GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Four elite Guilford College student-athletes received the 2011 Nereus C. English '26 Athletic Leadership Award Monday evening. This year's English Award recipients are seniors Tobi Akinsola, Courtney Kozar, Lauren LeFevers and Kyle Wooden. Since Guilford first presented the honor in 1977, 183 students have received the English Award.
Named for one of Guilford's most loyal alumni, the annual prize is the college's highest honor for athletic ability and leadership. The school's athletic staff members nominate and select the award winners, who display the highest ideals of athletic accomplishment, leadership and academic achievement.
Akinsola earned honorable mention All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) recognition this past season as the Quakers' starting center. Guilford's second-leading scorer with over 10 points per game, he led coach Tom Palombo's team and ranked among the league leaders in rebounding (6.8 rpg.) and double-doubles (3). Akinsola scored at least 10 points 13 times this year, including a career-high 26-point showing in Guilford's upset of second-ranked and previously unbeaten Virginia Wesleyan College. In his two seasons with the Quakers, he averaged 6.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game and helped the team to a 46-13 record. Akinsola was a key reserve on the Quakers' 2010 ODAC regular-season and tournament champions that reached the NCAA Division III Tournament semifinals. A three-time member of Guilford's Student-Athlete Honor Roll, he will graduate this May with a major in accounting and a minor in business.
"In athletics we receive awards based on our talent, but when you're given an award like the English Award it's humbling," Akinsola said. "Receiving an award like this shows the regard people have for you not just as an athlete, but as a person."
Akinsola also discussed the challenges of growing up in the United States after his parents voluntarily returned to their native Nigeria in 2000. "Basketball was the only way I could really escape everything that was going on," he said. "Coach Palombo supported and helped me through the process. Basketball has taught me that life isn't fair, but it goes on."
Kozar has been a regular on the Quakers' softball and volleyball teams in each of her four years at Guilford. On the volleyball court, she appeared in 101 matches for the Quakers and ranks among Guilford's career leaders in kills (770), digs (847) and kills per set (1.96). Kozar played a key role in helping coach Emily Gann improve the Quakers' winning percentage and ODAC standing in each of the last three seasons. Kozar has played a similar role on coach Dennis Shores' softball team and has helped the Quakers rise through the ODAC ranks in record-setting fashion. She has been a fixture in Guilford's outfield and despite missing most of her rookie campaign with a knee injury, ranks among the Quakers' career leaders in batting average (.386), on-base percentage (.458), stolen bases (18) and runs scored (69). Kozar is an accomplished student majoring in health sciences and biology. A dean's list student and Dana Scholar at Guilford, she is a two-time Academic All-ODAC performer and regularly on Guilford's Student-Athlete Honor Roll.
LeFevers captained coach Stephanie Flamini's basketball team this past year and helped Guilford to its most wins (15) since 2004 and first ODAC Tournament victory since 2006. The shooting guard enjoyed her finest season as a senior, averaging just under 10 points per game and collecting two double-doubles. LeFevers stands second in school history in three-point field goals (178) and three-point shooting percentage (.379). She totalled 813 points and 332 rebounds in 102 career games. A dean's list student and four-year student assistant in the Quakers' sports information office, LeFevers will graduate in May with majors in criminal justice and psychology. She is an Academic All-ODAC honoree and five-time member of Guilford's Student-Athlete Honor Roll.
"They are not here tonight, but it would be wrong not to thank my teammates," LeFevers said. "For four years we've lived out the motto, 'It's what's on the front of the jersey, not the back. Without those girls, any success on the court would not be possible. They've not only been my teammates, but they've become my family and I love each of them. My last year in a Guilford uniform was my greatest, and I owe that to the girls."
Wooden is a three-year starter for the Quakers' baseball team whose impact was clearly seen in last weekend's doubleheader sweep of league-rival Hampden-Sydney College. He missed most of Guilford's previous six games with a toe injury, during which time the Quakers won just once. Wooden returned to the lineup Mar. 12 and went eight-for-nine with a homer, four doubles and six RBI in the two games. He won ODAC Hitter of the Week honors and helped coach Nick Black's '02 club bang out 49 hits and 33 runs. The first baseman is hitting .468 this season with a homer and 10 runs batted in (RBI). He already stands among the Quakers' all-time best in home runs (19), doubles (35) and RBI (94) and will likely surface in other categories as the season moves on. As a sophomore, Wooden led all NCAA divisions with a school-record .514 batting average that helped him garner Second Team All-America and First Team All-South recognition. A two-time member of Guilford's Student-Athlete Honor Roll, he plans to graduate with a degree in history.
A native of Thomasville, N.C., Nereus C. English graduated from Guilford in 1926, but maintained close contact with the college after graduation. His loyalty and genuine interest in its students led to the creation of the English Endowment Fund and the Nereus C. and Mae Martin English Scholarship Fund in 1965. With his brother, the late T.R. English, he provided funding for Guilford's English Hall dormitory in 1957. In 1962, Nereus English received the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Guilford College Alumni Association.