance competitions. Kebenei earned nine individual national championships, leading the Tritons to a national title in the 2011 half marathon and back-to-back indoor track and field crowns in 2011 and 2012.
“He is definitely one of the most talented, if not the most talented runner I’ve ever had,” said Iowa Central track and field head coach Denny Myers.
On the indoor side of Kebenei’s track and field resume are five individual championships and back-to-back Men’s Most Valuable Track Athlete of the Meet awards. Kebenei won the 3K, 5K and mile run in 2011 and the 5K and 1,000-meter run in 2012. At the 2011 Half Marathon Championship, Kebenei acquired another title with a NJCAA-record time of 1:06.17.7. Kebenei’s accomplishments also include victories in the 5K and 1,000-meter run at the 2011 Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Despite all of the victories that Kebenei has acquired over the years, there’s something else about the student-athlete that Myers will remember him by.
“The big smile on his face is what stands out about Stanley,” Myers said. “He’s quick with a smile and there’s not much that brings him down. He’s a pretty happy kid and that’s special in today’s world.”
Hailing from Kenya, Kebenei joins former South Plains College (Texas) runner Sally Kipyego as the second Kenyan student-athlete to earn a NJCAA student-athlete of the year award. Carrying on the storied lineage of Kenyan distance runners, Kebenei combined his inherent talent with an unyielding work ethic to become one of the best distance runners the NJCAA has ever seen.
“Stanley is one of those Kenyan kids that comes from a background of hard work,” Myers said. “Since he was a little kid, he’s been expected to work. That just carries over into what he’s done for us. He practices like nobody else and races like nobody else.”
Despite the preconceived notion that Kenyan distance runners are better due to their country’s geography, Kebenei stated that the biggest obstacle he has faced since coming to America is the change in climate. Coming from a region of mild temperatures with low variability, the United States presented Kebenei with weather that fluctuated more between the two extremes.
“The biggest challenge has been the training in the weather,” Kebenei said. “Coming from Kenya straight to the United States, it was strange that it was cold enough to be snowing and then all of a sudden it was a hot summer.”
Kebenei was favored to add even more notches to his belt at the 2012 Outdoor Track & Field Championships but his junior-college career was cut short when he suffered a hip flexor.
“My injury was a surprise to me because I didn’t even know that I had an injury,” Kebenei said. “It just came on slowly. When the season started it, I began feeling it and it just got worse. After starting treatment, I’m starting to feel better.
Looking forward to his recovery, Kebenei is anxious to continue his running career next season at the University of Arkansas. Kebenei’s desire after graduating is to work in international criminal justice, but right now there is only one goal on his mind: winning.
“When I get to the NCAA, I really want to win a national title,” Kebenei said. “I think that by working hard like I did in junior college, I have a chance to be great. I can’t wait to get there.”
Kebenei’s superior athletic ability gave him the tools to be the top male student-athlete in the nation. His hard work however, is what led him to becoming one of the most successful distance runners in NJCAA history and the winner of the 2012 Rowlands Award.
2012 Lea Plarski Award – Cassie Dumoulin
Elgin Community College, Ill. – Women's Basketball
For her dedicated commitment to athletics, academics and community service, Elgin Community College (Ill.) women’s basketball player Cassie Dumoulin was recognized by the NJCAA as the 2012 Lea Plarski Award recipient. The Plarski Award is presented annually to the student-athlete who best exemplifies the core values that are promoted by the NJCAA.
“It means a great deal to me,” Dumoulin said. “It’s a very elite award and it’s a testament to all the people who have made an impact in my life and made me who I am today. I’m completely honored to win an award named after a woman that has done so much for athletics and made it possible for me to continue my athletic career. Words just can’t express how awesome it is.”
“This is as proud as I’ve been as a head coach for any player,” said Elgin women’s basketball head coach Jerry McLaughlin. “This is special because it’s an award that embodies academic achievement, athletic achievement, volunteer work, community service and leadership on and off the floor.”
On the basketball court, Dumoulin was a floor general for the Spartans the past two seasons. As a freshman, Dumoulin ranked fourth in Division II in scoring with 22.9 points per game and was a NJCAA third team All-American selection. Dumoulin ranked fifth in DII in scoring with 22.0 points per game and was a NJCAA second team All-American during her sophomore campaign. The two-time Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Year finished her career with 1,393 points. Dumoulin is the only basketball player, male or female, to score 1,000 career points in Elgin history.
“The best part of her is her focus and leadership on and off the floor,” McLaughlin said. “She’s so coachable and is the epitome of a student-athlete. Everything was always even-keeled with her. You could never tell if we were up by 10 or down by 10. She always had the same demeanor and coachable attitude for two-straight years.”
Impressing McLaughlin more than her athletic abilities was Dumoulin’s leadership and sportsmanship – two cornerstones of the Plarski Award.
“She would be the leader from the beginning of the game to the end,” McLaughlin said. “She always led by example, never made excuses, looked at a referee wrong or blamed opposing players. In warm-ups, she’d always say hello to the opposing coach and referees. Her focus on trying to win the right way sticks out in my mind.”
Off the court, Dumoulin was able to translate her success to the classroom where she earned a 4.0 grade-point average and membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. With aspirations of becoming an engineer, Dumoulin challenged herself academically with a laborious load of difficult math and science courses that many student-athletes would steer away from.
“It’s all about time management,” Dumoulin said. “Having the support of my family that has always allowed me to do everything I’ve wanted to do has a lot to do with it. Without them, I wouldn’t be comfortable in tackling that busy of a schedule.”
Despite enduring a congested agenda between basketball and class, Dumoulin still found time in her day to give back to the community. Dumoulin was involved in several community service projects throughout her time at Elgin including American Cancer Relay for Life, Feed My Starving Children and the basketball team’s fundraiser for The V Foundation.
“It is so important to give back to your community,” Dumoulin said. “Everyone is given gifts and talents that you’re supposed to use and not just for yourself, but also to help others. There are certain things that I am able to do and it’s only right for me to share them with others.”
“In my 30 years of coaching, she’s been the most outstanding person to go out in the community and always volunteer wherever she was needed,” McLaughlin said. “Her commitment to the community is a reflection of her parents, grandparents and the way she was brought up. Her whole family is very humble. They all have the same kind of attitude towards community service, church and family.”
Dumoulin will move on to the University of Illinois this fall where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. With a successful background and a bright future ahead, Dumoulin exhibits everything that the NJCAA strives to instill in its student-athletes.
“The best compliment I’ve ever heard from people is that as great as an athlete she is and as great as a student she is, she’s an even better human being,” McLaughlin said. “That is the best compliment you could ever give a person. If you transcend just being a student-athlete and are a great human being, that shows what you’re all about.”
ABOUT the NJCAA
The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) is the governing body of two-year college athletics, offering endless athletic and academic opportunities to college students. It is the second largest national intercollegiate athletic organization in the United States with over 500 member schools in 43 states. Each year over 50,000 student-athletes compete in one of 28 different sports and the organization sponsors 48 national championship events and nine football bowl games each year. For more visit www.njcaa.org.