They say good things come in threes, but it was two that was a magic number for this year's Honor Roll. The reason? The majority of our athletes were one-half of a pair of Honor Rollees from their squad. Indeed, this year's Honor Roll represented only eight teams, a rarity compared to previous years. (Well, nine squads, if you separate cross-country and track).
Our first coupling came in women's volleyball, where we celebrated Cynthia Barboza's fight against an injury that stripped her of her immortality, and her consistency despite flashier stars stealing away the limelight over the years – issues all us Joe Fans can relate to. One of those stars most deserving of the attention was Foluke Akinradewo, and we commemorated the incomprehensible statistics she accumulated, paying tribute to the power of numbers in sport.
Our second pair came on the baseball diamond, where Drew Storen's ability to shine despite far too little help from his teammates earned recognition from The Bootleg – and will earn Drew plenty of recognition from Major League Baseball in due time. MLB is mighty covetous of outfielder Toby Gerhart, but they'll have to wait one more year, as football's MVP, who we highlighted for being, of all things, underrated, has some work left to do for Jim Harbaugh. Maybe another assault on the single-season rushing record? In our final pairing, we highlight Haber's record-shattering numbers, unrivaled by virtually any Stanford student-athlete save for Akinradewo, and tip our caps to a four-year career of sustained excellence from pitcher Missy Penna.
Then, of course, come the individual standouts, and there were no shortage of stars to select amongst. Win a national title and sports fans' hearts tend to have a soft spot for you, and for senior gymnast Sho Nakamori, the moment was every bit as magical as Hollywood could have envisioned. Win two national titles, as repeat Honor Roll winner Julia Smit did, and we can only drop our jaws in amazement. Add two Olympic medals to your yearly haul, as Smit also did, and we're reminded of just how unique the collection of talent on Stanford's campus is.
We're left with two athletes who most certainly are not used to bringing up the rear. First, of course, is freshman runner Chris Derrick, who probably hasn't finished last in a race since third grade. As all our other Honor Roll winners are juniors and seniors, we celebrated Derrick for carrying the torch for the next generation of Stanford athletes, an accomplishment all the more rare in cross-country, a sport in which experience is a prerequisite for any sort of success. But Derrick is shattering the mold early, giving us reason to believe he'll stand out just as much come his junior and senior seasons. If so, he might be joining Smit and Nakamori inside the national champion circle.
Last but not least is the woman in the middle – Jayne Appel. Folks had written off Appel and Stanford women's basketball's chances last season after the departure of Candice Wiggins, the No. 3 pick in the WNBA Draft and arguably the No. 1 player in Stanford history. Now they'll be raising the same questions when a star in her own right graduates in 11 months' time – Appel.
Ten athletes, ten sets of incredible accomplishments. Maybe it's memory playing a trick on our minds, but each year's Honor Roll seems to shine just a little bit brighter than the previous year's; each new set of standout Stanford student-athletes seems to set the bar just a little bit higher than last year's class. Sure, there are the 15 straight Directors' Cups, but as us Stanford fans look ahead to the future, perhaps there is no better sign for the health of our program than that.
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