AVON PARK, Fla.–April 28, 2016–On April 26, South Florida State College celebrated the academic and athletic achievements of its Panther student-athletes at an afternoon ceremony and reception.

The athletes, their families, and well-wishers gathered in the SFSC University Center Auditorium on the Highlands Campus to watch the baseball and women’s softball, volleyball, and cross country coaches hand out awards.

“This afternoon is a great opportunity to recognize the student athletes for their efforts throughout the year,” said Rick Hitt, SFSC athletic director and head baseball coach. “Most important, we do this with their families and their entire support network joining them here.”

Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC’s president, followed Hitt to the lectern to welcome everyone who had come out to support the players and coaches. “I don’t recognize any of you out there in the seats,” Dr. Leitzel said to the laughs from the audience. “None of you are in uniform and wearing your numbers.”

Starting out the recognitions, Krista Schult, women’s cross country coach, spoke of her five-member team coming together during the inaugural season of the sport at SFSC. “The ladies arrived on campus already a team,” Schult said. “I saw them slowly come together also as friends, and ending the season as a family.”

Schult handed awards to Alexis Armstead, Most Improved Runner; Grace Miller, Most Valuable Runner; Savannah Walter, Cross Country Academic Excellence

The Lady Panther Volleyball team members crowded in front of the auditorium stage to watch coach Kim Crawford honor the achievements of her players. “Every year as a coach, I look for ways to improve on something with the ladies,” Crawford said. “But this year, I had a really good team that kept me on my toes the entire season.”

Volleyball players earning recognition were Baylee Gunter, Leah Sywanyk, and Brooke Westphal for the Academic and Athletic Excellence Award. The Lady Panthers’ coach made note that Westphal, and sophomores Kelsey Sanders and Elle Barnett, were named as Suncoast Conference Players of the Year.

Carlos Falla, the women’s softball coach, next presented his team their awards: Amanda Ross, Best Offensive Player; Rachael Reinbott, Shelby Press, Cristina Colli, Best Defensive Players; Haley Pinterich, Most Valuable Player; and Kassidy Stawicki and Rachel White Coach’s Award.

Hitt, stepping out the role of SFSC’s athletic director, put on his figurative baseball cap to recognize the play of the squad he coaches, the Panther baseball team.

Hitt honored two players for their achievements throughout the season: John Tatum, Most Improved Player, and J.D. Terron, 2016 Top Gun Award for his pitching.

Dr. Leitzel returned to the lectern to present two final awards: Female and Male Scholastic Athlete of the Year. He called up baseball player John Tatum and softball player Kassidy Stawicki to the stage to accept their awards.

“You are ambassadors for SFSC,” Leitzel told the players. “You represent SFSC on the field, on campus, and in the community. I know your coaches are proud of everything you do.”

John Tatum

From left: Rick Hitt, SFSC athletic director and head baseball coach, Panther baseball player John Tatum, and SFSC President Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel. Tatum was named Male Scholastic Athlete of the Year.

Kassidy Stawicki fb

From left: Rick Hitt, SFSC athletic director and head baseball coach, Panther softball player Kassidy Stawicki, and SFSC President Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel. Stawicki was named Female Scholastic Athlete of the Year.