USC’s athletes swapped their jerseys and gear for suits and ties and dresses and high heels Monday for the school’s annual Gamecock Gala at Colonial Life Arena.
“It’s really nice to get all the teams together and celebrate a great year,” said Jimmy Maurer, goalkeeper on USC’s Conference USA-champion men’s soccer squad.
Basketball guard Courtney Newton teased that the gala was like a prom for the athletes. “It’s a cool event to be able to get dressed up and step away from getting all sweaty and stuff that we’re used to,” she said.
The gala featured awards for team MVPs, scholarships handed out by the NCAA and SEC, and department-wide honors.
Women’s soccer goalkeeper Mollie Patton earned the night’s biggest honor, the President’s Award, for her accomplishments on and off the field. Patton holds the SEC mark for shutouts in a season and set the school record for shutouts in a career. She graduated in the fall and is pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy.
The track team swept athlete-of-the-year honors. Sprinter LaKya Brookins, who set the collegiate record in the 60-meter dash, won for the women, and Johnny Dutch, the 400-meter hurdles titlist at the NCAA Championships, won for the men.
Offensive lineman Garrett Chisolm received the Gamecock Inspiration Award after playing through the death of his parents, who passed away months apart in 2010.
Notable team MVPs included Cliff Matthews, football; Sam Muldrow, men’s basketball; and La’Keisha Sutton, women’s basketball.
The family of Joe Rice, co-founder of the Motley Rice law firm in Charleston, received the 2011 Garnet Award for its generosity to the school.
Gamecock Gala awards
The President’s Award: Mollie Patton (soccer)
Female Athlete of the Year: LaKya Brookins (track)
Male Athlete of the Year: Johnny Dutch (track)
Scholar-Athletes of the Year: Taryn Zack (diving), Jimmy Maurer (soccer)
Gamecock Inspiration Award: Garrett Chisolm (football)
New Student-Athlete of the Year: Amanda Rutqvist (swimming), Marcus Lattimore (football)
NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Postgraduate Scholarship: Jewel May (basketball)
SEC McWhorter Scholarship: Patton, Maurer
SEC Brad E. Davis Outstanding Community Service Scholarship: May, Michael Zajac (track)
Basketball: La’Keisha Sutton and Sam Muldrow
Equestrian: Hailey Thornton
Football: Cliff Matthews
Golf: Katie Burnett and Blaine Woodruff
Soccer: Kayla Grimsley and Mollie Patton, and Blake Brettschneider
Softball: Laura Mendes
Swimming and Diving: Taryn Zack and Michael Flach
Tennis: Dijana Stojic and Chip Cox
Indoor Track: LaKya Brookins, Michael Zajac
Outdoor Track: Janica Austin, Johnny Dutch
Cross Country: Beatrice Biwott
Volleyball: Juliette Thévenin