A lot of space in this publication, and most others like it, is dedicated to the recognition of achievement. Records make easy headlines, all-conference award winners attract attention. But in all sports it is important to keep in mind those who help make great teams great, twho help improve programs without a significant amount of fanfair.
It is for these individuals that Dean S. Trevor Memorial Awards, which were awarded Tuesday at the Knox Athletic Banquet, are meant for. The Trevor Award honors those that display characteristics that “include competitive excellence, integrity, honesty and commitment to scholarship.” When the Athletic Department named seniors Dillon Kostka and Raleigh DeRose as winners they honored two completely deserving individuals who personify what it means to be a Division III athlete.
In the fall of 2010, I found myself sitting alone in the lobby of the fieldhouse after having arrived for a baseball meeting a half hour too early. After a few minutes Kevwe Akpore, the men’s soccer coach at the time, sat down at the couch across from me and we started to have a discussion. I did not have anything particular to say: I was a freshman and this was our first interaction, but I decided to be friendly and provide an open ear. He described how he wasn’t a full-time coach, how he was frustrated with how the team was struggling, then paused to say hello to one of his players. It was Dillon walking out of the weight room, and when he left the fieldhouse Akpore turned to me and said, “Dillon is a really good kid. This team would be in a lot better shape if every player was like him.”
At the time, Dillon lived across the hall from me in Seymour. It was easy to see how frustrated he was with the team’s performance, but just as easy to tell that it didn’t keep him from working hard to compete in the sport he loved. I could only imagine what Akpore saw as a coach on the practice field day in and day out.
The team finished 2-15-1 that season, 1-16 the following year. But with the arrival of Head Coach Matt Edwards and an influx of young talent, the team turned things around on a dime. Kostka’s playing time had been cut, but his presence hadn’t. At 5’6” and weighing in at 165 pounds, he was not the most athletic or flashy player, but acted as a bruising bowling ball in the defensive midfield. Though in his senior year Kostka was credited with only two shots on goal, his bulldog aggressiveness helped prevent numerous attempts on goal from opponents.
When Edwards presented Kostka with the Trevor Award for men on Tuesday, he reiterated a phrase he said helped motivate the team that clinched the school’s first berth in the MWC Tournament. “Have you worked as hard as Dillon Kostka today?” The truth is probably that they did, and that work ethic repeatedly propelled the team to victory.
The Trevor award for women was given to another Knox athlete whose impact will not be felt in the record books, but who certainly deserves recognition.
Athletic Director Chad Eisele’s Spring 2011 Sports Administration class featured a wide range of students, from seniors who wanted a laid-back final term, to freshmen who had been blocked out of another class and had no other place to turn (I was very disappointed to not get into BUS 280).
One of the other freshmen in the class was Raleigh DeRose. After playing in every game for the women’s soccer team the previous fall, she had just suffered a significant knee injury that would ultimately cost her the entire 2011 season.
She made her way to every class in crutches that spring, and the look on her face was consistently characterized by complete frustration mixed with utter determination to get healthy. She would return to the field her junior season and go on to start all but one of Knox’s games in her final two years.
But her contributions truly went beyond the field of play. As the Vice-President of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, DeRose planned numerous game-day events and provided genuine support as a fan across all Prairie Fire sports. The respect and support is mutual, as one would be hard-pressed to find another Knox athlete more universally respected by her peers.
It’s fairly easy to identify individuals that deserve player of the year, but these individuals were recognized because of the characteristics you can’t look up in the boxscores. Kostka and DeRose can exit their careers with their heads held high, though they probably would have anyway. That’s just the kind of players they are.