UWL Athletics Department hosts ESSLY Awards


Image retrieved from @uwlathletics Instagram.

Gianna Fussell, Sports Reporter

On Tuesday, April 25, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Athletics Department hosted their Eagles Sports, School, and Life Yearly Awards, otherwise known as the ESSLYs. The ESSLYs are a spin-off of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network’s (ESPN) Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Awards.

“Tonight, we are going to highlight some of the most outstanding accomplishments of UWL student-athletes over this past year,” said host Amy DuPont. The ESSLYs give awards in each category of sports, school, and in life.

Kim Blum took the stage for an introduction to the awards before the first award was handed out. “First, I want to thank our coaches, our administration staff, and athletic training staff for all that you do. I am very grateful for all of you,” said Blum. In addition, Blum thanked those who reserved to come to the ESSLYs, faculty members, supporters of the program, and those who helped to put the awards together.

“My objective here tonight is simple. I want everybody to understand and appreciate excellence,” Blum said. “I want you to understand that you are part of something really special.”

The Learfield Directors Cup is a program that measures UWL athletics against other Division III programs. UWL currently ranks 12th out of 440 teams and leads the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (WIAC) Director’s Cup. In addition, out of the 43 div. III conferences in the NCAA, only five other conferences have higher point totals than UWL, and that doesn’t include the spring competition. The Director’s Cup rankings can be found here.

Blum said that out of the last 21 years, student-athletes have had a higher grade point average (GPA) than the general student body for 20 of the 21 years. “In those 21 years, 95% of the time, student-athletes outperform the general student-body. And in that 20 years, UWL as a university has been ranked a top campus in the state in that regional category,” Blum said. Student-athletes had a combined 3.299 combined GPA last year.

As for community service, Blum said, “Our athletics teams combined have about 2,263 hours of service to the community. This would be one person working 24 hours a day for 110 days straight. If someone were to put in this number of hours by working a 40-hour work week, they would be doing this for a year and three months. This many service hours would be half the trip of the earth to the sun using the speed of the typical NASA spacecraft.”

UWL has won 73 team national titles, 235 national individual champions, and third most overall individual titles overall out of the 1,098 schools in the NCAA. UWL has also won 432 conference titles as of the 2022 winter season.

“Thank you student-athletes for being all that you are. I am grateful and I am in awe. This is your night, enjoy the excellence,” Blum said in her closing introduction remarks.

The first award of the night was the Outstanding Career Award. “The Outstanding Career Award goes to student-athletes who during their time here have truly impacted the course of their particular programs,” said Lauren Steien, who handed out the first award. “Both of these student-athletes are extremely talented and very accomplished in their sport, but they are also incredible representatives of this program and this university.”

“The two athletes that are receiving this award are Emma Lawrence and Ethan Anderson,” Kylee Sommer said, who also helped hand out the first award.

Lawrence participated in both the women’s volleyball and track and field teams all four years. In volleyball, Lawrence was a three-time WIAC First Team selection, American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American and collected 1,223 making her sixth on UWL’s all-time kill list.

In track, Lawrence is a 13-time All-American, has four top-three finishes at the national championships, holds two school records, and is ranked in the top four for three events.

Anderson played on the men’s basketball team and has four WIAC First Team honors, which makes him the first player in UWL history to achieve this. He played 116 games, which is the school record, and has scored 1,573 points making him fifth on the all-time scoring list. Anderson was named to the 2021-22 D3hoops.com All-America Fourth Team and played in the 2023 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Reese’s Division III College All-Star game on team Vande Streek. The roster can be found here.

List of Winners:

True Grit Recognition: Softball

Outstanding Career Award: Emma Lawrence and Ethan Anderson

Community Engagement Award: Lacrosse

Performance of the Year: Football

Comeback of the Year: Anthony Vivian

In Life Eagle Award: Keila Kittelson

Faculty of the Year: Dr. Alan Bigel

Student of the Year: Kathleen Casella and Charlotte Mueller

Newcomer of the Year: Claire Cater and Lily Millington

Female Athlete of the Year: Skye Digman

Male Athlete of the Year: Nolan Hertel and Sam Blaskowski

Individual National Champions: Nolan Hertel, Ethan Gregg, Rachel Chesley, Skye Digman, Sam Blasowski

Team National Champions: Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Women’s Indoor Track and Field

Team of the Year: Women’s Track and Field

The UWL athletics webpage can be found here.