Inaugural Westys Student-Athlete Awards Ceremony Resembles Glamorous Hollywood Red-Carpet Event

Cheers and applause erupted as the Westminster Blue Jays arrived to stroll down the blue carpet at the inaugural Westys Student-Athlete Awards Ceremony at 6:15 p.m. on May 1, 2024.

The scene resembled a premiere Hollywood event, with about 300 guests grinning, greeting one another, and occasionally posing for selfies during an outdoor reception on Latshaw Plaza.

At 7 p.m., student-athletes dressed in their finest took center stage for perhaps the first time in Westminster history as they filed into Mueller Leadership Hall for the one-of-a-kind awards ceremony.

Former Athletic Director Matt Mitchell, now Director of Development and Major Gifts Officer, welcomed the audience in his usual relaxed-but-boisterous manner. His casual disposition and familiarity with the crowd led to tremendous applause and laughter.

To all those present, it was obvious this was an event like no other, specifically elevating and celebrating Blue Jays student-athletes who today make up more than 50% of Westminster’s student population.

Derek Zander, Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics, Athletics Advancement, and Strategic Programs, emphasized the Westys Student-Athlete Awards Ceremony fills a significant gap at the College.

He said the event celebrates the time and hard work the Blue Jays put into both their teams and studies: a juggling act they choose for the love of their sport.

“Our students are involved in many areas across campus, while finding time to dedicate themselves to their particular sport,” he explains. “This event is to showcase the best of the best during the 2023-2024 academic year, and I believe we did just that.”

Zander added that the Westys also celebrate all Department of Athletics faculty and staff.  “Because, after all, we are all Blue Jays,” he emphasized.

After a successful year in the department — which began with a dedication of the Kent and Judith Mueller Stadium and Vicki Mueller Memorial Plaza — and many new faces on staff (including his), Zander reflected that the energy at the Westys was unmistakably vibrant.

He summarized, “That speaks to the excitement that currently exists around Blue Jay Athletics.”

Congratulations to all inaugural Westys Award winners!

2024 Westys Award Winners

Women’s Honor Athlete of the Year

  • Jenna Frisella, Women’s Soccer
  • Maddie Marrero, Softball

Men’s Honor Athlete of the Year

  • Matthew Trout, Baseball

Men’s Athlete of the Year

  • Montgomery Mills, Men’s Wrestling

Women’s Athlete of the Year

  • Annette Ramirez, Women’s Basketball

Men’s Team of the Year

  • Men’s Wrestling

Women’s Team of the Year

  • Women’s Basketball

The Westy Award

  • Emily Esquivel, Softball
  • Malena Bixby, Volleyball

Men’s Newcomer of the Year Award

  • Austen Wetzel, Men’s Wrestling

Women’s Newcomer of the Year Award

  • Kalie Strayhorn, Women’s Track and Field

Men’s and Women’s Academic Team of the Year

  • Men’s Basketball and Women’s Volleyball

Coach of the Year Award

  • Dalton Tucker, Women’s Volleyball
  • Talisha Washington, Women’s Basketball

Student-Athlete Service Award

  • Maddie Marrero, Softball

Team Service Award

  • Softball

Best-Dressed Award

  • Beno Ballard, Baseball



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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.