Athletes of the Year announced

July 1, 2015


Vanderbilt has announced multiple recipients of its annual Male and Female Athlete of the Year Awards, the by-product of extraordinary performances by a number of teams and individuals.

Astra Sharma of the national champion women’s tennis team and two-sport star Simone Charley were named co-recipients of the Female Athlete of the Year while four men – golf’s Hunter Stewart, tennis’ Gonzalez Austin and baseball’s Carson Fulmer and Dansby Swanson – will share the Male Athlete of the Year Award.

“We had a very long discussion about having so many co-winners,” Director of Athletics David Williams said, “and in the end our senior managers did not feel that leaving any one of these outstanding achievers off this award was the right thing to do. In almost any other year, any one of them would have been a rather easy choice. They all have excelled athletically and academically. We have outstanding performers throughout our program.”

To Williams’ point, Sharma was the most valuable player at the SEC and NCAA women’s tennis championships, where the Commodores won titles and Charley was a first-team All-American triple jumper in both indoor and outdoor track while earning first-team All-SEC soccer laurels.

On the men’s side, Stewart and Austin were both first-team All-Americans and SEC Players of the Year in their respective sports while Fulmer and Swanson earned major SEC and national awards for their sparkling careers.

“Trying to define how one accomplishment was superior to another was next to impossible because they were all dominant in their sport,” Williams said. “We even took several votes and were deadlocked after each one. There were others that merited consideration as well. It is a very nice ‘problem’ to have.”

Academically, the six honorees also shined. They combined to achieve a 3.174 grade point for their careers. All were members of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and three, Charley, Fulmer and Swanson, made the coveted Dean’s List.

Sharma, a freshman from Perth, Australia, earned first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman honors in addition to her two tournament MVP’s at the SEC and NCAA championships. She was an All-American in doubles and was on the SEC academic honor roll.

Charley, the 2014 Female Athlete of the Year, is a sophomore from Birmingham. Two sport star was first-team All-America in both indoor and outdoor triple jump, placing third outdoors and fourth indoors and is school record holder. She also led the soccer team in scoring and tied for team lead in assists.

Stewart, who recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in Economics, compiled one of the better years in the history of collegiate golf. Just the school’s second first-team golf All-American, he won three individual tournaments and finished in a tie for second at the NCAA Championship. He posted a 19-round streak in the spring of par rounds or better. Stewart was named to the U.S. Palmer Cup team in 2015, where he went 4-0, and was a semifinalist or finalist for every major award in college golf.

In a program known for outstanding achievement, Fulmer wrapped up one of the best seasons in Vanderbilt baseball history, earning National Pitcher of the Year and SEC Pitcher of the Year after winning the SEC’s pitching triple crown, only the fourth player in league history to do so. The Lakeland, Fla. native’s 167 strikeouts are the second-most in school history and his 14 wins this year equaled a school record. He was the eighth overall selection in the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox making him the ninth pitcher selected in the first round in Vanderbilt history.

Swanson capped an amazing two-year stretch that saw the Marietta, Ga. native lead the Commodores to the school’s first-ever men’s national title in 2014 earning Most Outstanding Player honors followed by being the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft. Swanson led the Dores in hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs and walks enroute to a first team All-American season. He is the only first team All-American shortstop in school history and joins David Price as the only Commodores to be selected first overall. Dansby won the Brooks Wallace Award winner, given annually to the nation’s top shortstop.

Austin concluded a brilliant tennis career as a two-time, first-team All-American and SEC Player of the Year. “AJ” as he is called consistently was the highest ranked player this entire season in singles and was ranked with doubles partner Rhys Johnson in the ITA’s Top 10, spending much of the season rated No. 1 nationally. The Miami native is in the school record book three times for career singles win and career and single season wins in doubles. A four-time ITA All-American, he was also voted the 2015 Ohio Valley Player of the Year and awarded the UTSA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Sportsmanship Award.