Louisiana Tech track and field athlete Chelsea Hayes along with Idaho track and field athlete Andrew Blaser and Utah State football player Robert Turbin are the 2011-12 Western Athletic Conference Joe Kearney Award winners. With the two men's winners, it is the first time in the 21-year history of the award that co-Joe Kearney Award winners have been named. It is also the first time a student-athlete from Idaho, Louisiana Tech or Utah State has won the award. Named in honor of former WAC commissioner Joe Kearney, the awards are given annually to the top male and female student-athletes in the WAC.
Hayes completed her career at Louisiana Tech by earning first team All-America honors in both the 100-meters and long jump earlier this month. She was the national runner-up at the indoor meet held in March. Hayes was a 14-time WAC champion and 15-time first team all-WAC honoree. She holds the WAC record in nine categories and is the only athlete in WAC history to sweep both the track athlete of the week and field athlete of the week honors in the same week (which she did twice). Hayes is the school's record holder in six events and recorded the 10 best long jump distances in Tech history.
"Look at her list of honors and I think Chelsea's athletic accomplishments speak for itself," said Louisiana Tech head track and field coach Gary Stanley. "What is impressive is she was able to accomplish all of that after being chased out of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina before her senior year of high school and almost didn't graduate from high school after bouncing around from several states and four or five high schools. Words cannot do Chelsea justice with her athleticism, drive to succeed and with the overall way she carries herself despite any type of pressure whether it be placed on her by herself, her teammates or any member of our coaching staff."
Blaser was named the Outstanding Field Performer at both the WAC Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2012. He was also the high point award honoree at both championships. He won five titles during the two seasons including the 60-meter hurdles, high jump and heptathlon at the indoor meet and the 110-meter hurdles and defended his title in the decathlon at the outdoor meet. His performance helped Idaho to a sweep of the two championships and he did all of this despite undergoing surgery for a hernia in December of 2011. Blaser finished his career with a program-best 17 all-WAC honors in the two sports.
"Andrew came to Idaho as a solid multi-event athlete and turned himself into one of the greatest all-around athletes in the history of the University of Idaho," said Wayne Phipps, Director of Track & Field at Idaho. "His motivation to do so came purely from a team standpoint - he wanted to do whatever he could to help Idaho win its first ever men's WAC title in any sport."
Turbin earned Utah State's first WAC Offensive Player of the Year award and helped the Aggies to its first winning season since 1993 and a trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He rushed for 1,517 yards and led the WAC in scoring with 23 touchdowns and 138 points. The junior finished his career as the school's all-time leader in scoring with 308 points and total touchdowns with 51. He was picked by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
"Robert Turbin epitomizes what the Joe Kearney Award is all about," said Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. "High achievement, leadership, and class describe his career. It was a privilege to coach such an outstanding student-athlete and watch him grow as a player and person. Young men like Robert are very rare and certainly deserve all honors that come their way."