Full Club Sports Schedule

    Team News

    May 4, 2023 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Liberty University’s Club Sports department continues to surpass expectations on the athletic fields and venues where its 44 men’s and women’s programs compete as well as in its festivities, including Wednesday night’s annual Choice Awards, honoring the most distinguished athletes and coaches and other students and staff of the 2022-23 academic year.

    With a circus theme to this year’s event, held in and outside of the School of Music’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts Concert Hall, the evening kicked off with a highlight video produced by Club Sports Director of Video & Media Patrick Strawn set to the title song from “The Greatest Showman.”

    Flames Central co-hosts Matt Warner and Rett McGibbon served as emcees for the event, as they have every year since it was rebranded in 2017 under the orchestration of Assistant Athletic Director Kaycee Tripp to better recognize Club Sports student-athletes in a similar fashion as “The FLAMESPYs” do for the Liberty Athletics end-of-the-year award-winners.

    They kept the on-stage banter lively and the atmosphere in the room light as they shined the spotlight on the brightest and best players and scholars, performers and servants in the world of Club Sports.

    A video feature highlighted the impact of Liberty’s Club Sports Spiritual Development staff working in coordination with the LU Shepherd office and relying on student-athletes who serve as their respective teams’ spiritual leaders throughout the season.

    McGibbon presents Division I men’s hockey senior forward Josh Fricks with the Male Perseverance Award.

    One of the greatest testimonies that came out of the season was the miraculous recovery of Division I men’s hockey senior forward Josh Fricks after he fractured the C-4 and C-5 vertebrae in his lower neck during a Jan. 20 game against UNLV at the LaHaye Ice Center, prompting campus-wide prayer on his behalf. Though he wasn’t able to rejoin the Flames as they went on to play in their second ACHA DI National Championships Final Four in three seasons, Fricks was the recipient of the Male Perseverance Award.

    “By the grace of God, we can go through everything … and I appreciate all of the support and prayers of everyone here,” he said.

    Senior figure skater Olivia Ford Walker, who overcame injuries to place second in the Pre-Gold Pattern Dance competition and 10th in the Senior solo free dance, helping the Lady Flames place sixth at the U.S. Figure Skating Collegiate National Championships, received the Female Perseverance Award.

    “I just really wanted to thank our (Athletic) Training staff … for always caring for me even though it has been a hard four seasons, my coaches for pushing me to succeed and still believing in me … and my teammates for reminding me to keep my eyes on Christ,” Walker said.

    Liberty’s ski & snowboard team received the Community Service award for partnering with “Anxious for Nothing,” a skateboarding ministry operated by Blue Ridge Community Church in Bedford, Va., to be a light on the hill at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre to area youth, sharing their faith while teaching them how to ride and ski.

    “Using our talents not just for competition but for community service is an awesome opportunity,” ski & snowboard Head Coach Isaac Gibson said. “I definitely want to encourage you all, whether you are still in school or moving on, to use your talents and abilities to serve the Lord and bless other people.”

    Male Team Coach of the Year Heath Grishaw, who guided the Flames to a program-best second-place finish out of 120 teams at the College Club Swimming National Championships and the Choice Awards Male Team of the Year honors, emphasized the rewards of living a Christ-centered life.

    Flames Central co-anchor Matt Warner presents Division I women’s hockey captains Shelby Bradford, Brityn Fussy, and Yannick Truter with the Female Team of the Year award.

    “To my guys, I’m proud of you, you guys did the hard work and you were rewarded for that,” Grishaw said. “Ultimately guys, make sure you keep Jesus first. He’s the most important thing and that’s why we are here today. I hope to see you all in Heaven and make sure that you seek Him first and foremost.”

    Senior Matthew Davidson, who defended his 100-yard backstroke national title and helped the Flames set two CCS National Championships relay records, was awarded Male Performance of the Year and encouraged his underclass teammates and those on other programs to stay committed to their teams and to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    “As a graduating senior, I just want to say to all of the freshmen and sophomores and even juniors, ‘Cherish the time that you have with your team right now,’” Davidson said. “Going through four years with my team, I can say that it has truly changed my life. If you can stick with it for four years, do it because it will change your life.”

    Male Athlete of the Year was awarded to 235-pound men’s wrestling four-time Mid-Atlantic Conference and NCWA Grand National Tournament champion Jeff Allen, a Virginia Tech transfer who finished as Liberty’s all-time leader with 136 wins and helped guide the Flames to three NCWA National Duals and NCWA Grand National team titles in a row and runner-up showings this year.

    Senior heavyweight wrestler Rick Weaver earned the Male Academic Integration Award for his work with the DI men’s hockey team.

    Heavyweight teammate Rick Weaver, a senior sports psychology major, was named the Male Academic Integration Athlete of the Year and freshman 174-pounder Zachary Kaminski was named Male Rookie of the Year.

    “I am super thankful to be here and thankful to carry on the legacy that my dad left with Liberty wrestling back in 1993,” Kaminski said. “Thank you (Head) Coach (Jesse) Castro, not only for setting the bar so high for your athletes, but for just making sure that they are developed into true men of God.”

    Taekwondo freshman Xena Sawyer, the women’s middleweight black belt gold medalist at the NCTA National Championships, where she was named the NCTA First-Year Female Athlete of the Year, was also selected as Club Sports Female Rookie of the Year.

    Senior DI men’s hockey defenseman and team captain Colin Baird, who was given the same title on the gold-medal-winning Team USA for last month’s World Cup of University Hockey in Romania, received the Male Champion Award while senior gymnast Abigail “AJ” Kenniv won the Female Champion Award.

    The women’s gymnastic team featured the Female Athlete of the Year, Sophia Boone (front left), the Female Team Coach of the Year, Jess Lowe (front right), and the Female Champion award winner, AJ Kenniv (left).

    “As students here at Liberty, we are able to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, so I just want to encourage everyone in the room here, students, athletes, and coaches, what an opportunity it is to pour into people around you,” Kenniv said.

    The gymnastics team continued to reap awards as first-year Head Coach Jessie Lowe was named Women’s Team Coach of the Year after guiding the Lady Flames to a best-ever second-place showing at the NAIGC National Championships with help from junior Sophie Boone, a national champion on the balance beam, who was honored as Women’s Athlete of the Year.

    The five-time-defending ACHA DI national championship women’s hockey team was named the Female Team of the Year and sophomore defenseman Madison Glynn, who netted a natural hat trick in the 3-2 national championship final triumph over Minot State, was honored with the Female Performance of the Year award.

    The Breakthrough Award was given to the shotgun team, which finished first in Division III of the ACUI Collegiate Clay Target National Championships for the first time after back-to-back runner-up showings at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio.

    Former disc golf player Devin Swartz, now in his fifth year in a coaching role with the program, discipling players spiritually as well as fine-tuning their games, was chosen as the Male Team Assistant Coach of the Year. Meanwhile, Victoria Drumheller, a former Lady Flames rower who served her team for a fifth and final season, earned Female Team Assistant Coach of the Year honors.

    Dr. Kevin Conner, an assistant professor of psychology, received the Club Sports Academic Partnership Award. Haley Greene, a member of the Club Sports student integration team who helped support the synchronized skating team on road trips, was presented the Student Service award while the synchronized skating team as a whole received the Legacy Award for its outrech work to keep alumnae engaged in the program.

    Among hundreds of Club Sports student-athletes on the honor roll and dozens who have maintained perfect 4.0 grade-point averages, Greta Wilkins, a senior on the women’s ultimate team, was named Female Academic Athlete of the Year and men’s volleyball senior Jake Alderfer earned the Male Academic Athlete of the Year award.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media