COLUMN: My choices for Sunday's Chippy awards
As the sports editor at Central Michigan Life, it’s my job to know a lot about Central Michigan sports. I pretty much know what’s going on for most sports on a regular basis.
This is why the Chippy’s — CMU’s version of the ESPYS or Oscars, awarding athletes across all sports for their accomplishments, hosted next Sunday — is exciting to me.
While most of the votes will probably go toward the higher-profile sports, I feel like I have a well-rounded palate to evaluate the best in CMU sports during the past three semesters (the timeframe set by the Chippy’s).
Here are 10 of my selections picks for who/what deserves a 2016 Chippy award:
Male Athlete of the Year: Football junior quarterback Cooper Rush
Not only does Rush play the most prominent position in the most prominent college sport, but the Charlotte native ranks among the best passers in the nation.
His 3,848 passing yards in 2015 was 14th among Football Bowl Subdivision teams and second in the Mid-American Conference. His 25 passing scores was 26th in the country. Rush's 24.92 completions per game was seventh-best nationwide. The third-year starter was 15th in completion percentage at 66.3 percent. I could go on and on.
The team went 7-6 with a solid offense despite losing their biggest weapons at running back and wide receiver. Rush carried the Chippewas and deserves the Chippy.
Female Athlete of the Year: Women’s basketball sophomore forward Tinara Moore
Moore had a presence in the paint all year. Her 17 double doubles was 19th most in the country. She also was 20th nationally, making 55.3 percent of her attempts.
When in doubt, the Chippewas would hit Moore down low on the block and she would hook in an easy bucket. Her constant rebounding presence was a big factor in the team’s MAC West title and run to the MAC Championship Game.
Breakthrough Athlete of the Year: Women’s basketball sophomore forward Tinara Moore
I’m not sure if I can give two awards to one person, but if anybody deserves it, it’s Moore. She averaged 9.6 rebounds per game and 13.7 points per game in 2015-16, both in the top two on the team. A year ago, the Southgate native averaged less than three rebounds and two points per game.
She went from a bench player to perhaps the most valuable player on the women’s basketball team this season. The jump in performance from her freshman year to sophomore year should earn her the Chippy.
Best Championship Performance: Wrestling Redshirt Freshman 149-pounder Justin Oliver
The other names on the list won a MAC Championship. Oliver’s performance came in the NCAA Championships.
The redshirt freshman — who didn’t even have the 149-pound spot at the start of the season — became an All-American by finishing seventh in his weight class at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Freshman of the Year: Gymnastics freshman Kasey Janowicz
This might be the toughest category in the field — which is good news for the future of CMU athletics. Ultimately, Janowicz was likely the most valuable gymnast on the team as a whole, notching at least a 9.875 on all four events.
The Bay City native was one of the only gymnasts to compete on all events for CMU and was a likely candidate for individual MAC and NCAA accolades before suffering an injury, which affected her performance late in the season.
Women’s basketball guard Presley Hudson is a close runner up.
Best Game: Baseball vs. Michigan State (Clash at Comerica)
In the context of the season, the win meant nothing. In the record books, it’s just another mark in the nonconference win column.
Beating Michigan State at Comerica Park with a six-run bottom of the ninth makes this one extra special. Defeating the Spartans is always sweet for CMU, but the dramatic comeback last spring made it one of the most memorable games in the program’s history.
Presley Hudson again comes in second for me, as her buzzer-beating layup to beat Bowling Green at McGuirk Arena this winter was both meaningful to the season and in front of the raucous home crowd.
Best Play: Cooper Rush to Ben McCord — Late touchdown at Syracuse (football)
Most of the plays on this list were great because they were extremely timely and changed the status quo of an event. Rush’s touchdown to McCord with seven seconds to play to tie the game was not only timely and game-altering, but an amazing play too.
While the Chippewas would end up falling in overtime, Rush showed his clutch gene and McCord emerged as a receiving threat in the final seconds in the loud Carrier Dome. It was the closest CMU football would get to the 2014 Bahamas Bowl miracle.
Best Team: Women’s basketball
From Spring 2015 to Winter 2016, the football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams won MAC West titles, while baseball won the MAC regular season title.
No CMU team won a MAC Tournament, although the women’s basketball team went the farthest, going to overtime in the MAC Championship Game.
The baseball team comes in a close second, but falls short because of its early exit in the MAC Tournament last year after claiming the top seed in the regular season.
Coach of the Year: Football Head Coach John Bonamego
He didn’t have the best record. He didn’t have any time to show off recruiting skills. But how can you vote against Coach Bono?
He reinvigorated the maroon and gold fan base, won the MAC West and beat cancer. He answered the tough questions, ate pizza with average students and didn’t make excuses.
His coaching worth goes beyond the stat sheet. Bonamego deserves a Chippy.
Assistant Coach of the Year: Wrestling Assistant Coach Ben Bennett
Bennett, a four-time MAC Champion wrestler — made a direct impact on CMU’s only MAC individual championship in 2016, sophomore Jordan Ellingwood.
Ellingwood’s 29-14 record doesn’t put him at the top of the CMU wrestling team, but Bennett worked one-on-one with him to build up his physical stamina, do extra cardio and get in better shape. By the end of the year, Bennett had built a champion.