MARQUETTE, Mi. April 30, 2020
MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University Athletic Department presents the 2019-20 Wildcat Awards. This year, the awards will be presented through the next several days through social media and the official NMU Athletics website.
Awards will be presented through Monday, May 4, finishing with the the announcement of the Gildo Canale Outstanding Senior Award, Athletes of the Year, and Team of the Year.
NEWCOMERS OF THE YEAR
The female Newcomer of the Year was Volleyball freshman Lauren Van Remortel (Carmel, Ind.). Van Remortel finished the year leading the Wildcats with 1,085 assists in her debut season. She also tied for third on the team with 19 aces and fourth with 215 digs and 40 blocks. Against Ashland University in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Quarterfinals, she tallied 60 assists in a match to help the Wildcats pull off the 3-2 upset.
The male recipient was freshman Roberto Camera (Rozzano, Italy). Camera highlighted his rookie campaign with a first-place finish in the 100-yard Breaststroke at the GLIAC Championships. He qualified for the 50-yard Freestyle plus the 100 & 200-yard Breaststroke for the NCAA Championships that were cut short. The freshman went on to earn Honorary All-American honors as a part of the 200-yard Freestyle Relay and with the 400-yard Medley Relay.
HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR
Sophomore Ryan Glover (Marquette, Mich.) was named this year's Humanitarian of the Year. This year, Glover has helped co-run an after school program at Cherry Creek Elementary School called Kids for Change, a group that works with UPAWS and local nursing homes. He also volunteers at local homeless shelter, Room at the Inn, covering overnight shifts where it can be hard to find help. Over the summer, he took his talents to help out with the Bay Cliff Therapy Camp, serving as a swim instructor.
When asked what this award would mean to him, he is hesitant to accept. "I don't really think I need an award at all," he said. "The way I look at it, all the hours I've logged volunteering have been paid for by the Marquette community that has given me every opportunity I need to succeed. I've also been very proud of the work our community does to those who need help, and I'm just glad to give back however I am able to."
BIGGEST UPSET OF THE YEAR
Looking to return to the GLIAC Semifinals for the second straight year, the NMU Men's Basketball team had to pull off a huge upset, defeating top-seeded and nationally ranked #11, Ferris State University, on their home floor in the Quarterfinals. With a 70-69 victory, the squad pulled off the upset.
The Wildcats faced a 36-31 deficit at the half but outscored the Bulldogs 39-33 in the second half. Senior Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill.) gave NMU a 59-57 lead with 7:23 to play for the team's first lead since scoring the first basket of the game. The hosts retook the lead with two minutes left but sophomore Dolapo Olayinka (Chicago, Ill.) sank three free throws with 51 seconds left to give NMU a 66-65 lead.
Olayina then added a layup and Taylor made two free throws to make the score 70-66 with 12 seconds remaining. Ferris State hit a three with six seconds left and had a chance to take the win but their last second shot was missed to give NMU Men's Basketball the 70-69 upset win.
The classic 1 vs. 8 matchup. @NMUMensBBall went into Big Rapids for the GLIAC Tournament and downed top-seeded Ferris State, 70-69, on their home court to advance to the semifinals!
BEST PERFORMANCE ON THE NATIONAL SCENE
National Training Site athletes Alston Nutter and Taylor Turner earned the Best Performance on the National Scene Award.
Freshman wrestler Alston Nutter (Fennimore, Wis.) competed in the 63 kg weight class and faced Kamil Czarnecki of Poland in the bronze-medal match. Czarnecki was up 6-0 over Nutter before Nutter was able to throw and secure his win with a pin with 4:44 left on the clock. Alston was on the Jr. World Team last year as well and finished in 27th place. He qualified for the team in 2019 but in the World Team Trials he qualified in five matches, none of which made it past the first round. (He is also qualified to compete in the Olympic Trials)
Senior Taylor Turner (St. Augustine, Fla.) is ranked #1 in the country at 59kg. She won the American Open Finals which put her on the world team but was not able to attend. Turner also competed in Switzerland at the Challenge 210 competition and placed second overall and first in the clean and jerk (second total, second snatch). She won the American open finals as well to earn a spot on the Senior Pan American Team and will compete once it's rescheduled.
BRIAN FRANKS "TOO STRONG" AWARD
Brian Franks was an all U.P. dream team, all-state and hall-of-fame offensive linemen from Escanaba, Michigan. Brian later became the leader of the NMU offensive line during some of the most prolific running attacks in Wildcat football history, earning him all GLIAC first team and most valuable lineman honors. Brian was a critical senior leader on the 1987 undefeated GLIAC champions and #1 ranked NCAA Division II football team in the nation. He was a truly great football player, leader and teammate.
However, this award has nothing to do with Brian's athletic accomplishments. In 2009, Brian was first diagnosed with cancer and began a journey of battling this horrible disease. For the next nine years, Brian endured several major surgeries, years of chemotherapy, and countless efforts undergoing experimental procedures and medications to try and hold off the effects of this mysterious and deadly disease.
