The 2015-16 Dale B. Lake Award recipients are Kalamazoo Valley Community College student athletes Michaela DeKilder, women's basketball and volleyball player, and Jay Smith, baseball player.
"I chose Jay Smith as the recipient for the Dale B. Lake Award due to his outstanding performance both in the classroom and on the baseball field," head baseball coach Cody Piechocki said. "He was a team captain, NJCAA All-Region, NJCAA Region XII All-Tournament Team, All-MCCAA 1st Team, Team MVP, Academic All-MCCAA, and Academic All-Conference. Jay truly excelled in all aspects of what it means to be a student-athlete."
Piechocki said Smith's best assets are his work ethic and mental toughness. "This is a young man who was always prepared. He grew more as a ball player and as a person at Kalamazoo Valley than I have seen anyone else in my 8 years at the school. He is a great example of how hard work and preparation leads to success."
Piechocki said Smith was an excellent team player. "As a team member Jay was able to keep the big picture perspective at all times. He played several different positions during his time at Kalamazoo Valley - from catching as a freshman due to injuries, to playing the outfield, starting and relieving as a pitcher, and serving as the DH. It was always about doing what was best for the team. This is a rare quality in a ball player as talented as he is. To do these things, to stay humble, and succeed at the levels that he did. It was pleasure as a coach to have the opportunity to work with Jay."
The female Dale B. Lake Award winner, Michaela DeKilder, was a 5'10 middle blocker on the volleyball team. "This past season she received All-MCCAA, All-Regional, 1st Team All-Conference and was voted Western Conference Player of the Year, meaning our conference coaches chose her for that honor by voting her as the top player in our conference," Kalamazoo Valley volleyball coach Jennifer Buikema said.
"Michaela is an extremely intelligent student. She held a 3.92 GPA while playing two sports and most of her classes are science classes. She works very hard in whatever she does and puts in above and beyond the time and effort of whatever she is doing. She attended everything we offered and would even come to things during basketball season just to sit and watch. She is very dedicated to anything that she is involved in."
Buikema said DeKilder's biggest assets are her untiring dedication to her team and her strength. "She is intimidating, which is good for her and for her self-confidence; she just rarely thinks of herself that way," Buikema said. "I think that her receiving all of those awards at the end of the season really showed her what we've been telling her - that she is an amazing player and is better than pretty much everyone we played!"
Maureen Brown, Kalamazoo Valley's women's basketball coach, said DeKilder is one of the hardest working players she has ever coached. "The fact that she was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA all but one semester at Kalamazoo Valley (one semester was a 3.95), while also playing two sports is a credit to her hard work and determination," Brown said. "She embodies what being a student-athlete is all about. Michaela is a compassionate, driven young lady, and I look forward to watching her achieve her goals, both academic and athletic, down at the University of North Alabama."
In honor of Kalamazoo Valley Community College's founding president, the Dale B. Lake Award began in 1970. It is an effort to give annual recognition to one outstanding male and one outstanding female student-athlete. Special consideration is given to exceptional academic achievement as well as outstanding athletic contribution. Qualities such as leadership, loyalty, enthusiasm, reliability, and initiative are also evaluated. Although an exceptional first year student-athlete, with appropriate supporting data, could be selected for this award, sophomores who have made such contributions for two years are given priority consideration. Each coach may nominate one individual to the athletic director for consideration for the award. The coaches select one male and one female award winner. Each winner receives a plaque and will be added to the Dale B. Lake plaque displayed within the Athletic office at Kalamazoo Valley.