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Liberty's Arlene Zelinskas Named Big South Woman of the Year
Zelinskas and Lady Flame senior tennis player Jonita Randolph (Townville, S.C.) become Liberty's second and third female student-athletes to receive the lofty honor as Heather Zealand (Sagan) was nominated in 2002. Zealand, currently an assistant cross country/track coach with the Flames, dotted a stellar career at Liberty by capturing the national title at the NCAA Indoor Championship in 2001 and was one of 50 national student-athletes to receive consideration for the NCAA Woman of the Year in 2002.
Zelinskas was honored as the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year in outdoor track twice in her career, was named to four Big South All-Academic teams, was named to the Big South Presidential Honor Roll three times, was a 2006 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Women's All-Academic Track & Field Team member, was an eight-time member of Liberty's Dean's List, received Virginia Sports Information Directors Association (VaSID) All-State All-Academic team honors in 2006, served as team captain for Liberty's track and field teams from 2005-07 and was named the Big South Indoor Track Outstanding Women's Performer of the Year in 2006 and 2007. She also owns two Big South records (indoor 60-meter hurdles and pentathlon), as well as four school records (indoor 55-meter hurdles, 60-meter hurdles, pentathlon and outdoor 4x100 meter relay). Zelinskas also won a total of eight Big South event titles during her career.
Zelinskas recently won Liberty's Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award, the university's highest athletic honor presented each year to a senior student-athlete. She also volunteered to conduct research and compile grant applications at the Lynchburg YMCA, served on the Big South Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, volunteered in Habitat for Humanity projects, served as a track and field official for high school meets and participated in an international mission trip called the Heifer Project. Zelinskas graduated earlier this month with a 3.96 GPA in Biology.
Zelinskas recently helped Liberty capture the 2007 Big South Women's Outdoor Track Championship, contributing 38.5 points to the Lady Flames' first conference title since 2003. She is now pursuing the goal of qualifying for the 2007 NCAA National Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The senior has provisionally qualified for the meet in the heptathlon. Zelinskas is also entered in the 100-meter hurdles, high jump and 4 x 100 relay at this weekend's NCAA East Regional Track & Field Championships, in Gainesville, Fla.
As the Big South Woman of the Year, Zelinskas is nominated as a candidate for the national NCAA Woman of the Year Award. The NCAA also allows Conferences to nominate a second candidate if one of the two student-athletes is a minority. Randolph, a finalist for the Big South Woman of the Year award, is also nominated by the Conference for the NCAA award.
Randolph received the National Collegiate Minority Leadership Award, sponsored by the United States Achievement Academy in 2005-06. During the 2003-04 academic year, she was inducted into Alpha Lambda Gamma Society. In addition, she's been a three-time Big South Presidential Honor Roll member, a three-time women's tennis All-Academic team selection and was named third-team VaSID Academic All-State team for 2005-06. During her Liberty career, she served as a team captain three years, was a devotional leader and a Spiritual Life Director. She also participated in several campus life activities, visited a local nursing home weekly and served on a mission trip to Guatemala. Randolph played at No. 1 singles for the Lady Flames and was a three-time First-team All-Conference Singles and Doubles selection and was voted Big South Women's Tennis Player of the Year in 2007. She became Liberty's all-time winningest tennis player, male or female, on March 14.
Also nominated for Big South Woman of the Year were Coastal Carolina track athlete Chasity Johnson (North Charleston, S.C.), High Point soccer player Traci Andersen (Hayes, Va.), Radford swimmer Kelly Wallace (Yorktown, Va.), UNC Asheville volleyball player Elif Unlu (Izmir, Turkey), VMI soccer player Karen Bill (Yorktown, Va.), VMI track athlete Ketra Alexander (Miami, Fla.) and Winthrop volleyball player Emily Heckl (Corrales, N.M.)
Johnson earned All-America honors in indoor track in 2005 and has been an All-Conference performer in the triple jump, jumps and sprints in both indoor and outdoor track during her career. She was voted the Big South's Outstanding Track and Field Female Athlete of the Year in 2005 and the League's Most Outstanding Field Performer in 2004 and 2005, and is the Big South record holder in both indoor and outdoor track in the triple and long jumps. Johnson participated in the Coastal Carolina University Community Spring Festival, the CCU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, was a CCU mentor, and volunteered at the Kingston Nursing Center.
