Coco Miller was denied the chance of winning a championship ring last March when the COVID-19 pandemic sent her and the rest of the UCSB women’s basketball team home from the Big West Conference Tournament in Anaheim.
But she did win a ring in the final competition of her collegiate career.
Miller, who recently earned her master’s degree from the Gervitz School of Education, was selected to receive the Golden Eagle ring as the top student-athlete academically among Gaucho women. She recorded a perfect grade-point average of 4.0 as a graduate student.
“The fifth year is the charm — I finally got the Golden Eagle Award,” Miller said. “I’m really going to miss my Gaucho family.”
Teammate Natalia Bruenig was the women’s basketball winner in 2019, while Drew Edelman won it the previous two years.
The Golden Eagle, a program started in the 1990s by Pete and Gerd Jordano, honors the UCSB student-athlete from each program who compiles the highest cumulative GPA (3.25 minimum) while also exhibiting citizenship and integrity. The honoree must be in at least their second year of enrollment at UCSB.
Men’s water polo player Tommy Hawkins, who sat out this season as a redshirt sophomore, received the Golden Eagle ring as the top male student-athlete.
“He is a quiet leader who is always acting in the best interest of the team,” water polo coach Wolf Wigo said.
Miller completed her career ranked 18th on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,244 points. The 5-foot-10 guard received All-Big West honorable mention this season after averaging 10.7 points, 4.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.
She was also a second-team choice in 2019 while coming off an injury-redshirt season. She made the Big West All-Freshman team in 2016.
“(Her) time and commitment in the classroom, on the court, and in our community will truly be missed,” coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We’re excited to see what her next chapter in life holds.”
James Douglass, a biology and mathematical sciences major, was the men’s track and field Golden Eagle for the fourth straight year.
Tori Palme, the recipient in women’s indoor track in 2018, reclaimed her Golden Eagle award after Hope Bender won it in 2019.
Repeat winners from last year included Alex Barr (men’s cross country), Brett Bennett (men’s golf), Samantha Fabian (women’s softball), Kyle Johnson (baseball), and Sarah Snyder (women’s water polo).
First-time male Golden Eagle winners were Eric Bower (basketball), Alex Dominguez (tennis), Ryan Pecsok (volleyball), Zach Shenkin (swimming), and Colin Sneddon (soccer).
This year’s first-time female winners were Kelly Bishop (cross country), Grace Kloss, (volleyball), Kendall Martin (outdoor track and field), Lise Senetac (tennis), and Sophia Villalta (soccer).
UCSB placed a school-record 80 student-athletes on the Big West Conference’s Winter/Spring Academic All-League teams. To qualify, a student must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA (true freshmen and first-year transfers are not eligible) and compete in at least 50% of the team’s contests. Baseball pitchers are an exception to the 50% participation requirement.
All of the Gauchos’ winter and spring teams had Academic All-Conference honorees, with women’s track and field (24) and men’s track and field (18) leading the way. Also placing athletes on the academic honor squad were baseball (eight), softball (five), women’s tennis (five), women’s water polo (five), men’s basketball (four), women’s basketball (four), men’s tennis (three), men’s volleyball (two), and men’s golf (two).
Director of athletics John McCutcheon noted that it was one of the finest academic quarters ever recorded by the Gauchos. Each of the 19 programs, which are comprised of 426 student-athletes, finished the spring quarter with a cumulative team GPA of 3.15 or above.
The department’s combined GPA of 3.462 was up from 3.321 in the winter quarter, with 71 student-athletes receiving straight-A’s.
“For every one of our programs to have achieved and sustained at this level at an institution as academically competitive as UC Santa Barbara, and to do it with everything that is going on in the world as a backdrop, is reflective of how committed our student-athletes, coaches and staff are,” McCutcheon said.
The women’s swimming team recorded the top team GPA of 3.737, narrowly edging women’s volleyball (3.701). Women’s cross country (3.669), women’s track and field (3.639), and women’s basketball (3.598) rounded out the top-five team GPAs.
Men’s water polo had the highest GPA (3.521) of all Gaucho men’s teams.