By Brian Johnson
ECU Sports Information
ADA – Three East Central University student-athletes – softball player Emily Kennemer, cross country runner Armando Saldivar and football player Dontae Smith — are candidates for prestigious awards from the Great American Conference.
Kennemer is a candidate for GAC Female Athlete of the Year and GAC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Smith is up for GAC Male Athlete of the Year and Saldivar is a nominee for GAC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
The conference will announce its Athletes of the Year and Scholar-Athletes of the Year at the GAC Night of Champions on June 20th at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock, Ark.
Kennemer, a senior from Mesquite, Texas, recently graduated from ECU with a degree in Kinesiology Teacher Certification with a 3.97 grade-point average. She earned several awards during her senior year including Capital One NCAA Division II Academic All-America First Team, Capital One All-District First Team, Daktronics First Team All-Region and ECU Female Student-Athlete of the Year.
She was named GAC Player of the Year after leading the league in seven offensive categories – batting average (.455), hits (66), homers (11), doubles (16), total bases (117), on-base percentage (.527) and slugging percentage (.807). She was named GAC Player of the Week three times during the 2012 campaign and had 20 games where she had at least two hits.
Kennemer participated in a wide range of community outreach projects at ECU, including Feed the Families Thanksgiving Dinner, Meet the Tigers Night at LazerZone, ECU Night at McDonald’s and Life of an Athlete.
She was also a member of the ECU Kinesiology Club, ECU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Ada Boys and Girls Club Mentoring Program.
“Emily has been an outstanding contributor and ambassador for East Central University and our athletic department since she stepped on campus in August of 2008. She has demonstrated all the traits we wish all our student-athletes possessed,” said ECU Director of Athletics Brian DeAngelis. “Her commitment, dedication, work ethic and leadership ability have helped propel our softball program to new heights, not just wins and losses, but also in perception.
“She had the utmost respect from her teammates and the other athletes within our athletic program. Emily has always been eager to help with any SAAC activity or community service project we do in the athletic department. All of these attributes have led to Emily being one of the most well-rounded and accomplished student-athletes we’ve had at East Central during my time as athletic director.”
Saldivar, a senior from Fort Worth, Texas, majoring in Kinesiology with a 3.1 GPA, placed 26th at the NCAA Division II National Championships after finishing 10th individually at the NCAA Division II South-Central Regional and second at the inaugural GAC Championships. His efforts helped ECU capture the conference crown and finish runner-up at the regional.
Saldivar was a member of the ECU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as well as participating in various community outreach programs including Feed the Families Thanksgiving Dinner, Meet the Tigers Night at LazerZone, Life of an Athlete Program, mentor for Ada Boys and Girls Club and participant of Salvation Army Bell Ringers.
“Armando has always displayed a high degree of work ethic that is above and beyond that of anyone else. His ambition to succeed in all that he does, whether it be in the classroom or on the cross country course, is something that cannot be taught,” said ECU men’s head cross country coach Steven Sawyer.
Smith, a senior cornerback from Deland, Fla., had a magnificent season on the field for the Tigers on their way to an 8-3 campaign in 2011.
He was named an American Football Coaches Association First Team All-American, Beyond Sports Network First Team All-American and D2Football.com First Team All-American as well as a Daktronics Second Team All-Region as a defensive back.
Additionally, Smith was named an All-GAC First Team as a defensive back and second team all-conference as a return specialist.
Smith led the GAC and ranked second in the nation in kick return average (35.1 yards per attempt), ran two kicks back for touchdowns of 91 and 84 yards and led NCAA Division II at the end of the regular season with 18 pass breakups. He also blocked three kicks, forced a fumble and had four tackles for loss in 2011.
“Dontae has done everything that we’ve asked both athletically and academically in a very positive manner. He was one of the main reasons we were able to turn a 5-6 season into an 8-3 campaign. Dontae’s outgoing personality and willingness to help anyone easily made him a great member of our football program,” said ECU head football coach Tim McCarty. “His dedication was something that I wish a lot more athletes possessed. His leadership, work ethic and tireless commitment endear him to teammates and coaches alike. With Dontae on the field, every team knew his presence there and that is a respect that is earned. He met all challenges with effort and technique which made him an elite player.”