Flames athletes celebrates teammates’ diversity and achievements at annual Flamespys Awards
For one night of the year, every Liberty student-athlete trades their cleats, jerseys and uniforms for dresses, heels and suits.
The seventh annual Flamespys Student Athlete Awards took place Monday, April 30 at the Montview Ballroom and Music Hall to celebrate the accolades of each of the 18 NCAA Division I sports teams that represent Liberty.
“When you put 550 student-athletes with their coaches and then the support staff, athletic trainers, and academic staff, media, it’s just really neat to see the Flames family all together,” Assistant Director for Academic Affairs Courtney Huffman said.
Huffman is the head of the Flamespys planning team which consists of the entire academic affairs staff, in addition to tutors, student-workers, practicum students and interns, each working for months to pull off the event.
“It literally is a several month process of planning,” Huffman said. “We were taking down last year’s decorations and we came up with the ‘Around the World’ theme idea. The day after the event we’re reserving spaces for the next year, so it’s a very long process.”
The theme “Around the World” focused on celebrating the diversity of the places the athletes call home. The first half of the night allowed the athletes to socialize and enjoy American, Mexican, Asian, Brazilian and African hors d’oeuvres.
“We are super excited about it because what we’re doing is we’re able to highlight where our athletes are coming from but also show other athletes what those regions are like, too,” Huffman said. “So, last year it was ‘Safari’, we’ve done ‘Hollywood’ theme, ‘Under the Sea’, but I think I’m most excited about this one because we’re tying in our athletes and that’s really cool to see.”
The second half of the night consisted of the awards show hosted by Flames television and radio broadcaster Alan York and the Sports Information Department. Nineteen total Flamespys were awarded throughout the show, announced by the students themselves to be presented to their fellow athletes. Awards like Best Clutch Performance, Most Outstanding Team Award and Head Coach of the Year Award were received.
Jessica Cicerchia, a softball senior, won the Perseverance of Job Flamespy that is given each year to the student athlete who has triumphed and overcome obstacles over their Liberty athletic career.
During her junior year fall pre-season training, Cicerchia’s heart started racing and it was discovered she had an arrhythmia. She was rushed to the emergency room in need of defibrillation and to receive medicine to restart her heart when she was told she would have to undergo cardiac ablation surgery. After the surgery, she waited six weeks to find that it had been 100 percent successful.
“When I heard I was the winner of the Flamespy, I just felt joy,” Cicerchia said. “Throughout this whole experience, I have been asking God to use my story as a platform to share the gospel and the power of prayer. Job was only able to persevere because he had the power of Christ in him. The same applies for my story and I’m honestly just humbled and honored that God would pick me to bear this testament of his faithfulness and healing power.”
The Breakthrough Athlete of the Year Award was awarded to Antonio Gandy-Golden, sophomore football wide receiver, for having the most significant breakthrough during his season.
Gandy-Golden scored 10 touchdowns, had 69 catches and ran 1,066 yards, compared to his previous season of 315 yards. If Liberty was in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) at the time, he would have finished 9th in the country with his stats.
“The technique and the way I did things changed a lot this year,” Gandy-Golden said. “I paid more attention to the little things that could help separate me from the defense and my coach had helped me very much in the off season after my freshman year just to perfect very small things. This season I wanted to be more of a leader and I wanted the team and my coaches to feel that they could trust me in any situation.”
Another noteworthy winner was tennis senior Evangeline Crist, recipient of both Best Female Athlete of the Year Award and the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award.
The Latter Award honors the top graduating senior who maintains an exemplary testimony athletically, academically and socially to best exemplify the standards of Liberty’s first head football coach Lee Royer and member of Liberty’s first basketball team Rivera, who each passed away at a young age.
Crist was named the best female athlete for her stats of earning program all-time leader in both doubles (94) and singles (92) wins, ending her career winning her last 15 straight singles matches and gaining Big South All-Academic Team selection.
“What an incredible honor it was to receive such prestigious awards,” Crist said. “There are so many other deserving female athletes that put in so much work and are incredible people, so it is truly humbling to win. I am truly grateful for every minute spent doing what I love, for the people I care so deeply about and to be at the school that means the world to me.”