Ashley Rininger, a senior post player on Liberty's women's basketball team, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award. The award was announced as part of the FLAMESPY Award show on Monday evening.
In 1974, the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award was established to honor the top graduating senior student-athlete at Liberty University who best exemplifies the standards and lives of both of these great Christian men.
Rock Royer was Liberty's first football coach in 1973. Mac Rivera was a member of Liberty's men's basketball team from 1972 until 1975. Both Rock Royer and Mac Rivera tragically died at a young age, with Royer dying in a plane crash and Rivera passing away after a fall.
This award encompasses more than just athletic ability. It recognizes the Liberty University graduating senior student-athlete who has maintained an exemplary testimony on the playing field, in the classroom and among the student body.
"Ashley has maintained an amazing work ethic, balancing the rigors of Division I athletics and her education, while also being involved in numerous community service projects and active on campus," stated Liberty Women's Basketball Head Coach Carey Green. "She is much more than a basketball player, because she will impact the world and influence many others in the future."
Rininger had a major impact during her time on the hardwood for the Lady Flames, leading the team to two Big South titles and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. The native of Canton, Ohio earned numerous awards, including the 2015 Big South Championship MVP trophy and a pair of first team All-Big South selections (2014 and 2015).
Rininger finished her career ranked among the top seven players in program history in seven different categories, including rebounds (fourth, 952), offensive rebounds (fourth, 377), blocked shots (fourth, 156), double-doubles (fourth, 36), field goal percentage (fourth, 52.3), defensive rebounds (fifth, 575) and points (seventh, 1,380).
Off the court, Rininger became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor's degree. Remarkably, she is now on track to complete her third degree, a master's degree in criminal justice, this summer. Previously, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 2014 and added a master's degree in human services counseling in 2015. Rininger, an aspiring FBI agent, has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her five years on campus.
Rininger has been recognized for her academic excellence, becoming just the fourth Liberty student-athlete and the first women's basketball player ever to earn back-to-back first team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors (2015 and 2016). Rininger also became the Big South's first-ever three-time Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's basketball (2014, 2015 and 2016).
While she was not practicing or studying, Rininger found time for additional activities around campus and in the community. She worked for Liberty's grounds department for three years, clocking up to 40 hours per week over the summer and 20-30 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters.
Rininger was a two-year member of Liberty's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), serving as the group's vice president. She also worked as secretary for the Big South Conference SAAC.
Rininger was involved with various activities in local elementary and middle schools, summer basketball camps and clinics, Liberty's Reading Buddies program, Operation Christmas Child and volunteering at a nursing home, among other community service activities.
"Being a part of this team and having the opportunity to attend this school was always so much more than basketball to me," Rininger said. "It was a chance to better myself and prepare as best as I could for my future career so that I can continue to glorify God in all that I do.
"Along the way, I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to invest in young people through the avenue of basketball in camps and events in local schools. It has always been my desire to help people, and with the education that I have received and the desire to invest in others that has been cultivated, I am ready to begin my career in law enforcement.
"My time at Liberty has been the biggest blessing of my life, and I am so thankful that I had the privilege to attend this university."
Rininger is the first women's basketball player to earn the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award since Allyson Fasnacht in 2008.
A total of seven women's basketball players have received Liberty's top student-athlete honor, as Rininger and Fasnacht were preceded by Sharon Snodgrass (1982), Pam Wilder (1987), Lynn Attwood (1990), Theresa Bream (1993) and Elena Kisseleva (2000).
Rininger is the 49th overall recipient of this distinguished award, and this is the 43rd year Liberty Athletics has presented its top athletics honor to a well-deserving graduating senior student-athlete.
Rock Royer Award 1974 – Rick Herceg – Football 1975 - Sling Patterson – Football 1976 - David Neff – Football 1977 - Scott Goetz – Football
Mac Rivera Award 1977 - Paul Dalton - Men's Basketball
Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award 1978 - Gary Avila – Wrestling 1979 - Dave Anderson – Football 1980 - Karl Hess - Men's Basketball 1981 - David "D.J." Hertzler – Football 1982 - Sharon Snodgrass - Women's Basketball 1983 - Bill Gillespie - Football/Men's Track & Field 1984 - Rick Seilhamer - Wrestling 1985 - Sue Andrew - Women's Cross Country/Track & Field 1985 - Dave Bream - Baseball 1986 - Ron Stamer - Men's Soccer 1987 - Pam Wilder - Women's Basketball 1988 – Annie Hunt Fairchild – Women's Cross Country/Track & Field 1988 – Andre Sims – Football 1989 - Kathy Guetterman - Volleyball 1990 - Lynn Attwood – Women's Cross Country/Track & Field/Women's Basketball 1991 - Craig Holiday - Wrestling 1992 - Mike Coleman - Men's Basketball 1993 - Theresa Bream - Volleyball/Women's Basketball 1994 - James Downey - Football 1994 - Matt Hildebrand - Men's Basketball 1995 - Todd Setsma - Men's Golf 1996 - Ryan Werner – Men's Track & Field 1997 - Michael Prettyman – Men's Track & Field 1998 - Ben Anderson - Football 1999 - Jarrod Everson - Football 2000 - Elena Kisseleva - Women's Basketball 2001 - Andrea Wildrick – Women's Track & Field 2001 - Nathan Day - Men's Basketball 2002 - Heather Sagan – Women's Cross Country/Track & Field 2003 - Collin Mascagni - Men's Soccer 2004 - Tatiana Tkachuk - Volleyball 2005 - Sam Gado - Football 2005 - Danielle McNaney - Women's Track & Field 2006 - Sonia Rodriguez - Women's Soccer 2006 - Phillip Thompson - Baseball 2007 - Arlene Zelinskas – Women's Track & Field 2008 - Allyson Fasnacht - Women's Basketball 2009 - Beth Bennett - Softball 2010 - Chris Rocco - Football 2011 - Zach Duke - Football 2012 - Jesse Sanders - Men's Basketball 2013 - Jennifer Klugh – Women's Cross Country/Track & Field 2014 - Trey Lambert - Baseball 2015 – Alex Close – Baseball 2016 – Ashley Rininger – Women's Basketball
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