SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University Department of Athletics has recognized four outstanding student-athletes with the school’s year-end senior awards. Football player Duke DeGaetano received the 2017 Dennis Spurlock Award, Madi Perez (softball) and Kenny Love (men’s basketball) are the Senior Athletes of the Year, and Jenna Morris is the recipient of the Aaron Leetch Inspiration Award.
The Whitworth athletics department voted on the 2016-17 awards near the end of the school year.
The Dennis Spurlock Award is named in memory of the former Pirate All-America quarterback (1958-61). The award was established to honor Whitworth student-athletes who model the characteristics of the award’s namesake, specifically modesty, poise, and leadership in addition to excellence in athletics performance, drawing respect for the school, the team, and the individual.
Duke DeGaetano completed his stellar Pirate career as a First Team Academic All-American. A two-time team captain in 2015 and 2016, DeGaetano (Bend, Ore. / Bend) ran for 1,001 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry as a senior. He set a Whitworth school record, and ranked fourth in all of NCAA Division III, with 21 rushing touchdowns. He totaled 22 touchdowns overall and averaged 13.2 points per game, which was sixth in DIII and led the Northwest Conference. DeGaetano also finished with 47 receptions for 248 yards, averaging 124.9 all-purpose yards per game. He was named First Team All-Northwest Conference and was selected as the NWC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-high 197 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-14 win over Willamette on November 5, 2017. In addition, DeGaetano serves on Whitworth's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and he started a team bible study. He is a member of the Psy-Chi club and is a Whitworth Laureate Society member.
The Whitworth Senior Athlete of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic achievement during a student's final year of eligibility.
Madi Perez (Fountain Valley, Calif. / Fountain Valley) rewrote the Whitworth pitching record book in 2017. She went 25-6 with a 1.90 ERA in 192 total innings. She set single-season team records for victories, complete games (21), innings pitched and shutouts (8). The 2017 Northwest Conference Pitcher of the Year, Perez concluded her Pirate career with 63 victories, which is a school record. She also set a team mark for career shutouts (19). Perez led Whitworth to a 37-11 record in 2017, setting a new mark for most victories in one season. Whitworth won its third straight NWC regular season title and she earned three victories while leading the Bucs to their first NWC tournament crown. Perez also won a pair of games in the NCAA Division III tournament, the first NCAA tournament wins in school history.
Kenny Love (Santa Rosa, Calif.) earned First Team All-Northwest Conference and Second Team All-West Region (D3hoops.com) in 2016-17 and won a spot in the 2017 Reece’s Division III All-Star game. He is one of only 14 players in the history of the NWC, along with teammate Christian Jurlina, to claim All-NWC First Team recognition for three or four years. Love led the Northwest Conference in assists (122) and tied for first in assists per game (4.4). He also finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.8. He averaged 12.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while making 91% of his free throws, leading the Bucs to a 23-5 record and their 11th straight trip to the NCAA Division III tournament. In January he became the 28th men's player in school history to surpass 1,000 career points and he finished his career 15th on Whitworth's all-time scoring list with 1,243 points. He dished out a career-high 12 assists in the Bucs' season-opening win over St. Olaf (Minn.).
The Aaron Leetch Inspiration Award was created in 2015 to honor the memory of the former Whitworth Director of Athletics who perished in a plane crash in April of that year. It recognizes a Pirate student-athlete who embodies inspiration, passion, perseverance and dedication to his or her sport.
Jenna Morris (Boise, Idaho / Eagle) arrived at Whitworth as a walk on who had to earn her place on the women’s soccer team. After she made the squad in the spring of her freshman year, catastrophic injuries ended her first two seasons early in the schedule. Finally, in 2017 Morris started all 17 of the matches for which she was available and she finished with one goal and three assists, and effectively controlled possession in the midfield for the Bucs. NWC coaches recognized Morris with First Team All-Conference status.
Members of the Whitworth athletics department voted for these student-athletes from among a strong class of Pirate seniors in 2017. All four will be recognized and presented with their awards at the Senior Reflections on Saturday night as part of graduation weekend ceremonies.