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February 11, 2010

Skelton Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics - Where are some former winners now?

By: Reyna Gilbert

2009 Skelton Award winners Pedro Graber and Kelly Phillips

Each March, a committee convenes to sift through the applications for the prestigious Skelton Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics. The following month, the Virginia Tech Department of Athletics bestows the Skelton Award, the highest honor a Virginia Tech student-athlete can receive, to two deserving student-athletes at the Athletics Director’s Honors Breakfast. The Skelton Award, established in 1996 by the late Dr. Bill and his wife, Peggy, is presented to a male and female junior, senior or rising fifth-year student-athlete who has participated in intercollegiate athletics for at least two competitive seasons at Tech. The candidate’s overall grade-point average must be at least a 3.40 and his or her commitment to community involvement must equal, if not surpass, his or her fervor for academic excellence and leadership. The award recipients receive a $5,000 scholarship to be used during the next academic year.

If you have ever asked yourself, “I wonder what the Skelton Award winners are up to?”, then today is your lucky day! We were able to track down a few of them and find out where life has taken them since winning the award and graduating from Virginia Tech.

One of the very first Skelton Awards was presented to two-time track and field and academic All-American Kathleen (Katie) Ollendick in 1997. During her tenure at Tech, Ollendick set records in the pentathlon and high jump, won conference indoor and outdoor titles in the high jump, and in 2008, was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. She graduated in 1998 with a double major in psychology and exercise science and went on to earn a master’s in physical therapy from the University of North Carolina. She currently works as a pediatric physical therapist at Duke University Medical Center and is also currently enrolled in the doctor of physical therapy program at UNC.

In 1999, former Hokie swimmer Gregg Doule was awarded the Skelton Award. In 2000, Doule was the Atlantic 10 student-athlete of the year and a member of the GTE Academic All-District first team. He set school records in the 200-, 500- and 1000-meter freestyle while at Tech and graduated in 2001with a degree in chemical engineering. Doule used his academic experiences to land a position with ALSTOM Technology Ltd., a world leader in integrated power plants for the production of electricity and air quality control systems. He currently has a patent listed among Patentdocs Top 100 inventors. His work has taken him abroad to Italy, but he now resides in Knoxville, Tenn. Doule also coaches the University of Tennessee water polo team in his spare time.

Former softball standout Michelle Meadows became a Skelton Award alumnus in 2000. A three-time academic All-American and the 2000 A-10 softball player of the year, Meadows graduated the following year with a bachelor of science degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise. She earned her master of science in sport leadership in 2003 from the VCU Center for Sports Leadership, and is currently in her fifth year at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., serving as the associate AD for student-athlete enhancement and senior women’s administrator.

Jessica Botzum received the award in 2007. She was a two-time academic All-American, eight-time swimming All-American and the only Hokie ever to be named the ACC swimmer of the year twice. After graduating in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences, Botzum capped off her swimming career at the 2008 Olympic Trials and reached the semifinal round. She is currently an assistant coach for the men’s and women’s swimming team at LSU and is working toward her master’s in kinesiology, with a concentration in exercise physiology.

Each year, dozens of Tech student-athletes submit applications for the Skelton Award, making it increasingly more difficult for the selection committee to make its decision. With the athletic skills, academic prowess and leadership qualities exhibited by these Hokies, it is no wonder the value of this coveted award has continued to take on more significance over the years. It is also no surprise that those who receive the award go on to make lasting impacts on their communities.