The 23rd annual Golden Eagle Awards Dinner April 5 honored a dozen Westmont scholar-athletes who have exceled athletically and in the classroom while being a faithful follower of Christ. This year’s winners were Jacob Grant, men’s cross country; Olivia Wood, women’s track and field; Andrew Devian, baseball; Sophia Fuller, women’s soccer; Isabel Lee, women’s tennis; Tommy Nightingale, men’s tennis; Joseph Miller, men’s track and field; Kelly Collins, women’s cross country; Libby Dahlberg, volleyball; Tim Heiduk, men’s soccer; Lauren McCoy, women’s basketball; and Stefan Inouye, men’s basketball.
Kirsten Moore, head women’s basketball coach and associate athletic director, was master of ceremonies. President Gayle D. Beebe offered closing remarks.
Pete and Gerd Jordano and Pacific Beverage Company have sponsored the annual event since it began in 1995.
Grant, a senior religious studies major and art minor with a 3.57 GPA, says he has always been athletic and smart. “But this had a placebo effect where I would avoid something that would test my limits so I wouldn’t have to deal with failure or negative repercussions,” he says. “In some cases, I settled for being good enough.” Grant’s outlook has undergone a paradigm shift while studying with Westmont Downtown. “The downtown program has emphasized looking within and finding what is different about me that I can use to then engage with the world.”
“Running is an expression of who he is,” Coach Russell Smelley says. “But what he is reaching for is a hunger to do more than just be an athlete or just be a student. He wants to affect people’s lives in a positive way.”
Wood, a senior biology major with a 3.8 GPA, transferred to Westmont after suffering from anxiety and a physical collapse her freshman year. “I went to a team that valued me,” she says of coming to Westmont. “They valued my health and my walk with God. We weren’t just here to be athletes.”
“What she really cares about is her teammates,” Smelley says, “and that’s where she thrives and seeks to do her best. Olivia has a heart for others. It’s not the running. It’s what she wants to do with the gifts God has given her.”
Devian, a senior economics and business major with a 3.39 GPA, has suffered numerous illnesses and injuries during his four years at Westmont. “There have been many times where it would have been easy to give in to my struggles and simply quit,” he says. “The fact that I’ve continued to persevere through the pain and I’m standing in front of you here today is a testament to the Westmont environment that I’ve been blessed to be a part of.”
“His depth of character, devotion to his faith and perseverance are attributes that make him stand out,” says baseball coach Rob Ruiz. “He has had to fight through more adversity on and off the field in four years than most athletes do in their career. He has remained steadfast in his leadership.”
Fuller, a senior kinesiology major with a 3.72 GPA, didn’t want to play soccer in college before she visited Westmont. “When I revisited, I realized that this team was more than just soccer,” she says. “I can’t imagine the person I would have been if I went to one of those big institutions. I am so glad that I ended up at Westmont.”
“Although I admire her dependability on the field and the accolades she has received,” says Chantel Cappuccilli, head women’s soccer coach, “what I cherish most about her is the reliability she brought off the field and for an engaging personality and positive outlook. The investment she made in her teammates and our program is truly invaluable. Her striving for excellence within her studies, commitment to spiritual growth and intentionality and joy that radiates within her character stretches far beyond the playing field.”
Lee, a sophomore biology major with a 3.52 GPA, says despite the challenges of a difficult season, God has been faithful.
“In the midst of all the stressors, the season has been one of the most fulfilling seasons in terms of unity and camaraderie with the team,” she says. “God has provided an opportunity for us to start fresh and establish a strong foundation of unity with one another. So far, it’s been a blessing that all six of us are completely different, yet we are all committed to one goal and that is to play for His glory.”
Nightingale, a senior triple major of economics and business, religious studies and English with a 3.62 GPA, helped his team earn its first GSAC Tournament Championship since 1997.
“Tommy is basically the most versatile all-around athlete that I’ve been able to coach in terms of the way he performs in the classroom and his spiritual focus and how he continues to improve on the tennis court,” says head men’s tennis coach Mark Basham. “His focus is to get better each and every day and he really cares about his teammates.”
Miller, a senior double major in economics and business and communication studies with a 3.29 GPA, says God opened an important door in his life when he met coach Smelley. “It may be the case that God is about to close another door in my life but I am faithful that he gives us a series of revolving doors to open and close,” Miller says. I am extremely grateful for my coaches, teammates, parents and professors. Thank you for preparing me for where I am at right now and for whatever door God decides to open next.”
Collins, a senior English major with a 4.0 GPA, was named Outstanding Senior by the English department. “She is learning that her self-worth is not tied up in what she does, though she can achieve immense things,” Smelley says. “The best things are still to come in her writing and who she is.”
“I’ve learned that working less but working stronger and more efficiently often yields more positive results,” Collins says. “When I look back on these four years I know that I will remember the relationships that I’ve developed far more than the results I’ve achieved.”
Dahlberg, a sophomore biochemistry major with a 3.84 GPA, has won All-Conference honors, GSAC player of the year, All Region Player of the Year and First-Team All-American. “She’s a very gifted athlete she has been a coach’s dream; hard-working, intelligent, hungry for improvement, an excellent teammate and a devoted follower of Christ,” says Patti Cook, head volleyball coach.
“When I choose to be brave in my weaknesses, I do not put limits on God and I’m amazed by what I can achieve,” Dahlberg says. “Westmont has provided so many opportunities to challenge myself academically, athletically and spiritually.
Heiduk, a sophomore economics and business major with a 3.84 GPA, was forced to sit out last season with a stress fracture in his foot. “There are certainly people in this world who reach their goals and objectives,” says Dave Wolf, head men’s soccer coach. “There are far fewer who reach their goals and objectives and also completely stay the path that God has laid out for them.”
“In life we have a choice,” Heiduk says. “We can sulk in the hard times or we can choose to make the most of the cards we have been dealt. That’s something that I’ve really tried to embody these past 11 months and although it’s been tough and I haven’t been able to play, I’ve found my identity in Christ and have really never been happier. I couldn’t be in a better place and I’m so extremely fortunate and blessed to be at Westmont.”
McCoy, a junior political science major with a 3.66 GPA, was a big part of a team that won the GSAC Championship and made it to the Elite Eight at the National Tournament.
“Through all the hard this year, what was revealed was a faith that was steadfast, a heart that gave all she had for her teammates and a grit that fought relentlessly to be who she said she was going to be, a servant leader who would do whatever it took to help our team be the best that is was capable of becoming,” says Kirsten Moore, head women’s basketball coach.
Inouye, a senior kinesiology major with a 3.85 GPA, has won the Golden Eagle award three times.
“Along the way he grew in wisdom and he began to grasp the value of humility and soon enough he discovered what it meant to fear the Lord,” says John Moore, head men’s basketball coach.
“Westmont College does two things better than any other college in America or in the world for that matter,” Inouye says. “They set incredibly high standards and cultivate lifelong learning. A specific example of this is in sports. You don’t get off the bench if you don’t learn quickly. In terms of setting high standards, Westmont sports has had a history of winning and winning and winning.”