|Mannucci garners top WAC honor|
DENVER - University of Idaho track and field athlete Eugenio Mannucci was honored on Friday as the recipient of the Western Athletic Conference's Stan Bates Award, which is given annually to the league's top male and female student-athlete.
"It means a lot to me," Mannucci said. "I feel like I've accomplished a lot in the last three years from an athletic point of view and in my studies."
Mannucci, who finished his career in 2011, was a five-time first-team all-WAC honoree, three-time WAC champion, two-time NCAA qualifier and a 2011 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Second-Team All-American in the shot put.
"It's an amazing accomplishment for him," Idaho Director of Track & Field/Cross Country Wayne Phipps said. "He's obviously had a lot of success athletically, but for him to overcome the language barrier and immediately adapt to an American university at the highest level is just an incredible achievement."
Coming from Viterbo, Italy, Mannucci struggled with the English language when he first arrived on campus in 2009. He overcame that barrier and quickly stood out in the academic arena, as well. He was a WAC All-Academic honoree in 2010 and 2011, a USTFCCCA Division I All-Academic honoree in 2010 and a Capital One Second-Team Academic All-District VIII honoree in 2011. He was also named Pre-Vet Senior of the Year for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2011.
Mannucci graduated from Idaho in December 2010 with a 3.75 cumulative grade-point average in Animal and Veterinary Science, and will start veterinary school at Oregon State University in the Fall. He plans to focus his studies on high-performance equines.
"It's invaluable to have someone like Eugenio, who's not only a great athlete, but also gets it done academically," said Idaho Head Track and Field Coach Julie Taylor, who coaches the throwers. "He's showing the other kids that you can be successful both ways. I'll miss having someone like that, because he was a great leader on the team."
In addition to his academic and athletic achievements, the Vandal coaching staff also lauded his personal development during his senior season. He was voted a team captain in 2011 and became one of the team's emotional leaders. He also participated in the team's Pen Pal program with local elementary schools and helped coach at the team's free We Are Runners, Jumpers, Throwers kids camp.
"He was really excited about his performances, and also everyone else's, and I think a lot of people really fed off him at the indoor and outdoor conference meets," Phipps said. "For me, he was our most exciting field person to watch, because he was just exuding confidence and excitement in the shot put."
Mannucci is the sixth Vandal student-athlete to earn the award in the last six seasons, and the fifth from the track and field program. A University of Idaho student-athlete has been honored in five of the six years since the school joined the WAC for the 2005-06 season.
Mannucci joins fellow track and field athletes Allix Lee-Painter (2010), Jonathan Marler (2010), Melinda Ouwerkerk (2007) and Jason Giuffre (2006) and football player David Vobora (2008) as Vandal Stan Bates Award winners.
"It says a lot for our program, and it means a lot to us," Phipps said about the five track and field honorees. "We've been very fortunate to have such amazing student-athletes who have been able to perform at the very highest level on the track and in the classroom. That's what we strive for, and having our student-athletes continually rewarded at the highest level means a lot to our program."
New Mexico State softball player Kandis Jones was the women's honoree. The award, named for former WAC commissioner Stan Bates, is based on athletic, academic and community accomplishments, and is voted upon by the conference's athletic directors and senior woman administrators. It also carries a $2,000 postgraduate scholarship.