El Paso, TEXAS - Cross Country and Track & Field's Anthony Rotich was named the UTEP Male Athlete of the Year at the 40th annual "Dinner With the Miners" banquet on Thursday night at the Wyndham El Paso Airport. Track & Field's Janice Jackson and Women's Basketball's Kayla Thornton were co-recipients of the Female Athlete of the Year Award.
Volleyball's Xitlali Herrera received the Golden Miner Award, and Tony Harper was recipient of the Silver Anniversary Award.
Rotich picked up six first-place finishes during the 2013 outdoor track season, capturing a triple crown at the Conference USA Championships with wins in the 1,500 meters, 3,000 meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meters. He was named the Outstanding Male Performer of the Meet. On June 7, Rotich won the first of two NCAA titles with a school record time of 8:21.19 in the steeplechase. He turned in an equally dominant cross country season, emerging victorious in three of four races including at the C-USA Meet. He also finished 19th while battling a slippery trail at the NCAA Championships. He was appointed the C-USA Cross Country Athlete of the Year for the second straight time. During the 2014 indoor track campaign, Rotich continued his reign as the Outstanding Male Performer at the C-USA Meet. He won the mile, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters for the second year in a row to share High Point Scorer honors. Rotich was chosen the USTFCCCA Mountain Region Track Athlete of the Year and was one of two distance runners to land on the vaunted watch list for the Bowerman Award. He once again reached the pinnacle of competition, garnering a national title in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships. He outlasted Arizona's Lawi Lalang, the collegiate record-holder in the event.
Jackson earned All-American honors during both the 2013 outdoor and 2014 indoor seasons. She recorded four first-place finishes in the 100 meter hurdles during the outdoor campaign, including at the Drake Relays and Conference USA Championship. She posted a time of 13.06 seconds, second-fastest in school history, at the NCAA Championships to finish in eighth place. She continued her run of excellence during the 2014 indoor season, establishing a school-record time of 8.09 seconds in the 60 meter hurdles at the New Mexico Cherry and Silver Invitational. She later won the event and took third in the 200 meters at the C-USA Championships. She was also a member of the Miners' C-USA champion 4x400 meter relay. She took fifth place in the 60 meter hurdles at the NCAA Championships, becoming the second Miner all-time to claim All-American accolades in the event.
Thornton rewrote the UTEP record book while playing in her hometown of El Paso over the last four years. The Irvin High School graduate rates first in school history with 40 double-doubles, 600 field goals, 390 free throws, 1,679 points and 1,032 rebounds. As a senior in 2013-14, Thornton became the first Miner to average a double-double with 19.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Her rebounding average ranked first in school history, and her scoring average rated second. She scored in double figures in 32 of the 34 games that she played in, including a school-record 32 in a row. Thornton was a three-time All-Conference USA honoree, garnering second team honors in 2012 and 2013 and first team in 2014. She joined Jareica Hughes as the only Miners to be named All-Conference in at least three seasons. She was also a two-time member of the C-USA All-Defensive Team.
Herrera earned first team All-Conference USA honors for a school-record third straight year as a senior. She was also named honorable mention All-America and All-Southwest Region by the AVCA. She led the team with 450 kills, 527.5 points and 100 blocks, and was second with 283 digs while compiling 13 double-doubles. She ranked second in C-USA in kills per set and points per set, as well as in the top-25 nationally in both categories. Herrera was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week after posting a .611 hitting percentage against Rice. Herrera finished her career with 1,182 kills, fourth-most in school history, despite playing only three seasons at UTEP. Off the court, Herrera has compiled a 3.82 grade point average while majoring in International Business and is on track to graduate this fall. She accumulated 18 community service hours this year, giving her 68.5 in her career.
The Silver Anniversary Miner Award is presented to an individual who had a distinguished college athletic career, and has continued to contribute to UTEP and the El Paso community.
Born and raised in El Paso, Tony Harper graduated from Austin High School where he lettered on the football, basketball and baseball teams. He attended Texas Western University from 1964-68 and was a member of the Miner basketball team. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Physical Education with a minor in Science. He began his coaching career at Burges High School in 1968 as a junior varsity coach and soon became the head coach, a job that he held for 14 years. In 1985 he moved to El Paso High School as the head coach from 1985-90. He was the first head coach at Montwood High School when it opened in 1990, and remained there until 2013. In 2010, Montwood's gymnasium was renamed Tony Harper Gymnasium. Coach Harper was named the 2012 National High School Coaches Association National High School Boys' Basketball Coach of the Year, and the 2012 UIL Texas High School Basketball Coach of the Year. During the 2012-13 season, he became just the fourth coach in America to post 900 victories. He became the head coach at Cathedral High School in April of 2013 and, in his first year at the helm of the program, compiled a 29-8 record. He has 937 career coaching wins as he embarks on the 2014-15 campaign.
The team grade point average and community service awards were both presented to the women's golf program.
In addition, team MVP awards were presented to John Bohannon (men's basketball), Kayla Thornton (women's basketball), Anthony Rotich (men's cross country, men's indoor & outdoor track & field), Truphena Sum (women's cross country), Jameill Showers (football), Martin Simonsen (men's golf), Camino Sardinero (women's golf), Korina Rodriguez (rifle), Tori Martyn (soccer), Erika Arcuri & Colleen Hohman (softball), Rebeca Calvillo (tennis), Janice Jackson (women's indoor & outdoor track & field), Xitlali Herrera (volleyball), Arianna Castillo & Lamar Holmes (cheerleading), Adam Ayala, Cedrick Lang & Azia Nicholson (strength & conditioning) and Lori Torres (athletic training).
"Dinner With The Miners" is made possible by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club. The event was inspired by past Lion president John Phelan. In 1979, a $10,000 memorial endowment was established. Due to the overwhelming community support of the event, the memorial fund was raised to $100,000 in 1983. A second endowment has already been established and continues to grow each year. These two endowments provide funds annually to offset the cost of student-athlete scholarships.