Andersen, the 2007 Big South women's soccer co-Scholar-Athlete of the Year, was a two-time ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District second-team selection and has been named to the Big South Presidential Honor Roll three times. She also was a Millis Scholar-Athlete four years, a High Point University Junior Marshall and a Dean's List honoree. Andersen, who ranks among High Point's all-time Division I career leaders in points and goals, earned First-team All-Conference honors in 2005 and was a member of the Panthers' NCAA Tournament squad in 2003. While at High Point, she was served as a student-athlete mentor, participated in Big Brothers/Big Sisters and was a member of the Phil Sigma Iota Foreign Language Honors Society.
Wallace was a three-time First-team All-Conference swimmer for Radford in the back stroke and freestyle. She received the RU Foundation Scholarship, the Sandy McPherson Scholarship and has been a Big South Presidential Honor Roll member during her career. Wallace was a team captain, volunteered with several local youth organizations, and participated in Hurricane Katrina Relief in Mississippi and Habitat For Humanity projects as a collegian.
Unlu, a three-time volleyball All-Conference selection – including two First-team nods, was named honorable mention All-America by the AVCA in 2005. She earned Big South All-Tournament team honors twice, was named to the League's All-Freshman team in 2003, was selected as UNC Asheville's Female Athlete of the Year in 2006, was the Western North Carolina College Athlete of the Year and a North Carolina All-State player this past season. Unlu is a Presidential Honor Roll member, received the David Reiner Outstanding Achievement in Economics Award and was a four-year member of the Athletic Director's 3.0 Club. While at Asheville, Unlu was a four-year member of SAAC and served as president in 2005-06, and was involved in Student Government and the Economics Club.
Bill was a four-year letterwinner for the Keydets, was a two-time member of the Conference's Women's Soccer All-Academic team and departs VMI as the school's all-time leader in games played and started (67). She has been a Presidential Honor Roll member, a Dean's List member, received the CEE VMI W.H. Pettigrew Academic Scholarship, has been involved in the Phi Eta Sigma Academic Honor Society since 2004 and presented at the inaugural Big South Undergraduate Research Symposium in March. In addition, Bill served on the S-6 Regimental Staff (VMI Cadet Athlete Organization) and was involved in SAAC as well as Big Brothers/Big Sisters. She also served as team captain and on the Cadet Cadre during her time at VMI.
Alexander served as team captain for VMI's indoor and outdoor track teams and participated all four years in throwing events. She volunteered at local clinics and shelters, as well as various community outreach programs. In addition, she served as president of the Promaji Club, VMI's campus multi-cultural club, and was a cheerleading co-captain in 2004-05. Alexander, who was named to the Dean's List in the 2006 fall semester, is VMI's record holder in the weight throw (indoor) and hammer throw (outdoor), and qualified for the ECAC Indoor and Outdoor Championships as well.
Heckl helped Winthrop reach the NCAA Tournament all four years and earned All-Conference honors three times during her career. She earned All-Freshman team honors in 2003, was named the Big South Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2006, has been a Big South Presidential Honor Roll member every year, earned ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District second-team honors in 2006 and received the Winthrop American Legion Award for Service/Leadership. In addition, Heckl received the History Department Award of Acheivement in 2005, published two abstracts in the 2006 Undergraduate Scholarship and published one abstract in the 2007 Winthrop University Abstract Book. Her community involvement includes several local youth initiatives, volunteered at the Southern Regional Honors Conference for WU Honors Program, and participated in Habitat for Humanity events, among others.
"I am always amazed at the accomplishments of our Woman of the Year nominees, and this year is no different," said Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander. "These are outstanding young women that deserve this recognition and praise. They represent the highest ideals of collegiate athletics in the Big South."
The NCAA will announce the top 10 winners per Division in August, then the top three winners per Division in September. The national winner will be announced at the Awards Dinner in Indianapolis on Saturday, Oct. 27. The Big South had its first national finalist in 2005 when Winthrop's Janiva Willis was named one of the 10 finalists.