By Helen Tuman
Sports Reporter

The second annual UC Santa Cruz Sports Award Banquet was held at the Lower East Field on Friday afternoon to honor Slug athletes.

About 200 of the school’s 289 athletes showed up to receive praise from the UCSC athletic department for excelling not only in sports, but also in school and community service.

Athletes, coaches, assistant coaches and trainers arrived after 2 p.m. for the barbecue and down time, while the athletic department got the awards ready to hand out.

Though the athletes sat with their teams, sophomore swim team member Mike Dunklee felt there was a “sense of unity” among all those present.

UCSC’s athletic director Linda Spradley originally had the idea for the event. After she had been here for one year, she noticed that the different athletic teams didnít know each other and therefore weren’t fully able to recognize all their accomplishments.

Awards were given for individual and team service as well as grades.

Bobby Petro, the men’s individual winner for best grades, plays for the men’s club soccer team, is president of the triathlon club, and plans to attend medical school after he graduates in the fall of 2008.

“This year was impressive and organized,” Petro said. “Lots of student athletes [are] here. It’s nice.”

Spradley admitted that this was a tough year due partially to the competitiveness of NCAA sports as well as other obstacles many of the sports teams faced this year.

“Our teams practiced in middle schools, and many played their entire season on the road this year,” Spradley said.

This year the athletic department was forced to renovate the West Field House gym — a place where many teams used to practice — forcing teams such as men’s volleyball to find other locations for practice. Women’s basketball, along with many other teams, practiced at odd and inconsistent hours. “This year was hard,” Spradley said. “[But] if they can overcome that, [next year] will be a piece of cake.”

Though all of these teams have experienced their ups and downs throughout the year, everyone was happy to just come and hang out.

“It’s a fun activity,” Dunklee said. “Plus you can’t say no to free food.”

The banquet ended with Spradley thanking everyone, from the coaches to athletic trainers to athletes, for their hard work and dedication.

“I’m just a catalyst,” Spradley said. “The students make the outcomes.”

The audience, through and through, appreciated the gesture the athletic department gave to the student athletes.

“This banquet gives us some unity that we hadn’t been exposed to before,” Petro said. “[It] gave us praise — and we deserve it.”