POMONA, Calif. — A total of 62 University of La Verne senior student-athletes were honored at the 2016 Senior Blanket Awards on Wednesday evening at the Mountain Meadows Golf Course in Pomona.
Nick Gonsalves of track and field and men's soccer and Travis Sparks-Jackson of football was named as the Anthony P. Scafani Award recipients as the top senior male athletes and Brittany Yaxley of volleyball earned the Jesse Iles Scafani Award as the top female athlete.
Sparks-Jackson had arguably the greatest individual season in La Verne football history, a culmination of an incredible amount of work he has put in over the last four years.
This year, Travis led the Leopards to their first SCIAC Championship since 1995 and first NCAA National Championship appearance since 1994.
He was named the 2015 D3football.com Second Team All-American, First Team All-Region and First Team All-SCIAC. At the end of the season, Sparks-Jackson was selected to play in the 2015 National Bowl, an all-star game consisting of some of the best players in the country, and was named the overall Game MVP.
He also became La Verne's all-time rushing champion with 3,046 yards despite playing only two seasons as a starter.
Gonsalves has been one of the best sprinters in La Verne history.
In 2014, he won a national championship as a part of the winning 4x100m relay team as well as the SCIAC championship in the event.
The national championship winning time of 40.52 seconds is a SCIAC record and Gonsalves broke the school record in the 100 meter dash last year with a time of 10.66 seconds.
He will go for another national championship in two weeks as a part of another 4x100m relay team that is currently ranked second in the nation.
Gonsalves was also a part of the men's soccer team for the past two years and helped the Leopards reach the SCIAC Postseason Tournament Final in 2015.
Yaxley put the SCIAC and the rest of the nation on notice with a 33-kill performance at the 2012 NCAA Regionals as a freshman and hasn't looked back since.
In her time at La Verne, Brittany won two All-America awards, two All-Region honors and three All-SCIAC awards. Yaxley also led La Verne two NCAA National Championship appearances and three SCIAC Postseason Championship appearances.
All those honors by themselves would have placed Yaxley's name among La Verne volleyball greats, but she added an individual flourish to her career this season. She became the school's all-time leader in kills and service aces, an incredible achievement considering all the great players that graced the Frantz Court over the years.
She has also been just as good in the classroom, earning two Academic All-SCIAC honors and is certain to receive another at the end of the academic year.
Shannon Irwin of women's basketball and Darrin Bangle of men's soccer were named the 2015 La Verne Scholar Athletes of the Year.
Irwin is a Kinesiology major who earned a 3.75 GPA this past fall and an overall GPA of 3.95. She has earned Academic All-SCIAC honors every year she has been eligible.
Irwin has been one of the best guards and toughest competitors in the SCIAC and provided a steady leadership for the Leopards the past few years.
Bangle is a Mathematics major who has posted a 3.87 GPA over his four years at La Verne.
Like Irwin, Bangle has earned a spot on the Academic All-SCIAC Team every year he has been eligible.
He has been a dependable presence in net for the men's soccer team the past four years and helped lead us to the SCIAC Postseason Tournament final game this past season for the first time ever.