MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –
Newly crowned All-American Zaakira Muhammad
earned the West Virginia University gymnastics team’s Linda Burdette-Good Award as the team’s Most Valuable Gymnast for the second straight year at the program’s 2017 season banquet on April 18, at the Courtyard by Marriott Morgantown.
A native of Pennsauken, New Jersey, Muhammad is the first Mountaineer gymnast to repeat as Team MVP since Hope Sloanhoffer did so in 2011-12. She also earned the Joseph Medrick Award as the team’s top all-around gymnast.
“Zaakira is very deserving of every award she received,” Mountaineer coach Jason Butts said. “She was the team’s most decorated gymnast this year. I’m certain she will help put WVU back on the national stage as a senior.”
Muhammad paced the Mountaineers as a junior, scoring 478.8875 points in 14 meets, seven of which she competed in the all-around. An individual all-around qualifier for the 2017 NCAA National Championships, she tied for eighth place on floor in the second semifinal session on April 14, earning All-America Second Team accolades. She is the first WVU gymnast to secure an All-America award at the National Championships since Janáe Cox did so in 2007.
Muhammad set or matched career highs on vault (9.9), uneven bars (9.9), balance beam (9.875) and the all-around (39.4) this season. She did not drop a score on vault all year and scored below 9.825 just once. She also tallied marks of 9.9 or better on floor in the last three meets of the year and scored 9.8 or better on bars in six of the last seven meets. Muhammad ranks No. 19 in program history with 10 career scores of 9.9 or better.
An All-Big 12 Championship Team honoree, she paced the team with 23 podium finishes this year and finished second on the squad with six event wins. She finished the season ranked No. 32 nationally on vault with a 9.86 regional qualifying score. Muhammad also ranked No. 2 on the team with vault and floor season averages of 9.846 and 9.828, respectively.
Sophomore Jaquie Tun
won the Sally Medrick Award as the team’s most improved gymnast. Forced to sit out the team’s first 10 meets of the season, Tun, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, native, tallied 9.8 on bars in her season debut at No. 3 Florida on March 10. She finished the year with a season-high 9.85 score and tied for 11th place at the NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships on April 1.
“Jaquie absolutely deserved this award,” Butts noted. “She had so many setbacks this year, and she never stopped training. Jaquie never complained, and she did all her rehab. She never gave up, and she is going to continue to improve. We hope to get her back into all-around contention next year.”
Freshman Erica Fontaine
earned the John Quackenbush Award for Mountaineer Spirit. Presented annually to the gymnast who displays the most perseverance and enthusiasm for the sport of gymnastics, the award is named in honor of the late John Quackenbush, the father of WVU All-American Kristin Quackenbush and a friend of the Mountaineer gymnastics family.
A native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, Fontaine was unable to compete this season due to injury.
“Erica was the team cheerleader this season. She bought into my philosophy of finding her role on the squad,” Butts said. “Erica brought her personality into the meets and Cary Gym every day. She never complained about not being able to compete gymnastics. Instead, she was supportive of each and every one of her teammates.”
All but the Joseph Medrick Award were voted on by the student-athletes.
Senior Brooklyn Doggette
also was presented with the Coaches Award. A unique honor, this special award is bestowed upon a WVU gymnast who overcomes odds and obstacles to achieve a high level of success. A native of Pickerington, Ohio, Doggette returned to the team’s beam lineup this season and totaled 106.5 points in 11 meets. She set a career high of 9.875 and earned her first career podium finish with a win at Kent State on Feb. 4 with a 9.825 score. She finished the year with three podium finishes and scored 9.8 or better in four of the last five meets.
“Brooklyn exemplifies what Mountaineer fight represents,” Butts said. “She proved time and again that she would not let obstacles stand in her way of contributing to her team. The Coaches Award is a rare honor for this staff to bestow on a student-athlete. By giving this honor to Brooklyn, it proves just how much we believe she has impacted this program with a strong legacy.”
Five Mountaineers were recognized last night for career point milestones. Muhammad (1,143.4125) and senior Alexa Goldberg
(1,418.775) passed the 1,000-career point threshold, while juniors Robyn Bernard
(756.05) and Jordan Gillette
(715.975), as well as sophomore Kirah Koshinski
(726.05), passed the 500-career point mark.
Doggette, Goldberg and senior student assistant Mackenzie Myers also were honored by the coaching staff.
“You could see how much this senior class loved WVU gymnastics just by the tears they shed last night,” Butts added. “They’re sad their gymnastics careers are over. They contributed so much to this program and sacrificed a lot along the way. It was important for us to honor this trio one last time and to also give them the chance to honor their teammates, too.”
The Mountaineers concluded the 2017 season ranked No. 20 nationally, the team’s highest position since the 2007 season. WVU finished the year at 13-10 and posted a 3-3 mark in Big 12 Conference action. The squad placed third at the 2017 NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships with a program-best 196.325 score.