A time for recognition: Bulldogs honored at awards ceremony

Fresno State hosted its seventh annual Night of Champions Tuesday night at the Save Mart Center to honor the school’s student-athletes.

The end-of-the-year banquet, hosted by football players Lars Bramer and Jamal Ellis, lacrosse’s Kara Concheck and volleyball’s Melissa Brand, recognized Bulldog athletes for their efforts both on and off the field.

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr and senior track and field athlete Meagan McKee headlined the event. They each won the Bulldog of the Year Award, the most prestigious award of the night.

The women’s lacrosse team earned the Director of Athletics Service Award for its efforts and contributions for the community.

The George Ilg Newcomer of the Year Award went to freshmen Paul Watson and Ariana Holmes. Watson, a forward on Fresno State’s basketball team, was named an All-American and helped lead the Bulldogs to the College Basketball Invitational Finals. Holmes, a defender on the women’s soccer team, helped lead the ‘Dogs to a 7-2-1 conference record this season.

The Harold Haak Memorable Moment Award recognized fantastic plays and moments throughout the season. The female award went to women’s basketball team senior Taylor Thompson for her game-winning buzzer beater shot against Utah State. The male award went to the Bulldog football team for winning its second consecutive Mountain West Championship.

Fresno State shortstop Brooke Ortiz gave a heartwarming speech in the middle of the event. Ortiz addressed hardships she has faced throughout her life, such as losing her father. The senior’s emotional speech had a powerful impact on the audience, as she received a standing ovation after.

“I have been through this darkness and fought my battles,” Ortiz said. “I’ve wanted to give in, to give up [and] let myself be beat. But I realized even the darkness can’t last forever. So in my last words to you all, I say appreciate what you have because before you know it, it will be gone in the blink of an eye.

“Be strong through the hard times and eventually that light will show up. You will live a whole new life with the greatest appreciation for a second chance of happiness, and you will become the strongest soldier you’ve ever been.”

Senior women’s basketball guard Alex Furr and cornerback Sean Alston won the Paul Schechter Courage Award for their courageous efforts and perseverance through serious season-ending injuries.

The SAAC Spirit Award went to junior lacrosse attacker Marcy Levatino and senior track and field standout Michael Jamieson.

Some 146 student-athletes were named to the Dean’s List (3.5 GPA and up), and seven Bulldogs earned All-American honors.