July 27, 2004
WACO, Texas - Baylor women's basketball player Jessika Stratton has been named Female Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year the league office announced Tuesday. Stratton is the first Baylor student-athlete to earn Sportsperson of the Year honors. Oklahoma football players Mark Clayton and Lynn McGruder shared the Male Sportspersons of the Year award.
A starter on last season's NCAA Sweet 16 team, Stratton has gone above and beyond both on and off the court while at Baylor. This past year the Colorado Springs, Colo., guard was the president of Baylor's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Stratton organized the Adopt an Angel program where Baylor participated in a Big 12-wide community service project during the holiday season. Stratton created a student mentor program with a Waco, Texas, high school for at-risk students. She also developed a relationship with a local couple whose son is confined to a wheelchair and gave them special recognition before and after home Lady Bear basketball games. Another instance of Stratton's sportsmanship was when she assisted a classmate's daughter who had had a rough basketball game. Stratton gave the classmate her email address and phone number and later would go over to the school and volunteer assist in practices.
An Academic All-Big 12 selection and two-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll, Stratton averaged 9.7 points and 3.9 assists last season for the 26-9 Lady Bears who advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Stratton is the Baylor career record holder for free throw percentage (.833) and the season record holder for three-point field goal percentage (.450) and free throw percentage (.833). She graduated his past spring with a degree in journalism and a Spanish minor.
"Jessika Stratton is an exemplary student-athlete who embodies all of the attributes that we desire at Baylor. She is a truly outstanding student, athlete and Christian woman, who has been a tremendous ambassador for the women's basketball program, athletic department and university," said Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw.
The Big 12 Male Sportsperson(s) of the Year took a new twist as this is the first time two honorees have been named in the award's four-year history. Clayton from Arlington, Texas, and McGruder from Las Vegas, are regulars on one of the nation's elite teams entering their senior season in 2004 but a heroic act entering their junior season earned them the Big 12's award. On June 1, 2003, the football duo was returning to Norman from Texas when, as published stories have reported, they witnessed a fatal three car accident on Interstate 35. The teammates stopped at the scene and began assisting the victims prior to the authorities arrival. In this they pulled victims from the wreckage and led them to safety. Both Clayton and McGruder were nominated for the Football Writer's Association of America Most Courageous Award for the heroic act as well.
Last season Clayton posted the best season ever by an Oklahoma receiver. Named to numerous All-America teams and a consensus first team All-Big 12 selection, Clayton already holds the OU career record for receiving yards at 2,333 and touchdown receptions with 23. In 2003 he broke the school's marks for season receiving yards (1,425), season TD catches (15), receiving yards in a game (190 vs. Texas), and receptions in a season (83). He also registered 11 games with 100 receiving yards or more as a junior. McGruder is a defensive lineman who played a major role in the four-man rotation of interior lineman for the Sooners' who were ranked No. 1 for 16 weeks during 2003. The senior-to-be posted 25 tackles and four tackles for loss in 13 games as a junior. McGruder also had two sacks, four quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble for OU last fall.
This is the fourth year the Big 12 has given Sportsperson of the Year honors. Stratton, Clayton and McGruder were chosen by a panel of conference administrators and media which cover the Big 12 throughout the year. Nominated by the athletic departments, the honorees were chosen in voting for the honor based on the following criteria: (1) must be a member of an intercollegiate athletics team during the 2003-04 academic year; (2) must be in good academic standing; (3) must have demonstrated good citizenship outside of a sports-competition setting; (4) must have demonstrated consistently good sportsmanship and ethical conduct in his/her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics; and (5) noteworthy act or acts of sportsmanship must have occurred during the previous academic year.
The trio will be honored at an awards ceremony in conjunction with the 2004 Dr Pepper Big 12 Football Championship on Dec. 4 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Big 12 Sportsperson(s) of the Year
2001 Kim Woodlee, Kansas State, basketball
2002 Natalie Ritchie, Texas Tech, basketball
2003 Laura Pilakowski, Nebraska, volleyball
2004 Jessika Stratton, Baylor, basketball
2001 Dan Alexander, Nebraska, football
2002 Cael Sanderson, Iowa State, wrestling
2003 Jeff Leise, Nebraska, baseball
2004 Mark Clayton and Lynn McGruder, Oklahoma, football