Chelimo named UAA's Bill MacKay Athlete of the Year

jpeters@adn.comApril 26, 2013 

  • UAA Athletes of the Year

    2013 — Micah Chelimo, Men’s Running
    2012 — Taylor Rohde, Men’s Basketball
    2011 — Ruth Keino, Women’s Running
    2010 — Calli Scott, Volleyball
    2009 — David Registe, Men’s Track & Field
    2008 — Luke Cooper, Men’s. Basketball
    2007 —Rebecca Kielpinski, Women’s Basketball
    2006 — Kemmy Burgess, Men’s Basketball
    2005 — Mandy Kaempf, Women’s Skiing/Cross-Country Running
    2004 — Peter Bullock, Men’s Basketball
    2003 — Tobias Schwoerer, Men’s Skiing/Cross-Country Running
    2002 — Tobias Schwoerer, Men’s Skiing/Cross-Country Running
    2001 — Ed Kirk, Men’s Basketball
    2000 — Edda Mutter, Women’s Skiing
    1999 — Jim Hajdukovich, Men’s Basketball
    1998 — Zuzana Razusova, Women’s Skiing
    1997 — Frode Lillefjell, Men’s Skiing/Cross-Country Running
    (tie) — Elena Tkacheva, Gymnastics
    1996 — Allegra Stoetzel, Women’s Basketball
    1995 — Jason Kaiser, Men’s Basketball
    (tie) — Karen Hoey, Gymnastics
    1994 — Kerry Robitaille, Gymnastics
    1993 — Jennie Szczerbinski, Volleyball
    1992 — Jon Pauole, Swimming
    1991 — Paul Krake, Hockey
    1990 — Teri Frankie, Gymnastics
    1989 — Michael Johnson, Men’s Basketball
    1988 — Robin Graul, Women’s Basketball
    1987 — Hansi Gnad, Men’s Basketball
    1986 — Teri Frankie, Gymnastics
    1985 — Tiina Kantola, Women’s Skiing/Cross-Country Running

— Winning three national championships might make it difficult for some to remain humble, but Micah Chelimo was a picture of modesty while accepting UAA's Bill MacKay Athlete of the Year award Friday at Lucy Cuddy Hall.

Chelimo's acceptance speech was soft spoken, humorous and full of sincere thanks to those who helped him reach his potential as a distance runner. He was so unconcerned with the award itself that he left the podium without it.

"The first minute, I was really nervous" Chelimo said of his speech to a room filled with UAA athletes, coaches and administrators. "It's a great feeling, to be honest."

Chelimo, a senior from Kenya, won three national titles and five All-America honors in three sports over a 10-month period. The impressive stretch started with a 5,000 meters crown at the 2012 NCAA Division II outdoor Track and Field Championships last May, continued with a national cross-country title in the 10,000 meters last fall and another national title in the 5,000 meters at the Indoor Track and Field Championships in March.

Chelimo's favorite moment was his first championship in the 5,000 meters nearly a year ago. He still replays it in his mind over and over when he is alone.

"If it was something bad, I'd say it's haunting me, but it's something good and every time I am relaxing on a bench I can see that movie and it just feels great," he said.

For all the individual achievement in an inherently individual sport, Chelimo cited his teammates as the key to his success. Whether it was an encouraging word at the right time during a practice or hearing his name called during a race, Chelimo said his teammates always knew how to lift him up.

"If you don't have somebody beside you, you don't feel comfortable," he said.

Led by Chelimo's success, the UAA men finished a program-best third in last fall's NCAA Division II cross-country championships, ninth in last spring's NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and 11th at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this year.

Chelimo's confidence soared when he started grasping the team concept, said Michael Friess, who coaches track and field and cross country at UAA.

"He's the genuine deal," Friess said. "To see how much he cared about winning and what it meant, not just to him, but to his entire university. It's really about everybody for him and he's going to do his best to bring the entire athletic program to higher levels."

Chelimo is the third runner to win the MacKay award, joining David Registe of the 2008-09 men's track and field team and Tobias Schwoerer of the 2001-02 and 2002-03 men's cross country team.

The MacKay award, sponsored by the Benton Bay Athletic Lions Club and UAA Athletics, is voted on by a committee of UAA Athletics staff, Benton Bay members and local media.

The other 2013 nominees were Marine Dusser (women's skiing), Lukas Ebner (men's skiing), Kyle Fossman (men's basketball), Alysa Horn (women's basketball), Kimya Jafroudi (volleyball), Emily Petersen (gymnastics), Susan Tanui (women's running) and Blake Tatchell (hockey).

Reach Jeremy Peters at or 257-4335.

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