NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This week Vanderbilt Athletics hosted its annual Golden Dores banquet, recognizing the best of the best in on- and off-field achievements for Commodore student-athletes in 2018-19.
Presented by Vanderbilt Student-Athlete Development, Golden Dores culminated with the crowning of this year’s Mr. and Miss Commodore. This year’s honorees were, respectively, Patrick Martin of men’s golf and Fernanda Contreras of women’s tennis.
Vanderbilt also unveiled next year’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) leadership. Cross country’s Harrison Thomas will serve as president, while swimming’s Nemo Sanchez will serve as vice president.
The full list of Golden Dores honorees is below.
Female Newcomer of the Year:
Haley Walker (women’s cross country)
Haley Walker closed her inaugural cross country season with a spot on the All-South Region team with a 17th-place result among 208 runners at the NCAA South Region Championships. The Ontario, Canada native also earned SEC All-Freshman honors as the sixth-fastest first-year runner at the conference meet.
Other nominees: Brinae Alexander, Tonner DeBeer, Georgia Drummy, Brianne Gross, Ella Shamburger, Taiya Shelby, Auston Kim.
Male Newcomer of the Year:
Aaron Nesmith (men’s basketball)
Nesmith played in all 32 games and made 19 starts as a true freshman for the Commodores. He led Vanderbilt in scoring in SEC games with 13.5 points/game and set a single-game career high with 26 points at Florida. He scored 24 points and had career highs in field goals made and minutes against No. 1-ranked Tennessee. In all, he scored 20 or more points in four SEC games as a true freshman.
Other nominees: CJ Bolar, Nick Laning, Kumar Rocker and Macsen Sisam
Female Player of the Year:
Kristen Denk (track and field)
During the 2019 indoor season Kristen Denk became just the second Commodore pole vaulter to earn indoor All-America status. The North Royalton, Ohio native finished 10th in the nation after covering 13-7.75 (4.16 meters). The junior just set a new outdoor school record at the Tennessee Relays with a clearance of 14-3.25 (4.35 meters).
Nominees: Maria Bulanova, Abbey Carlson, Tonner DeBeer, Lauren Demarchi, Amanda Meyer, Mariella Fasoula
Male Player of the Year:
Will Gordon (men’s golf)
Gordon is currently having a historic season for the Commodores. He boasts the second-lowest single-season stroke average in program history and has individual wins this season at the Tavistock Collegiate Championship and the Florida Gator Invitational. Gordon was a U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist in 2018 and recently won medalist honors at the MacKenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada) qualifying school. He has been named to the U.S. team for the prestigious Arnold Palmer Cup scheduled this June. Off the course, Gordon is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member and a Golf Coaches Association of America All-America scholar.
Other nominees: Austin Martin, Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Play of the Year:
Bowling’s NCAA Championship
The 2018 women’s bowling team most recently capped its season as NCAA runner-ups this past Saturday. In last season’s NCAA final, then-sophomore Maria Bulanova threw two strikes to allow Vandy to send the championship into Game 7 against McKendree. Those two strikes along with an incredible Samantha Gainor spare led the Dores to celebrate their second NCAA Bowling Championship.
Female Comeback Player of the Year
Haley Hopkins (soccer)
After playing in just one game in 2017 before an injury forced her to redshirt her freshman campaign, Haley Hopkins delivered the best freshman season in Vanderbilt history in the last 20 years in 2018. Her 14 goals and 35 points led the Commodores en route to their first SEC Championship since 1994. Hopkins also the SEC Freshman of the Year, a third team All-America representative and a part of the All-SEC first team and SEC Freshman Team.
Other nominees: Paige Hamilton, Haley Hopkins, Emily Rigney and Sara Tsaa
Male Comeback Player of the Year
JJ Bleday (baseball)
Bleday missed 22 games a season ago with an oblique injury. His return in early May coincided with the Commodores’ late-season surge. The Panama City Beach, Florida, native helped Vandy to 10 wins in its final 14 games, highlighted by capturing the NCAA Clemson Regional. Bleday saved his best for last, lifting Vanderbilt to a walk-off 4-3 victory against Mississippi State in the Super Regionals.
Other nominees: Frank Coppet, Harrison Thomas
James A. Robins Award
Melanie Becker (lacrosse)
In her senior season at Vanderbilt, Melanie was named captain of the lacrosse team for the second straight season. In 2017, she was a part of the Vanderbilt service trip to Jamaica in partnership with Soles4Souls and she was also one of three students awarded the Wattles Fellowship at Lloyds of London after she graduates in May.
