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April 26, 2011

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By Miquel Jacobs
Media Relations Assistant

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina track athletes Lakya Brookins and Johnny Dutch came away with two of the biggest awards Monday night at the Gamecock Gala, an annual awards ceremony held at Colonial Life Arena to celebrate the academic, athletic and community service exploits of Gamecock student athletes over the past year. Both track athletes were honored by their peers as the Female and Male Athlete of the Year awards.

Brookins was named the Female Athlete of the Year for the athletics department, marking the second time in four years that the senior was awarded the honor. Brookins, who also was named the women’s track indoor MVP, had a remarkably consistent 2011 indoor campaign to solidify herself as one of the top sprinters not only at the collegiate level but in the world. She became the first back-to-back SEC champion in the 60 meters after claiming the league title to cap off her regular season that included finishing undefeated against SEC competition, in addition to rattling off 10 straight NCAA automatic qualifying races. Brookins ended the season with her second NCAA title by running a collegiate record time of 7.09 that also broke the NCAA meet, facility and Gamecock records. Her time of 7.09 remains as the fastest 60 meter time run in the world in 2011.

She also earned Female Athlete of the Year honors in 2009, the same year she won her first NCAA individual title.

Dutch was named the Male Athlete of the Year, in addition to men’s track outdoor MVP honors, following a stellar junior season for the Gamecocks. Dutch won the 400-meter hurdle title at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to cap an undefeated season in the event in 2010. The title was his first career national title and the first intermediate hurdle title in a storied South Carolina hurdle program. He was the only male athlete in the nation to earn All-America citations in all three hurdle events, and also ran a leg of the 4×400-meter relay. Dutch ran the fourth-fastest time in the world and moved to No. 4 on the all-time collegiate list when he ran 48.12 in the NCAA Preliminary Round.

Senior Michael Zajac picked up two honors at the Gala in being named the men’s track indoor MVP and also earning the SEC Brad E. Davis Outstanding Community Service Scholarship. A three-time U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American, and a three-time All-American, twice in the indoor Hammer Throw and once in the outdoor event, he also finished second in the SEC in the weight throw twice during his career. A two-time team captain, he volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Lift Up America, the SEC’s Together We Can food drive and at the Columbia Food Bank, while helping to coach inner city children at the City of Columbia Summer Camps. He also visited with the elderly with the Gamecocks Giving Back campaign.

Senior Janica Austin earned women’s track outdoor MVP honors. Austin was an indoor and outdoor NCAA qualifier in the 4x400m relay and 400-meter hurdles. She earned three SEC medals, taking two silvers and one bronze in a stellar junior campaign. She earned silver medal honors in both the indoor and outdoor 4x400m relays, and she took bronze in the 60m hurdles. A versatile athlete, Austin also placed fifth at the SEC Championships in the 100m hurdles and the 400m hurdles.

The final honor for a track and field athlete at the Gamecock Gala went to junior Beatrice Biwott. The junior was named the cross country MVP after her strong season for the Gamecocks. Biwott became the first Gamecock to ever win the 2010 SEC steeplechase title, running a school record time of 10:20.14 to take the win. An NCAA qualifier, she competed at the NCAA Preliminary Round, also a first for the Gamecocks. Biwott also showed her versatility but taking eighth at the SEC Championships in the Distance Medley Relay and finishing ninth in the 3000 meter run. She was also the South Carolina team leader at the 2010 SEC Cross Country Championship.