May 27, 2014 7:39 PM by Jordan Mason
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force athletics recognized several cadet-athletes as the end of the 2013-14 sports season at the Academy's annual awards ceremony recently. Senior track and field star Annette Eichenberger and senior golfer Kyle Westmoreland were named female and male athlete of the year, respectively. Senior diver Rachel Kennedy earned the scholar-athlete award while senior wrestler Devin Hightower won the athletic leadership award. Senior hockey player Adam McKenzie won the athletic excellence award and Erik Smith of the lacrosse team won the athletic achievement award.
A complete round up of the top six award winners, as well as highlights from each sport and the most valuable athlete from each sport follows below.
SCHOLAR-ATHLETE AWARD: Senior diver Rachel Kennedy has a 3.98 grade point average in biology/pre-medical studies. A three-time Mountain West Conference scholar-athlete honoree, Kennedy ranks in the top 10 in her graduating class in academics (fourth), athletics (second) and military performance (sixth). She has been on the Superintendent's list for excellence in academics, athletics and military performance every semester at the Academy. In addition, Kennedy is the top graduate for the department of biology for the class of 2014.
ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP AWARD: Senior wrestler Devin Hightower was selected to serve as one of the Falcons' team captains, providing leadership both on and off the mat. Despite battling injury through the midpoint of the season, Hightower, who finished the year with an 18-13 overall record, battled back to place second at the NCAA West Regional, becoming an NCAA qualifier for the first time. Hightower has also proven himself as a leader in the Cadet Wing throughout his career, including a stint as the Operations Group Commander last summer.
ATHLETIC EXCELLENCE: Adam McKenzie became one of the most decorated Falcon hockey players, both on and off the ice, in school history. A three-time all-Atlantic Hockey Association selection, he was also a three-time academic all-conference selection, a two-time academic all-district honoree and a 2013 Academic All-American. McKenzie carries a 3.89 GPA as an aeronautical engineering major and was the No. 1 cadet in the aeronautical engineering major. A second-team all-conference defenseman and team captain as a senior, he helped lead the Falcons to a regular-season conference championship, two conference tournament titles and two NCAA tournament appearances. He concluded his career ranked 12th in school history in points by a defenseman.
OUTSTANDING ATHLETIC ACHIEVEMENT: Senior lacrosse player Erik Smith was named the recipient of the 2013-14 Athletic Achievement Award. One of the Falcons' best all-around players, Smith became the first player in program history to be drafted professionally, selected by the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse. The four-year starting midfielder closed out his career with 67 goals and 51 assists, while also setting a program record for career ground balls (231). A first-team All-ECAC selection at midfield in 2014, Smith helped lead Air Force to one of its most successful seasons in program history, as the Falcons won a share of the ECAC Lacrosse League regular season championship, captured their first-ever ECAC tournament title and earned their first NCAA bid since 1988. An honorable mention All-American, Smith was also named a USILA Scholar All-American, just the second player in program history to earn the award, and was selected to compete in the North/South All-Star Game.
FEMALE MOST VALUABLE ATHLETE: (as of 20 May 14) Highlighted by the program's first-ever conference title in an indoor running event, Annette Eichenberger is in the midst of a record-setting senior season for Air Force. Eichenberger, who won the conference title in the 800-meter run during the 2014 Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships, set three Academy records during the indoor campaign. In addition to breaking the program's four-year old record in the 800-meter run at Iowa State (2:06.53), Eichenberger also clocked program-best times in the non-traditional 600-meter (1:31.56 at the New Mexico Team invitational) and 1000-meter (2:51.19 at the Holiday Inn Invitational) events. The success continued during the outdoor season, where she clocked the program's fastest Division I time in the 800-meter run (2:04.52, second all-time) at the Drake Relays and posted the Academy's second-fastest overall time in the 1500-meter run (4:23.28) at the Stanford Invitational. Her success wasn't limited to the track, as Eichenberger also shined for the Falcons during the cross country season. The Falcons' team captain, she earned all-conference honors after finishing ninth among 86 runners at the 2013 Mountain West Cross Country Championships.
MALE MOST VALUABLE ATHLETE: Senior Kyle Westmoreland won the team MVP award for the third consecutive season. He tied the school record this season with a 71.7 average per round, equaling Tom Whitney's record set in 2009-10. Westmoreland won the prestigious Patriot All-America Championships in December on the sixth playoff hole, defeating 83 other players. He also won the season-opening Falcon Invitational and finished fourth at the Mountain West Championships, the best finish by an Air Force player at a conference tournament since 1985. Westmoreland, who posted five top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes this year, finished 22nd at the NCAA Division I Region Championships, playing in the tournament for the second consecutive season.