The James A. Robins award is given annually to honor the memory of Jim Robins (VU 1892) whose life and teaching exemplified selfless devotion to learning, to honor, to participate in sports and service to youth and Vanderbilt. “Mr. Jim” became a Latin and Greek professor, and it is said he never missed a game and even attended some practice sessions. This award has been presented for 54 years to the senior student-athlete in whose life these virtues are most evident. A plaque hangs on the first floor of the Sarratt Student Center beyond the Baseball Glove Lounge to celebrate this award and honor the legacy of Jim Robins.
Community Service Award
Gabby Rademaker (soccer)
The Community Service Award goes to a senior who has served as a leader to their fellow student-athletes by their tireless work to make a difference. One of the most active players on the Vanderbilt soccer team in terms of community service over the past four years, Rademaker was named to the 2017 SEC Community Service Team for her work as volunteer at local elementary schools and local organizations such as Live Your List. Rademaker went on a month-long service trip to New Zealand in hopes of bringing clean water solutions to the indigenous tribes all over the country. Rademaker was also able to help raise money for the Sophie Elliott Foundation during her time there. The foundation was created to bring awareness to abusive relationships and help young girls get out of those relationships before it’s too late.
Other nominees: Hadley Brown, Fernanda Contreras, Julian Infante, Josh Smith
Dr. Jerry Reves Award
Kristin Quah (bowling)
The Dr. Jerry Reves award is presented annually to the graduating senior student-athlete that has been at Vanderbilt at least six semesters, with the highest cumulative grade-point average. Dr. Reves played tennis at Vanderbilt and graduated in 1965. He went on to a long and very successful career in medicine and recently retired from his position as Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Medical University of South Carolina.
In competition, Quah was named to All-America teams three times and helped Vanderbilt win the NCAA Bowling Championship in 2018. In academics as a double major in biomedical and electrical engineering, Quah achieved a 3.966 grade point average. Next fall she will begin work on her PhD while conducting MRI research at Stanford.
The Shining Star Award
The Shining Star Award is voted on by each team, and given to a team member who is an unsung hero and who embodies the spirit of Vanderbilt Athletics.
Grace Bell (lacrosse)
Kacie Breeding (track and field/cross country)
Tyler Brown (baseball)
Jordyn Cambridge (women’s basketball)
Georgia Drummy (women’s tennis)
Hannon Eberts (soccer)
Brooke Ellis (swimming)
Max Evans (men’s basketball)
David Floyd (football)
Samantha Gainor (bowling)
Mason Greenberg (men’s golf)
Edward Harpstead (men’s cross country)
Jack Lee (men’s tennis)
Becca Schulte (track and field/cross country)
Louise Yu (women’s golf)
Fernanda Contreras (women’s tennis)
Standout senior Fernanda Contreras has earned a remarkable career as a Commodore. During her time at Vanderbilt, Contreras has helped lead her team to back-to-back SEC regular season and tournament titles, has competed in two NCAA Final Fours and, last season, helped the Commodores earn the title of NCAA runner-ups. Last season, this senior earned a spot on the 2018 SEC All-Tournament Team, Community Service Team and First-Team All SEC team. At the 2018 SEC Tournament, Contreras was named the SEC Tournament MVP. Fernanda holds Vanderbilt’s record for most single-season wins (44) which she achieved last season. This year, Fernanda is ranked No. 3 nationally in singles. While shining on the court, Fernanda has also stood out in the classroom and has pursued a degree in mechanical engineering and led the student-athlete body as the SAAC President. Following graduation, Fernanda looks to continue her career in tennis at the professional level.
Other nominees: Melanie Becker, Jenn Edobi, Johanna Goldblatt, Kristin Quah and Jackie Welch
Patrick Martin (men’s golf)
One of the best players in Commodore golf history, Martin has had a stellar season on and off the course. On the course, he averages 70.42 strokes per round with three top-five finishes and one SEC Player of the Week honor. Off the course, he is a friendly face for other student-athletes and a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member and a Golf Coaches Association of America All-America scholar.
Other nominees: Stephen Scott
#13 Maria Bulanova
- 5′ 5″ / Junior
#16 Samantha Gainor
- 5′ 5″ / Sophomore
#27 Kristin Quah
- 5′ 2″ / Senior
#8 Emily Rigney
- 5′ 5″ / Junior
- Redshirt Sophomore
#24 Aaron Nesmith
- F / 6′ 6″ / 213 lbs / Freshman