CHARLOTTE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - Coastal Carolina men's soccer player Ashton Bennett (Clarendon, Jamaica) and Charleston Southern sprinter Gabrielle Houston (Springfield, Ga.) have been voted the Big South Conference Male and Female Student-Athletes of the Year for the 2011-12 season by the League's Athletics Directors, Senior Woman Administrators and Sports Information Directors, it was announced today by the Conference office.
Bennett earned 70 points and eight first-place votes in capturing the Howard Bagwell Male Student-Athlete of the Year award, becoming the first Chanticleer to receive the honor since Mike Costanzo in 2005. It also marks the fifth time that Coastal Carolina has the Conference's top male athlete in the award's 13-year history. Bennett finished ahead of Presbyterian football All-American Justin Bethel, who tallied 67 points. Coastal Carolina baseball All-American Daniel Bowman was third in the voting with 59 points, followed by UNC Asheville basketball All-American Matt Dickey (54 points). Charleston Southern track All-American Javon Young received 48 points to round out the top five male vote-getters.
Houston is the first Charleston Southern student-athlete to win the Conference's Female Student-Athlete of the Year award. She received 76 points and five first-place votes to become the second consecutive track & field athlete to be honored and the fifth overall. Houston finished ahead of Radford softball All-American Nichole Beall, who was second with 70 points. Liberty distance runner Jennifer Klugh was third with 54 points, followed by Winthrop basketball player Dequesha McClanahan (49 points). Winthrop tennis player Yasmine Alkema finished fifth in the voting with 47 points.
Bennett was a MAC Hermann Trophy Award semifinalist in 2011 after leading the nation in goals scored (23), points (53) and points per game (2.41), while ranking second in goals per game with 1.05. He helped Coastal Carolina earn an at-large NCAA Tournament bid as well as lead the nation in scoring offense with 3.0 goals per game and 66 total goals. Bennett tallied nine game-winning goals in 2011 -- including one that gave Coastal a 4-3 win over Elon to advance the Chanticleers to the NCAA Second Round. A First-Team All-America selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America -- the Big South's first First-Team honoree since 2003, Bennett was also named Second-Team All-America by College Soccer News last season. He was a three-time TopDrawerSoccer.com National Team of the Week honoree and was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week twice in 2011.
During the 2011 campaign, Bennett strung together a six-game scoring streak in which he tallied nine scores and two assists for 20 points in that span. Among his seven multi-goal games was a hat trick against Richmond, and his 23 goals were second-most in a single-season in school history. Bennett's 53 points last season ranks third in the Coastal Carolina record books. He was the Big South Men's Soccer Attacking Player of the Year and First-Team All-Big South honoree.
Houston highlighted her 2011-12 season with Honorable Mention All-America accolades as she finished 18th in the country with a time of 23.68 in the 200-meter event at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. She qualified for nationals with a 23.42 in the 200 at the NCAA Preliminaries in May -- setting the Big South's all-time standard in the event. Houston earned six All-Conference plaudits during the 2011-12 season, including a pair of gold medals at the 2012 Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships. At that meet, she tied both the Big South championship meet record and overall mark as she won the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.14. Her second first-place finish of the meet came in the 4x400-meter relay as she anchored the Buccaneers to a time of 3:51.97. Houston closed out the indoor championship with a second-place finish in the 60 meters with a time of 7.49.
During the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championship, Houston placed second in the 100-meter event with a time of 11.80 and followed with a second-place time in the 200 meters at 24.13. She helped CSU place third overall in the 4x100-meter relay with a time of 46.13. Additional highlights from the 2011-12 season include the Conference's top times in both the outdoor 100-meter dash (11.45) at the NCAA Preliminaries, and the indoor 60-meter event (7.46) at the Big South Championship. The Big South track & field coaches voted her the 2011-12 Big South Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
In March 2000, the Big South Conference Executive Committee voted to create an annual Male and Female Student-Athlete of the Year award, and name the male award in honor of former Charleston Southern Athletic Director Howard Bagwell, who was one of the founders of the Big South Conference. The annual candidates for the award consist of the Players of the Year from each sport for the season most recently completed.
HOWARD BAGWELL MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
2011-12 - Ashton Bennett, Coastal Carolina (soccer)
2010-11 - Sam Chelanga, Liberty (cross country/track & field)
2009-10 - Sam Chelanga, Liberty (cross country/track & field)
2008-09 - Sam Chelanga, Liberty (cross country/track & field)
2007-08 - Josh McDougal, Liberty (cross country/track & field)
2006-07 - Josh McDougal, Liberty (track & field)
2005-06 - Josh McDougal, Liberty (track & field)
2004-05 - Mike Costanzo, Coastal Carolina (baseball)
2003-04 - Joseph Ngwenya, Coastal Carolina (soccer)
2002-03 - Joseph Ngwenya, Coastal Carolina (soccer)
2001-02 - Justin Owens, Coastal Carolina (baseball)
2000-01 - Jason Colson, Winthrop (baseball)
1999-00 - Keith Butler, Liberty (baseball)
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
2011-12 - Gabrielle Houston, Charleston Southern (track & field)
2010-11 - Natalie Pearson, UNC Asheville (track & field)
2009-10 - Kristen Shifflett, Radford (softball)
2008-09 - Megan Frazee, Liberty (basketball)
2007-08 - Megan Frazee, Liberty (basketball)
2006-07 - Aruka Felgueroso, Coastal Carolina (golf)
2005-06 - Tiffany Evans, Radford (track & field)
2004-05 - Katie Feenstra, Liberty (basketball)
2003-04 - Katie Feenstra, Liberty (basketball)
2002-03 - Amber Campbell, Coastal Carolina (track & field)
2001-02 - Heather Sagan, Liberty (track & field)
2000-01 - Amber Campbell, Coastal Carolina (track & field)
1999-00 - Anthonia Akpama, Liberty (volleyball)