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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - The student-athletes who competed in the America East Swimming & Diving Championship and University at Albany’s men’s basketball team were named the 2011 America East Sportsmanship Award winners, the league announced this evening at the conference’s annual meetings in Portsmouth, N.H. This year’s winners are now automatically eligible for the NCAA Sportsmanship Awards, which the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct will determine in July.

To be nominated, an individual or team must have demonstrated consistently the values of caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility in his or her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. The student-athlete or team nominees must be a member of an intercollegiate athletics team during the 2010-11 academic year.

America East swimmers and divers set aside their competitive spirit and rallied around one of their own at the 2011 conference championship. Student-athletes raised funds and paid tribute to Boston University senior diver Bailey O’Brien, who learned in December that cancer, which had been in remission since her freshman year, had returned. Over the next few months, O’Brien endured numerous surgeries and intensive chemo and radiation therapy but was diagnosed with stage four melanoma.

When the conference championship came around in February, her story had reached across the entire America East footprint and her fellow student-athletes sprung to action. Led by UMBC’s Ashley Miller, collection baskets were placed around the Germantown Indoor Swim Club, host site for the meet, and over $1,500 was raised for the Bailey O’Brien Fund. The athletes also organized a moving tribute to O’Brien, in which they all gathered around the pool and held hands in unison. O’Brien watched the tribute via Skype and was rendered speechless by the support. Inspired by the gesture, O’Brien continued to fight and learned just last month that she is in remission.

A snow storm prevented Albany’s men’s basketball team from flying to Cincinnati for its late December game against Xavier and the team was forced to take a 12-hour bus ride instead. Also trying to return to Cincinnati for the game were Xavier’s two leading scorers Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway, both New York natives, who were home for Christmas and also snow bound.

After exhausting all other options, Xavier asked Albany head coach Will Brown to give the players a ride and Brown, who was honored at the 2011 National Sportsmanship Awards in April, agreed. Holloway was never able to get to the Capital Region from Long Island due to the weather, but Lyons did make the trip with the Great Danes and ended up scoring 18 points in the Xavier win. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Brown at the time. “This time of year, it’s what it’s all about.”

America East began awarding a conference Sportsmanship Award to a male and female student-athlete for the 2005-06 academic year based on the same principles and criteria as the NCAA Sportsmanship Awards. The 2008 female recipient, Hartford’s Latasha Jarrett, went on to be named the NCAA’s Division I Sportswoman of the Year.

Year-By-Year America East Sportsmanship Award Winners
             Male                                          Female

2011     Albany Men’s Basketball Team    America East Swimmers & Divers
2010     Stephen Marino, Stony Brook    Lindsay Makowicki, Hartford
2009     Rich Lieberman, Hartford           Maine Softball Team
2008     Cavell Johnson, UMBC               Latasha Jarrett, Hartford
2007     Ross Lohr, Boston U.                 Kristin Drabyn, UMBC
2006     Chris Spivey, Hartford                Rachel Laws, Binghamton

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