Throughout this time, as he physically deteriorated, Brian continued to be an amazing father, devoted husband and special friend. He somehow managed to continue to be a highly successful business person, despite the tremendous physical and emotional hardships he faced. And although he had every right to be down, angry, and focused on himself, he was the opposite — always sharing a smile or a joke, upbeat and more concerned about his beautiful wife Ann, his amazing children, Zach, Abby, and Grace, his parents, brothers and even his goofball Wildcat friends, than he was concerned about himself.
Brian was quite simply TOO STRONG to let anything prevent him from being the man he intended to be and to make those around him better by his presence.
On February 21, 2018, Brian left this earth. At his memorial, on a card bearing Brian's picture with his usual smile, he left us with two quotes that summed up Brian's attitude toward his 9-year battle:
First quoting the late great NC State Basketball Coach Jim Valvano: "Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever."
And from the late ESPN Announcer, Stuart Scott: "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer, you beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner which you live."
This year's winners of the Brian Franks Too Strong Award are Nick Metcalfe and Rachel Helm.
Senior Nick Metcalfe (Royal Oak, Mich.) has provided NMU Men's Soccer a key presence on the field and suffered a concussion last season that cost him the final four games of the 2018 season. The concussion eventually lead to something more serious.
Metcalfe starting getting a high fever and suffer from chills and cold sweats before noticeably losing weight quickly. He was eventually admitted into the ICU in Detroit, Michigan. After numerous tests, it was discovered that he suffered from a blood infection that resulted on three blood abscesses on his liver, the largest of which was 10 centimeters.
He would spend 10 days in ICU and a total of two weeks in the hospital. During that time, he lost close to 50 pounds. He was released shortly before Thanksgiving put continued to receive an IV of antibiotics through January of 2019. He also began physical therapy where he had to work on building the strength to walk again due to the rapid weight loss.
Senior Rachel Helm (Newcastle, England) is a multi-time GLIAC Champion for the Women's Swim & Dive team and has been named GLIAC Female Swimmer of the Year the past two seasons. This year she suffered from a torn labrum and rotator cuff.
From this, she developed a sac of fluid which meant her shoulder would not stay in place. As a result, she suffered 12 dislocation which prevented her from training very often throughout the season. Instead, she would be found in the training room. With the help of the NMU Athletic Trainers, her coaches and teammates, she was eventually able to be cleared to compete in the GLIAC Championships where she successfully defended two GLIAC Championships.
INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Freshman Ryan Palmbaum (Rocklin, Calif.) was the male winner. Palmbaum made NMU Men's Soccer history with the fastest hat trick in school history and second fastest in NCAA Division II history by scoring three goals in less than four minutes in a victory over Upper Iowa University. With the goal tied 1-1, the freshman scored his first goal of the game to give the Wildcats a lead at the 50 minute mark. He then scored again two minutes later. His third goal came at 53:45 which gave NMU a 4-1 victory.
On the women's side, there was a tie.
Sophomore Caroline Halonen (Hartland, Mich.) aided NMU Women's Soccer to a 3-2 victory over rival Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. Halonen scored an unassisted goal to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead just 2:39 into the game. After Michigan Tech tied the score, Halonen found teammate senior Gaelin Hirabayashi (Ijamsville, Md.) to give NMU a 2-1 lead at the 32:45 mark. The Wildcats went on to win the match 3-2.
Senior Jessica Schultz (Mineral Point, Wis.) scored 36 points against Purdue University Northwest for the ninth-most points in a game in NMU Women's Basketball program history. She scored the first eight points for NMU then added eight more points in the second quarter to enter the half with 16 points. In the third quarter, she scored the final 10 points of the quarter, posting 12 points in the frame. The fourth quarter saw her add another eight points. The senior captain shot 77% from the field as she finished 17-22, and added a 2-2 performance from the free throw line. She also grabbed a team-best eight rebounds along with two assists and two blocked shots.
TEAM COMMUNITY ENAGEMENT
The Wildcat Hockey team continued to grow their commitment to the greater Marquette community through various outreach programs in 2019-20. These included the third annual Potulny Pasta party in partnership with the Marquette Junior Hockey program, volunteering on campus, assisting in the creation of the Wild student section, among other volunteer activities.
From the Potulny Pasta party, creating the nationally recognized Wild student section, volunteering with Marquette Junior Hockey and so much more took every opportunity to give back to the ones who support them every weekend.
RECORD BREAKING PERFORMANCE
Senior Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill.) received the Best Record-Breaking Performance after he set a new school record for blocked shots in a career. Finishing with 226 blocks over his four years at NMU, Howard set the school record with his third block of the game against the University of Wisconsin Parkside on February 6 in the Berry Events Center. The senior broke the previous record of 212 set by NMU Athletics Hall of Famer Ricky Volcy.
MOST INFLUENTIAL/SUPPORTIVE FACULTY MEMBER
Dr. John Rebers, a biology professor at NMU, was named the Most Influential/Supportive Faculty Member this year. Rebers was nominated primarily for his efforts in December and January with NMU Football recruiting events. Rebers participated in five separate events during those two months and was willing to spend up to three hours with prospective student-athletes and their families. According to Assistant Football Coach Scott McDougall, "Dr. Rebers always had a positive and light-hearted manner he would show up in and has a way to make prospective student-athletes feel right at home at NMU."