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Athletes of the Year

By Brian Wahlund and Keith Carmona
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 4, 1999
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Female Athlete of the Year:
Amy Skieresz
Male Athlete of the Year:
Ryk Neethling
[Picture] [Picture]

"I love to coach her and her teammates will hate to see her leave. She's a tremendous athlete."
UA head coach Dave Murray

"Ryk's performance was phenomenal. Whenever he's swimming, all eyes are on him because he is simply amazing."
UA head coach Frank Busch

Why she won: After not losing a race all season, Skieresz battled a benign tumor on her right femur to place second at the NCAA Cross County Championships... During the season, Skieresz led the Wildcat women to a victory in the NCAA Western Regional against top-ranked Stanford and turned in a first-place finish at the Pacific 10 Conference Championships.

Career Accomplishments: Seven NCAA titles, 10-time All-American... Two-time Honda Sports Award winner... Three-time Pac-10's Women's Cross County Runner of the Year... First woman in NCAA Division I history to win four national titles in one year... Lost only four races in collegiate career (three were runner-up finishes at the NCAAs).

Personal Quote: Modest as always after her second-place finish at the NCAA Championships, Skieresz said, "I was just pretty dead at the end but I'm happy finishing second."

Coach's Quote: "I love to coach her and her teammates will hate to see her leave. She's a tremendous athlete." - UA head coach Dave Murray.

What's Next: Skieresz is redshirting this track and field season but will graduate in December, raising the question of whether or not she'll come back after graduation to use her last year of track and field eligibility. Presently, Skieresz has won seven NCAA titles, but if she comes back to compete in the 2000 track and field season and wins three more titles, she will end her collegiate career as the all-time NCAA national title holder, dethroning Wisconsin's Suzy Hamilton and her record of nine championships. Skieresz will begin training for the 2000 Olympic Trials next year and afterward will likely continue her running career at the professional level. - Brian Wahlund

Why he won: Captured NCAA individual championships in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 33.59 seconds), 500 free (4:13.8) and the 1,650 free (14:35.57), earning him the NCAA Division I Swimmer of the Year honors... Became only the eighth collegiate swimmer to record a double-triple, with victories in three events in consecutive seasons... Won Pacific 10 Conference individual titles in the 500 free (4:17.70) and the 1,650 free (15:03.22) en route to being named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year... Named to All-America team.

Career Accomplishments: As a sophomore, named to the All-America team by winning the 200, 500, and 1,650 free at NCAA Championships... Pac-10 Champion in the 500 and 1,650 free... Set new Pac-10 record in the 1,650 (14:47.38)... In his first year as a Wildcat, won NCAA and Pac-10 Championship in the 1,650 free... Named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year... Earned a Gold Medal in the 1,500-meter freestyle in the 1998 Goodwill Games... Member of the 1996 South African Olympic Swim Team and finished fifth in the 1,500 and tenth in the 400-meter free... Garnered a second place finish in the 1,500m free at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Personal Quote: "Never in my dreams did I ever expect to capture this many titles. I am going to keep on working and hopefully next year I can repeat, maybe do even better."

Coach's Quote: "Ryk's performance was phenomenal. Whenever he's swimming, all eyes are on him because he is simply amazing." - UA head coach Frank Busch.

What's Next: Neethling is returning to Arizona for his senior year and will be leading a men's swimming team that did not graduate any seniors from the 1998-99 season. The UA men's squad finished the season as the No. 5-ranked team in the nation, and hopes to improve in the 1999-2000 season. If Neethling is successful in defending the three NCAA Championships he has captured each of the past two years, he will be the first college swimmer to ever record a three-time three-peat. Aside from NCAA competition, Neethling has also said that he has aspirations of winning an Olympic Gold Medal in Sydney in the summer of 2000. - Keith Carmona

The final votes have been tallied for the male and female Athletes of the Year, and senior distance runner Amy Skieresz and junior freestyle swimmer Ryk Neethling have taken home the titles. Skieresz, who finished second at the NCAA Cross Country Championships despite running with a benign tumor on her right femur, was a landslide winner. Neethling had a much tougher challenge from basketball senior point guard Jason Terry. The South African-native beat out the CBS Player of the Year by an overall total of 44.9 percent to 36.1 percent of the vote. Neethling had 41.6 percent of the fans' votes, while splitting the Wildcat staff's votes with Terry. He picked up five of the nine voting coaches' votes.


Male                              Percent
1. Ryk Neethling, swimming        41.6 
2. Jason Terry, men's basketball  37.4
3. Chris McAlister, football       8.6
4. Trung Canidate, football        6.1
5. Abdi Abdirahman, cross country  3.7
Female                            Percent
1. Amy Skieresz, cross country    43.6
2. Trina Jackson, swimming        20.2
3. Nikki Jones, soccer             8.7
4. Kristin McDermott, gymnastics   6.9
5. Becky Lemke, softball           6.5

Wildcat staff

                                       Male        Female
Chris Jackson, sports editor           Neethling   Skieresz
Kate Longworth, asst. sports editor    Neethling   Skieresz
Dan Rosen, baseball/football reporter  McAlister   Skieresz
Bryan Rosenbaum, women's hoops         Neethling   Skieresz
Seth Doria, men's hoops                Terry       Skieresz
UA coaches                             Male        Female
Lute Olson, men's hoops                Terry       Skieresz
Dick Tomey, football                   McAlister   Skieresz
Mike Candrea, softball                 Neethling   Lemke
Jerry Stitt, baseball                  Neethling   Skieresz
Frank Busch, swimming                  Neethling   Skieresz