OAKLAND INSIDER BY TERRY FOSTER
Detroit -- Miranda Haas knew the Black and Gold Awards was a special event.
But she didn't have a dress special enough for the occasion so she borrowed one from her roommate. She wanted to look the part because she earned this spot in front of her coaches and fellow student-athletes at the historic Fox Theatre which has been the host of thousands of concerts, plays and speeches.
Haas earned this spot because she learned from older cross country runners who taught her how to pace herself and gun for the finish at the right time. This moment became clearer when she ran out of the clouds of youth into a personal best time the first meet her junior season.
Haas emerged from hundreds of talented athletes and stood on center stage as the center of attention after winning female performance of the year during the 2016 awards show.
"It's a very cool experience," Haas said backstage at the Fox. "I think everybody likes getting dressed up, taking pictures and the whole experience. It is great having this in this background. It seems more real and a bigger deal now. But I think celebrating everybody's accomplishments, academic accomplishments and team accomplishments is cool to see. Sometimes you don't notice all the things going on around you because you are so focused on your team."
Haas shared the award with men's basketball standout Kay Felder who won the male top performance award. He is a junior that has hired an agent and will skip his senior season after being named Horizon League player of the year and helping give the school hundreds of hours of publicity. Felder also collected Men's Athlete of the Year Award.
Dozens of athletes won awards, dressed in their Monday best and took selfies with old teammates and new friends.
Who better to describe the scene than junior shot putter Gino Vitella who won the Men's Black and Gold Spirit Award. He's qualified for the NCAA East Regional Championships in the shot put and holds the indoor and outdoor school records.
His goal is to win an NCAA title next year.
"Coming in my freshman year we didn't have this huge of a celebration," Vitella of Sterling Heights said. "It is absolutely mind blowing to come to the beautiful Fox and see the improvements we made the last couple of years and be part of it. It is absolute ecstasy. I look forward to becoming alumni after next year and see more improvements as I move forward in my life."
It was great being a presenter at the awards. I have been welcomed to the Oakland University family with open arms and met more new friends. While presenting my awards I shared a story that allowed me to understand the rivalry between Oakland and the University of Detroit Mercy.
I was at a bake shop in Greektown when members of the UDM women's soccer team came in. We got into a conversation while in line and we talked about my daughter Celine who has visited places to play college soccer. I mentioned that the previous coaching staff at Oakland saw her play and liked her.
I also said she got to play with some of the Black and Gold women during a camp a few years ago. One of the girls made a gesture in line that showed she is not a fan of Oakland University.
However, she'd be a fan of the Black and Gold Award show.
It even came with a history lesson as Golden Grizzlies play-by-play man Neal Ruhl interviewed PGA golfer Brian Stuard, Columbus Crew goalie Steve Clark and cross country runner Brittni Hutton as they were inducted into the (Hollie L. Lepley) Hall of Honor.
The community once again wrapped its arms around Max Hooper with the Most Inspirational Award. His dad Chip Hooper died eight days after coming to see him play for the first time at the O'rena. Women's basketball and baseball won community service awards.
An entire list of winners can be found below.
This was not only a celebration of the athletes who won awards, but training staff, coaches and support staff that make people great here.
Haas was appreciative of that support. They guided her and she put in the hard work. And it all paid off the past two years as she improved and collected many honors.
"I saw that Brittni Hutton won the Summit League her senior year and I said I want to do that one day," Haas said. "There are places I want to go and I needed that dedication to keep improving."
There are a lot of athletes with similar stories. And they all dressed up and shared good times on a special evening that promises to get even better.
List of BGA winners
Women's Community Service Award
Men's Community Service Award
Top Academic Team
Max Hooper, men's basketball
Social Media Post of the Year
Kiah Behrendt, cheer
Best Competition of the Year
Women's Soccer vs. Wright State in HL title game
Men's Most Improved Athlete
Bryce Stroede, men's cross country and track
Women's Most Improved Athlete
Olivia Nash, women's basketball
Women's Top Newcomer
Rachel Levy, women's cross country and track
Men's Top Newcomer
Devon Nowicki, men's swimming
Men's Top Individual Performance
Kay Felder, men's basketball - Scoring 37 points vs. No. 1 Michigan State at The Palace
Women's Top Individual Performance
Miranda Haas, women's cross country and track - Winning 5,000 meters and finishing runner-up in 3,000 at Horizon League Indoor Track and Field Championships, earning Most Outstanding Performer honors
Ayrton Kasemets, men's swimming
Women's Top Academic Award
Amanda Baker, volleyball
Men's Top Academic Award
Max Hooper, men's basketball
Men's Black and Gold Spirit Award
Gino Vitella, men's track and field
Women's Black and Gold Spirit Award
Joan Sieja, women's soccer
Top Play of the Year
Sarah Hartley, softball - Hit a walk-off home run vs. Wright State last year to clinch regular season title and give Oakland home field advantage in tournament
Women's Future Leader Award
Jordan Sargent, women's soccer
Men's Future Leader Award
Ian Yetsko, baseball
Men's Hollie L. Lepley Award
Evan Bowser, men's golf
Women's Hollie L. Lepley Award
Nikki Flynn, women's swimming
Men's President's Award
Jalen Hayes, men's basketball
Men's Athlete of the Year
Kay Felder, men's basketball
Women's Athlete of the Year
Patricia Aschan, women's swimming
Women's Track and Field