NEW YORK--Four student-athletes from Villanova were among the winners of BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Awards which were announced by the conference on Wednesday afternoon. Recognized from the Wildcats were Todd Czinege (baseball), Patrick Tiernan (men’s cross country), Angel Piccirillo (women’s cross country) and Emily Mayo (women’s swimming & diving).
Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Awards are presented to one student-athlete from each of the 22 sports sponsored by the BIG EAST. The award recognizes academic and athletic achievements, as well as community service. In order to be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must have reached junior academic standing and have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0. The winners are chosen by the BIG EAST Faculty Athletics Representative Council.
The announcement of this year’s awards marks the second time – matching the 2013-14 academic year – that Villanova has had four Sport Excellence Award winners. Among the four Wildcats to be recognized this year, Tiernan is a repeat selection who has won this award three times. He was previously the 2015-16 winner in cross country last year and the 2014-15 outdoor track & field winner. Czinege, Piccirillo and Mayo are all first-time winners of the award. Each of the Wildcats four winners are seniors who wrapped up terrific collegiate careers in 2016-17.
Tiernan won the NCAA individual cross country title last fall in the final race of his record-breaking collegiate career. In addition to becoming just the second Villanova men’s runner to be a cross country national champion, Tiernan is the first athlete from the Wildcats men’s program to be a four-time cross country All-American and he is also the first athlete (male or female) in BIG EAST history to win four consecutive individual conference cross country titles. He finished his collegiate career as an eight-time All-American and an 11-time BIG EAST champion across the cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field seasons.
Prior to his senior cross country season, Tiernan represented his native Australia at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He also competed at the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Uganda and is set to compete at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in London next month. Outside of his achievements in cross country and on the track, Tiernan has been consistently recognized for his academic success. He was named to both the BIG EAST All-Academic Team and the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Team during his Villanova career, in addition to being the Wildcats male winner of a BIG EAST Institutional Scholar-Athlete Award in both 2015-16 and 2016-17. He was this year’s male Senior Student-Athlete of the Year at Villanova’s end-of-the-year senior class reception.
Czinege was a four-year starter in the Villanova infield who finished his Wildcats career as one of the top hitters in program history. He was a three-time All-BIG EAST selection at second base and went on to be drafted by the Colorado Rockies during last year’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Czinege led Villanova with a .283 batting average this season and also had team highs with a .353 on-base percentage, a .402 slugging percentage, 52 hits, three home runs and 25 runs batted in. He was a .307 career hitter for the Wildcats, and rose to second in the program record book with 244 career hits and 796 at-bats. Czinege is also tied for fourth in school history with 10 career triples, ranks fifth with 343 total bases and is seventh in games played with 199.
Early in the 2017 season, Czinege was selected as one of 30 initial candidates for the baseball Senior CLASS Award. He went on to be one of 10 finalists for the prestigious honor and was announced as a first team Senior CLASS Award honoree after the season. The prestigious honor recognizes a student-athlete for standing out in the areas of community, character, classroom and competition. Czinege has been named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team four times and was also selected to this year’s Philadelphia Big 5 All-Academic Team.
Piccirillo finished her incredible Villanova career as a nine-time All-American and an 11-time BIG EAST champion. She had her best collegiate cross country season this past fall, winning the BIG EAST individual title and going on to earn All-America honors with a 20th place finish at the NCAA Championships. Piccirillo also earned Mid-Atlantic All-Region honors for the second straight year and the third time in her career. One of the most decorated student-athletes in program history, Piccirillo ranks in the top-10 of the Wildcats all-time performance list at every distance on the track from 800 meters through 3000 meters. Following the end of the 2017 outdoor collegiate season, Piccirillo was selected to compete at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif.
The list of Piccirillo’s academic accolades is as impressive as her accomplishments in competition. She is a five-time BIG EAST All-Academic selection and has been Villanova’s female winner of the BIG EAST Institutional Scholar-Athlete Award in each of the past two years. Piccirillo has also been named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team in both cross country and track, and was the Wildcats female Senior Student-Athlete of the Year in 2016.
Mayo was this year’s Villanova female Senior Student-Athlete of the Year, and was one of the stars for a Wildcats team that won four consecutive BIG EAST team titles during her career. Mayo won six individual conference championships and was a part of three BIG EAST champion relay teams during her career, and she earned a total of 15 All-BIG EAST honors in her four seasons. Mayo doubled up at the BIG EAST meet with individual titles in both the 500 yard freestyle and the 1650 yard freestyle in each of the last three seasons. She was also a part of the team’s champion 800 yard freestyle relay in each of those seasons. This year’s team set the current school record of 7:11.35 in the 800 free relay during the conference championships.
Mayo has been an equally successful student in the classroom. She is a four-time selection to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team, and also earned Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area accolades in each of the past two years. Mayo was selected to the CSCAA Scholar All-America Team in 2016. In order to merit a spot on that squad, a student-athlete must have achieved a GPA of 3.50 or higher in addition to competing at the NCAA Championships or earning an NCAA “B” time standard during the season.
Wednesday’s announcement of the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award winners is the second of three releases by the conference celebrating the academic success of the league’s member schools. Villanova had three teams win Team Academic Excellence Awards last week. The complete 2016-17 BIG EAST All-Academic Team is due to be released next week.