Women's track and field captain Keri Bland and football captain Chris Neild have been named as this year's recipients of the 2011 Fred Schaus Captain's Award, presented annually to West Virginia University's most outstanding varsity team captains.
The winners, selected by the WVU Athletic Council to annually award the top male and female captains, must display outstanding sportsmanship and leadership, and represent WVU well in all aspects.
A four-year track team captain, Bland, a native of Fairview, W.Va., wins the Schaus Award for the third straight year. A 10-time All-American with the cross country and track teams, she has already added one more honor to her career collection this season. Bland is the only female athlete at WVU to earn All-America honors in three different sports in one season (cross country and indoor and outdoor track, 2008) and is one of just two three-time cross country All-Americans in school history.
Having already exhausted her eligibility in cross country, Bland earned her latest All-America honor in indoor track, as she finished sixth in the mile at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships with a time of 4:35.24. The first team honor was Bland's second straight in the event. Bland's finish helped WVU to an 18th-place showing, marking the Mountaineers' third straight Top 20 performance.
A Big East Academic All-Star and a member of the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll, Bland has been named an all-academic honoree by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. She also is active in the community, as she volunteers at WVU Children's Hospital and helps with the Jerry Lewis Telethon to benefit muscular dystrophy. She also assists with the West Virginia Flyers Track Club.
Bland graduated in 2010 with a degree in mathematics and is currently a graduate student in secondary education.
Neild, a nose tackle and pillar of WVU's 2010 No. 3-ranked defense, earns the award after leading the Mountaineers to a share of the Big East title as one of the team's four permanent captains. The squad's 2010 co-Defensive Player of the Year, as selected by the coaching staff, Neild also was given the John Russell Award by the coaching staff for leadership. The Stroudsburg, Pa., native, a two-time all-BIG EAST selection (first team in 2010, second team in 2009), also was named to two All-America teams as a senior.
WVU posted a 38-14 record during Neild's career, won two Big East championships, made four bowl appearances, including two New Year's bowl games and earned two bowl victories. He helped West Virginia achieve national rankings during each of his four years, including three Top 25 finishes. In 2010, Neild was a part of one of the best defenses in school history, ranking No. 2 nationally in rushing defense, sacks and defensive third down efficiency, and No. 3 in total and scoring defense.
Neild was selected by the Washington Redskins in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft with the 253rd overall pick.
A member of the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll, Neild also was named to the dean's list twice. He also was a Big East Academic All-Star. He graduated in December with a degree in multidisciplinary studies.
Off the field, Neild was a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of West Virginia and a frequent visitor at the WVU Children's Hospital. He also served as a mentor of children at the Parkersburg 4H Club and spoke to students about the importance of staying away from drugs and alcohol and advocated being a responsible person. Neild also worked as a camp counselor at summer football camps.
The Captains' Award was started to honor the retirement of Fred Schaus, who had outstanding success as a Mountaineer basketball player, coach and athletic director.
Past winners of the Fred Schaus Captain's Award: Herbie Brooks, basketball (1989); Tammie DeAngelis, rifle (1990); Aileen Convery, swimming (1991); Ann-Marie Pfiffner, rifle (1992); Garett Smith, rifle (1993); Dean Morrison, wrestling (1994); Jean Foster, rifle (1995); Seldon Jefferson, basketball (1996); Sandy Shumate, volleyball (1996); Charles Emanuel, football (1997); Marcos Scrivner, rifle (1998); Shawn Foreman, football (1999); Jessica Nonnemacher, gymnastics (2000); Katie Barnes, soccer (2001); Kyle Kayden, football (2002); Avon Cobourne, football (2003); Merissa Sexsmith, cross country/track (2003); Grant Wiley, football (2004); Kate Bulger, basketball (2004); Rasheed Marshall, football (2005); Laura Kane, soccer (2005); J.D. Collins, basketball (2006); Susan Davis, cross country/track (2006); Jessica Czaikowski, track (2007); Dan Mozes, football (2007); Ashley Banks, women's soccer (2008); Darris Nichols, basketball (2008); Pat White, football (2009); Carolyn Blank, women's soccer (2010); Da'Sean Butler, men's basketball (2010)
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While Bland and Neild closed their careers with their honors, another Mountaineer on the opposite end of the academic trail capped his first season by being named to the Amateur Wrestling News All-Rookie Team.
True freshman Michael Morales, who started at the 141-pound weight class, recorded an 18-11 record and a third-place finish at the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) Championships. Morales recorded a 7-3 mark in EWL play and a 9-6 dual meet record, and had the fifth-best mark on the team for number of wins (18) and third-best rank for major decision victories (6).
Morales outscored his opponents in dual meets by a 39-24 margin and had two wins over Big Ten opponents: John Deneen of Illinois and Michigan State's Joel Trombly. He also took fifth place at the Washington & Jefferson College Open.