WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last Thursday, the Catholic University Athletics Department held its annual senior celebration banquet inside the Pryzbyla Center in which it honored 69 seniors, including its six major award winners.
"There are a number of special people and unique and inspiring performances to acknowledge this afternoon," said Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Sean Sullivan. "We will look back at the moments where we met and even surpassed expectations, excelling in many different ways. We will also be reminded of how we have the represented our University and its mission with great pride."
Prior to the awards presentations, Sullivan paused to acknowledged the passing of men's swimming junior Chris Crafa and long-time head men's tennis coach, Marty Dowd '53. He then recogized current Vice President of Student Affairs and former Director of Athletics, Dr. Mike Allen, who was recently named President of Barry University and Associate Head Women's Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Joe Fisher '75 who announced his retirement after 41 years at Catholic.
To begin the awards portion of the celebration, each head coach talked about their group of seniors before each was called across the stage and given a frame with a photo and certificate commemorating their career.
The department then handed out its six special awards beginning with the presentation of the Jone Dowd Role Model Award by the award's very first recipient, former football and baseball player, Mike Geraghty '08, and its namesake, former senior woman administrator, Jone Dowd (pronounced Yo-neh).
The Jone Dowd Role Model Award is given annually to a male and female student-athlete who exudes graciousness in victory, humility in defeat and rallies their peers to consistently compete at a high level in athletics and beyond.
This year's female winner was women's basketball senior Emily O'Connor. A two-time Landmark Conference All-Sportsmanship Team and three-time Landmark Conference Winter Academic Honor Roll recipient, O'Connor underwent three major knee surgeries that limited her to 54 games over four seasons.
However, she persevered to serve as a team captain and member of the Executive Board for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) while spearheading all of her team's community service endeavors.
"Emily might be the most positive, giving and selfless person that I've ever met," said head women's basketball Matt Donohue. "She has taken each hurdle and setback and turned it into a life lesson. In doing so, she has returned from each injury and simply found new ways to lead and she did it all because of her love for this University, its athletic department and it's women's basketball program."
This year's male winner was baseball senior Ryan Tracy. A four-year starter at second base, he played in 152 career games and totaled 151 hits and a .313 batting average while being named to the All-Landmark Conference Second Team as a junior. He was also a three-time Landmark Conference Spring Academic Honor Roll selection.
Tracy was a participant in the University's MLK Day of Service, Polar Plunge and Fall Service Day and was was a regular volunteer at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, mentoring at-risk youth of Southeast Washington in math, life skills and baseball.
"Ryan has been our stellar team leader both on and off the field," said head baseball coach Ross Natoli. "Always striving to improve his game to reach his full potential, he constantly willed his teammates to do the same. No player I have coached has cared more about his teammates."
The next two awards presented were the Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete by former recipient and three-sport standout Helene McHale '10 who was a member of the women's swimming, women's track and field and women's soccer teams. She was named the Landmark Conference Athlete of the Year in women's soccer in 2009, leading the Cardinals to their first Landmark Conference championship.
The Outstanding Senior Athlete Award is presented to a male and female student-athlete who has made significant contributions to their respective sport and team. The award takes into account the student-athlete's aggregate career at Catholic.
This year's female winner was women's track and field senior Andrea Galeano. Galeano was a nine-time All-Landmark Conference selection and seven-time champion. She was a two-time NCAA qualifier indoor, becoming the program's first All-American with a sixth-place finish in the weight throw in 2019.
Galeano was a five-time USTFCCCA All-South/Southeast Region honoree and 2019 All-South/Southeast Region Indoor Field Athlete of the Year. She was also named Landmark Conference Indoor Field Athlete of the Year in 2017 and 2019.
"Andrea has had an incredible four years," said Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Steve Rahn. "She also holds two school records in the weight throw and hammer throw and holds the Landmark Conference record and championship meet record in the weight throw."
This year's male winner was baseball senior Jon Mierzwa. The first Cardinal to be named Landmark Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2019, Mierzwa was a four-time All-Landmark Conference selection, earning first team honors his final three seasons. He is also the Landmark Conference's all-time leader in strikeouts with 286.
Mierzwa finished his career with a 22-4 record with five complete games and two saves in 50 appearances and 41 starts. He totaled a 2.59 earned run average over 229.2 innings and averaged 11.21 strikeouts per nine innings.
"Jon is the most decorated pitcher in school history," said Natoli. "A starter since his freshman year, he is the first player to be a four-time all-conference selection and will be the first to be a three-time all-region honoree. "Jon's impressive academic performance, tireless work ethic and commitment to both community and athletic department service personifies the virtues most deserving of the Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete."
The final two awards of the evening were the Harris Cup and Donley Cup which recognize the career excellence of a male and female student-athlete in four distinct areas: academics (3.0 minimum GPA), athletics, leadership and service.
Presenting the awards was Richard Weible '76 , Harris Cup winner and former men's soccer player when Catholic was a member of Division I.
This year's female winner was women's lacrosse senior Erin Dugan. The 2019 Landmark Conference Women's Lacrosse Senior Scholar Athlete, Dugan graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting and a 3.64 grade-point average. She was a four-time All-Landmark Conference selection, including a three-time first team honoree.
An IWLCA Second Team All-American last year, Dugan was also a three-time IWLCA All-Chesapeake Region Team selection who finished her career with 148 ground balls, 237 draw controls and 77 caused turnovers in 84 games while making 82 starts.
Off the field, Dugan was named to the Dean's List every semester and was a three-time Landmark Conference Spring Academic Honor Roll selection. She participated in Catholic's annual MLK Day of Service, Mother Theresa Day of Service and Brookland Field Day.
"From the moment Erin stepped on campus, she was a leader on our defense, assuming full control of it as a sophomore," said head women's lacrosse coach Meghan McDonogh. "Starting virtually every game in her career, she was the heart of our defense and our undisputable leader. She tackles issues head on, is no-nonsense and has great relationships with her teammates and coaches."
This year's male winner was men's soccer senior Brian Galfond. A 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team and United Soccer Coaches' Scholar All-South Region First Team honoree, Galfond graduated with a 3.78 grade-point average in mechanical engineering. He was also a three-time Landmark Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll recipient.
On the field, Galfond was a two-time All-Landmark Conference selection and named to the United Soccer Coaches All-Mid-Atlantic Region Third Team in 2018. He played in 71 of the team's 74 games during his career, making 58 starts and totaling 14 goals, 10 assists, 38 points and five game-winning goals.
"Brian was awarded the Archdiocesan Scholarship and has not disappointed," said head men's soccer coach Travis Beauchamp. "He was the point person for the team's MLK and Mother Theresa Days of Service. He was also a member of SAAC and a math and chemistry tutor at CASE. As an attacking player, he was instrumental to the program's resurgence, having scored nine goals and nine assists in his final two seasons."
Following the conclusion of the awards, Sullivan invited O'Connor to give the student-athlete remarks.
"I don't know how it is at other schools, but I believe that no other athletics program supports each other more than all of us here at Catholic," said O'Connor. "Because of this, we have had great success. I am proud to be a student-athlete at the Catholic University. Catholic has challenged us in the classroom and on the field, to prepare us all for the challenges that lie ahead and I know that every senior in this room will go out and do great things."
Following a year in review highlight video prepared by Donohue, O'Connor returned to the stage for the celebratory toast before University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, Father Jude DeAngelo, offered the benediction.
There are exactly 100 days until the start of the 2019-20 athletic year when the men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball teams open their seasons on Friday, August 30.