May 22, 2008
ANNAPOLIS, Md.-- The United States Naval Academy announced its major athletic award winners Thursday afternoon at the annual Prizes and Awards Ceremony at Alumni Hall.
Wrestler Matt Stolpinski (Westfield, Mass.) was named the winner of the NAAA Sword for Men, presented to that man of the graduating class who is considered by the Association's Athletic Council to have personally excelled in men's athletics during his years of varsity competition.
Stolpinski concluded his career at the Academy as one of its most decorated wrestlers. After placing fourth at last year's NCAA Championship, the 2008 team captain came back to earn All-America kudos for a second straight year thanks to his seventh-place finish at the national tournament. He is only the 14th wrestler in school history be named an All-American multiple times and the first since Mark Conley in 2001 and '02. He joins an elite list that includes two-time National Champion Peter Blair (1954, 1955) and Olympian Lloyd Keaser (1971, 1972).
Stolpinski finished the 2008 campaign with a 42-8 record, turning in the fourth most wins in school history. He is the first wrestler in the program's history to reach 40-plus wins twice and one of only three wrestlers to reach 40 wins in school history. Included in those wins were tournament titles at the Navy Classic, as well as a program-record fourth straight All-Academy Championship crown. Additionally, Stolpinski won back-to-back EIWA titles in 2007 and '08, becoming the first Navy wrestler (along with Ed Prendergast) to be crowned a two-time champion since Conley in 2001 and '02. He is the 23rd wrestler to accomplish the feat.
Stolpinski is just the 12th wrester to win the award, which was established in 1893, and the first since Greg Gingeleskie in 1999.
Fiona McFarland (Southampton, N.Y.) was awarded the Vice Admiral Lawrence Sword for Women, which is presented to that woman of the graduating class who is considered by the Association's Athletic Council to have personally excelled in women's athletics during her years of varsity competition.
McFarland has competed with the varsity boat in every race throughout her four-year career, earning four varsity letters in the process. She stroked the first varsity to a 64-19 regular season record over four seasons, including a 13-4 mark in 2008. She was a member of the varsity boat that won the 2005 Patriot League title and she earned All-Patriot League honors as a sophomore, junior and senior. McFarland was named Second-Team All-Mid-Atlantic Region by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association in 2006 and was elected as a National Scholar-Athlete by the CRCA in 2006 and '07. She served as Navy's team captain during the 2007-08 season.
McFarland is the second women's crew athlete to win the award, established in 1980, and the first since Cheryl Dolyniuk in 1983.
Zerbin Singleton (Decatur, Ga.) of the football team was awarded the Thompson Trophy Cup, which is presented to that midshipman, male or female, who has done the most during the year to promote athletics at the Naval Academy.
Singleton was the inspirational leader of a football team that won 35 games, went 8-0 against the other two Service Academies, won four-straight Commander-In-Chief's Trophies and participated in four-consecutive bowl games over a four-year time span. He finished his career with 678 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 323 yards and one touchdown. Nine of his 11 career touchdowns came in the final five games of his career. After rushing for a touchdown in Navy's historic 46-44 triple overtime victory over Notre Dame, Singleton had back-to-back three touchdown days against North Texas and Northern Illinois. He also had his first-two career 100-yard rushing days against those same two opponents, rushing for 103 yards on eight carries against North Texas and 101 yards on 11 carries against Northern Illinois. He finished his career by rushing for 55 yards and a touchdown on five carries against Army and catching a 58-yard touchdown pass in the final minute against Utah.
Off the field, Singleton was selected as the Brigade Commander for the second semester of his senior year where he was in charge of guiding and directing the daily activities of the Brigade of Midshipmen and was the liaison between the Brigade and the senior leadership. Singleton was also awarded two prestigious awards, the Disney Spirit Award, which is given each year to college football's most inspirational figure and the FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award, which is given each year by the Football Writers Association of America to someone who has displayed courage on and off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship.
Singleton is the 78th football player to win the award since it was established in 1894 and the first since Aaron Polanco in 2005.
Eric Gardiner (Upland, Calif.) of the water polo team was awarded the men's Coaches' Calvert Award, presented to that man in the graduating class who has persevered the most in his career.
Gardiner is perhaps Navy's most accomplished water polo player in the classroom in school history. Boasting a 4.00 cumulative GPA in comparative politics and earning a spot on the academic all-america "outstanding" team, Gardiner was recently awarded a prestigious NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship (one of two water polo players nationally). He received a prestigious Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in the United Kingdom for two years. Starting in September, he will be studying at Queen's University in Belfast, pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in terrorism, violence and security. Following a year at Queen's, Gardiner plans to study a second year at either Cambridge or Oxford, pursuing a degree in international relations. He appeared in 31 games with eight starts for the Midshipmen this past fall. He finished the season with 19 points (10 g, 9 a) and ended his career with 41 points (27 g, 14 a), leading Navy to the last two NCAA Tournaments.
Gardiner is the fifth member of the water polo team to win the award, which was started in 1973. Todd Carlson of the water polo team won the award last year.
Women's volleyball team captain Aimee' Burns (Dallas, Texas) was awarded the women's Coaches' Calvert Award, presented to that woman in the graduating class who has persevered the most in her career.
Burns recorded 571 digs and 34 aces during her four seasons as a member of the volleyball team. She recorded 10 or more digs in 19 matches during the 2007 season. She led Navy and ranked eighth in the Patriot League in digs per game as a senior. Additionally, she also represented Navy at the 2007 NCAA Leadership Conference.
Burns is the sixth member of the volleyball program to win the award, which was started in 1990, and the first since Andrea Wernecke in 2006.