Dean Smith Award recipients for 2018 honored

The M Club presented its prestigious Dean Smith award honoring the University of Maine’s top men’s and women’s student-athletes during the university’s 29th annual Scholar-Athlete Recognition Ceremony held Feb. 12 at Wells Conference Center.

Honored as the leading men’s scholar-athlete was Kelby Mace of the men’s track and field team and cited as the women’s team’s top scholar-athletes were Kendra Ridley from soccer and Erika Leonard from softball.

The annual award for UMaine’s top men’s and women’s student-athletes is named for Smith, a UMaine basketball player who received the prestigious NCAA Walter Byers Award as the nation’s top scholar-athlete in 1990 after leading the Northeast Atlantic Conference in scoring and posting the top grade-point average among electrical engineering majors at the university. Smith was a three time Academic All-American.

To be considered for the Dean Smith award, athletes are nominated by their coaches and must have demonstrated outstanding academic and athletic achievement, be of outstanding character and a contributor and leader within their community.

During the Feb. 12th ceremony, 268 student-athletes were recognized for their success in the classroom. Of them, 190 were recognized for earning a 3.0 or better grade point average in the previous spring and fall semesters, and/or having maintained a 3.0 or better accumulative grade point average.  Also honored as 2017 Rising Stars were 78 student-athletes who earned a 3.0 or better grade point average in their first semester at the University.

For the 14th consecutive year, more than one-half of all active athletes at the university were honored.

Mace, a senior from Readfield, Maine, is a civil engineering major with a minor in creative writing with a 3.47 GPA. A three-time Dean’s List and three-time America East Honor Roll honoree, Mace has also been an active member of UMaine’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). In 2017, he was honored with a United States Track & Field Coaches Association All-Academic award. A three-year letter winner, Mace currently boasts personal bests of 6 feet in the high jump, 21 feet, 8 inches in the long jump and a mark of 43, 8.5 inches in the triple jump. In his specialty event, the javelin, Mace threw 209 feet, 6 inches at the University of Central Florida in 2017, the third-best throw in UMaine history. Mace placed fourth at the prestigious Penn Relays in 2017, fifth at the New England Championships and fourth in the America East Outdoor Championships in the javelin. His marks earned him a spot at the NCAA Division I East Regional Preliminary Round held in Lexington, Kentucky, where he finished 42nd in the country. Mace has volunteered his time with Special Olympics along with spending numerous hours assisting with summer youth track and field programs.

Ridley, a senior and three-year captain from Ottawa, Ontario, is a nursing major with a 3.994 GPA, earning an impressive 43 A’s and one A- over her time at the University of Maine. A seven-time Dean’s List member and three-time Presidential Scholar, Ridley earned four selections to the America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll and a pair of America East All-Academic team marks. She is a two-time member of Team Maine, representing the highest GPA on her team. In 2017, Ridley was honored by the UMaine College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture with its highest-ranking junior award, one of only four students to receive the accolade that year. A two-time America East All-Conference second-team selection, Ridley also earned a pair of selections to the America East All-Championship team and a spot on the league’s All-Rookie squad. Ridley started 60 of her 61 games she appeared in and led the team in minutes played in both her junior and senior seasons. The four-year letter winner has volunteered for the Healthy High 5K and the “Be The Match” Bone Marrow Drive while also offering her free time at the Ronald McDonald House. The Greater Bangor Multiple Sclerosis Chapter honored Ridley with its Shining Stars award for her work with the “Walk for MS” initiative.

Leonard, a senior from Rocky Hill, Conn., is a nursing major who boasts a 3.82 GPA and is a seven-time Dean’s List honoree and a Presidential Scholar. A four-time America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection, Leonard was a 2017 recipient of the America East Elite 17 award, presented to the student-athlete with the highest GPA among students competing in the championship in their respective sport. Leonard, a two-time America East All-Academic team selection, is a member of the Omicron XI Honor Society and Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society along with being a two-year member of the UMaine Athletic Department’s Elite-13 group. On the diamond, Leonard was named to the America East All-Conference second team in 2017 and America East All-Tournament team in 2016 and earned a spot on the league’s All-Rookie squad in 2015. In the past two seasons, Leonard has helped advance the Black Bears to the America East Title game, including a league championship and regional appearance in 2016. Aside from academics and athletics, Leonard is a tutor for student-athletes in anatomy & physiology and has spent countless hours volunteering for organizations like St. Francis Hospital, Eastern Maine Medical Center, The Wadsworth Glen Healthcare Center, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House.

The M Club, founded in 1932, represents all athletes who have won varsity letters at the University of Maine and has been a fixture in supporting athletics since then. Varsity athletic competitions began at the University in 1881, and nearly 20,000 men and women have earned their letter in more than 30 different sports.