Harvard Varsity Club Hosts Annual Senior Letterwinners’ Dinner

Harvard Varsity Club Hosts Annual Senior Letterwinners’ Dinner

The award winners from the 2014 Senior Letterwinners' Dinner (Gil Talbot).

– With nearly 800 people in attendance, the annual senior letterwinners’ dinner was held Wednesday night at the Murr Center, honoring the Harvard athletics class of 2014. Ali Farag of the men’s squash team took home the William J. Bingham Award as Harvard’s top male athlete, while Adabelle Ekechukwu of the track and field team was awarded the Radcliffe Prize as Harvard’s outstanding female senior athlete.

Farag will graduate as one of the most decorated student-athletes in Harvard history, cementing himself as the man to beat in collegiate squash in his time in Cambridge. As a sophomore, he captured the CSA Individual National Championship, and repeated the feat as a senior. He also received All-America first-team honors, and was named Ivy League Player of the Year in every season of his collegiate career. He posted undefeated seasons in 2012 and 2014 and also took home this year’s CSA Skillman Award for sportsmanship. A three-time Academic All-Ivy League selection, he put an exclamation point on his time at Harvard by helping the Crimson to back-to-back league championships and the team national title in 2014.

Ekechukwu had a modest start to her collegiate career, but burst onto the scene as a junior and remained one of the top throwers in collegiate track and field through her senior season. As a junior, she shattered the school record and became the only woman in the history of the Ivy League to eclipse the 20-meter barrier in the weight throw. She was named USTFCCCA Northeast Region Field Athlete of the Year as a senior after earning All-America and Academic All-America honors in her junior campaign. A two-time Most Outstanding Field Performer honoree at the Indoor Heptagonal Championships, she led her squad to back-to-back Ivy League titles, and the program’s first indoor championship in 13 years. She also saw her squad capture the 2014 outdoor Ivy League title for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. She has been recognized for her academic prowess on the Academic All-Ivy team, and was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award as a senior. 

The Arthur L. Boland Award, presented to an outstanding senior varsity athlete who will be attending medical school, went to Elizabeth Wang of women’s lightweight crew. Her extensive research efforts have been acknowledged through several awards, including the Herschel Smith Research Fellowship, the Pechet Family Fund for Undergraduate Research Award and the National Science Foundation Summer Fellowship. As a junior, Wang helped her boat go undefeated on the season and rowed stroke for her boat’s victory at Eastern Sprints.

Men’s hockey’s David Valek took home the John P. Fadden Award as the senior who overcame physical adversity to make a significant contribution to his team. Valek arrived at Harvard having undergone shoulder surgery after repeated dislocations, and despite lingering effects from the procedure, managed to play his entire freshman season. A cycle of torn labrums, surgical repairs, infections and countless hours of rehabilitation followed the next two seasons, and after taking the 2012-13 year off to rehab his shoulder, he returned as a veteran presence this past season as a senior. His perseverance allowed him to compete in 118 games in his career with the Crimson, and he finished with 25 career points on 13 goals and 12 assists.

Jessica Wright of the women’s soccer team was presented with the Carroll F. Getchell Manager of the Year Award. A promising player on the women’s soccer team, Wright had her playing career cut short due to multiple concussions and lingering symptoms. The ailment did not prevent her from continuing to be a strong presence within the organization, as she assumed the role of team manager in her final two years at Harvard. Her dedication helped the program witness great success, and she was even able to run the Boston Marathon on two separate occasions following the end of her collegiate soccer career.

There were two recipients of the Francis J. Toland Community Service Award; Danny Crigler of the men’s swimming and diving team, and track and field’s Alysha Johnson. Crigler serves as the Vice President of Project Swim, a club that offers swimming instruction to children with disabilities, and has organized his team’s participation in the Boston Team Relay Challenge through Swim Across America, helping to raise over $8,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Johnson became the director of the Keylatch Mentor program as a sophomore, helping the program double in size over the course of just one year, and was elected as a Group Officer in 2013 by her peers at the organization.

Natalie Doyle of the women’s volleyball team was presented with the Harvard-Radcliffe Foundation for Women’s Athletics Prize. A four year letter-winner and team captain as a senior, Doyle helped her team build upon every previous season, culminating in a second-place finish in the 2013 Ivy League standings, the team’s best finish in a decade. She will graduate with an impressive 3.90 grade-point average, focusing in a special concentration, along with global health and health policy.

Men’s heavyweight crew’s William Hakim was named the John. P Reardon ’60 Men’s Award winner, as he exemplified the qualities of excellent scholarship, character, leadership and athletic ability. Hakim serves as the coxswain for the men’s heavyweight varsity boat and helped the Crimson compile a 22-1 record in his three years at the helm, including two perfect seasons, three victories at the Harvard-Yale Regatta and a gold medal at the Eastern Sprints.  He is planning to take next year to train and compete for a slot on Great Britain’s 2016 Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro.

The Francis H. Burr ’09 Scholarships went to Nicholas Madden of men’s volleyball and Lauren DiNicola of women’s track and field/cross country. An All-EIVA first-team selection and a member of the EIVA All-Academic team, Madden ranks within Harvard’s all-time top five in digs, kills, block assists and total blocks. He has also been an active community service participant, logging more than 200 hours of youth athletics coaching and totaling more than 100 hours of parish service through the Harvard-Radcliffe Catholic Student Association. DiNicola excelled as an intern at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keyes and has also volunteered her time teaching underserved middle school students in Cambridge through the non-profit group, the Breakthrough Collaborative. She carries a grade-point average of 3.92 and will pursue a PhD in psychology, while performing cutting edge research in the field of marine biology. 

The women’s rugby captains, Xanni Brown, Ali Haber and Brandy Machado, received the Mary G. Paget Prize on behalf of the women’s rugby team and its inaugural year as a varsity sport. In its first season as a varsity program, women’s rugby captured the 2013 Ivy Rugby Tournament title, and qualified for the USA Rugby Division I National Championship for the first time in program history. Because of this trio of senior leaders, the groundwork is laid for a winning tradition to continue within the women’s rugby ranks for years to come.

The Director’s Award, an award that is not given out every year, went to Peyton Johnson of the women’s soccer team. A two-year captain of the women’s soccer team, she helped her squad collect two Ivy League titles and garnered a pair of All-Ivy first-team accolades herself. She also holds the unique distinction of scoring the Ivy League title-clinching goal on two separate occasions, and earned NSCAA All-Region honors playing a new position her senior season.

The Harvard Varsity Club has been instrumental to the success of Harvard Athletics since it was founded in 1886. The Varsity Club preserves the traditions, fosters the ideals, and advances the interests of Harvard Athletics through a wide range of activities for our 20,000+ members. The annual Senior Letterwinners' Dinner, established in 1967 to honor the contributions of the outgoing senior class, is one example of the many functions provided by the Varsity Club.