ATLANTA -- Before a crowd of more than 500 attendees, the Georgia State Athletic Department honored some of its brightest and most talented student-athletes Thursday as part of the Blue Carpet Awards. Leading the way were Victor Valente and Abigail Tere-Apisah, who took the stage at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta after being named the male and female student-athlete of the year, respectively, during the finale of the 58th annual recognition banquet. See the Photo Album for highlights.

Valente helped the men’s tennis team to its first conference title since 2007 with a Sun Belt Conference championship, and pushed the Panthers back to the NCAA tournament. It was a stellar finish to the regular season after he was named all-conference first team for the third consecutive year in both singles and doubles.

The strong senior season pushed Valente to the highest ranking for an individual in school history, moving all the way to No. 54 in the nation. He also partnered with Lucas Santa Ana to rank No. 38 in doubles play this year. In the fall, Valente became the first Panther to reach the ITA Indoor National Championship. Off the court, he owns a 4.16 cumulative grade-point average while majoring in computer information systems.  

Rounding out the tandem of tennis players to capture top honors, Tere-Apisah pushed Georgia State into the women’s team title match at the Sun Belt Championship and now is awaiting an invitation to the NCAA tournament, likely in both singles and doubles play. A year after earning All-America status and reaching the final 16 at the NCAA Championship, Tere-Apisah has moved as high as No. 22 in singles after defeating seven nationally ranked players this spring. She has also garnered a No. 36 ranking in doubles action with Masa Grgan, and was named first-team all-conference in both singles and doubles.  

Valente and Tere-Apisah were not the only winners as 59 seniors and nearly 30 individuals and teams were honored by GSU president Mark Becker and Director of Athletics Cheryl Levick. Among the others named for outstanding achievement were:

The Susan Reeves Spirit Awards are given to the band member, cheerleader and Pantherette whose dedication to GSU Athletics is unparalleled in passion and spirit. Award winners included Brian Cleveland (pep band), Breona Evans (cheerleader) and Betty MeKonnen (Pantherette).

Lauren Court from the women’s golf team and Michael Davis from the football team were honored with the Ron Curry Perseverance Award. The award is given to the male and female student-athletes whose perseverance and fortitude have demonstrated an exceptional degree of determination in overcoming personal, medical or academic obstacles to succeed.

Named after the longtime GSU cross country coach, the Bruce LaBudde Sportsmanship Awards are presented to the male and female student-athletes who embody his spirit of sportsmanship, fairness, civility, honesty, unselfishness and responsibility. Cody Paulk of the women’s basketball team and Manny Atkins from men’s basketball were recognized as the winners.

Long-time GSU supporter Fred Hines was known as a role model and inspiration to others. The Fred Hines Inspiration Award is given to the male and female student-athlete who has most greatly inspired teammates, coaches and fans through dedication, perseverance and positive attitude. Carly Lafferty from the women’s soccer program and Ali Elkhalil from men’s soccer were chosen for the honor in 2013.

Recognizing the female and male teams that were the most active among community service endeavors during the past year, the Panther Service Team Awards were given to the women’s golf team and the men’s basketball team. Together, they assisted area organizations and events like the Hunger Walk, Open Hands Atlanta, the Boys and Girls Club and Samaritan’s Feet.

The women’s cross country team (3.62 grade-point average) and the men’s tennis squad (3.56 grade-point average) were honored for having the best team GPAs, while the Stoney Burgess Scholarship Award, given to the senior with the highest cumulative grade-point average, went to Kelsey Spinks from women’s cross country and Lucas Santa Ana from men’s tennis.

The 2012-13 all-academic teams were comprised of the best and brightest at Georgia State, including:

Men’s All-Academic Team
Alex Prescott, baseball

Ryann Green, basketball
Carlos Galindo, cross country
David Miller, football
Victor Lavin, golf
Chris Locandro, soccer
Lucas Santa Ana, tennis

Women’s All-Academic Team
Cody Paulk, basketball

Anna Sinclair, cross country
Solveig Helgesen, golf
Carly Lafferty, soccer
Masa Grgan, tennis
Andrea Book, volleyball
Alexis Elmurr, sand volleyball