Janet Jesang and Orlando Mendez-Valdez have been named Western Kentucky University's John Oldham Female and Male Student-Athletes of the Year for the 2008-09 academic year, the WKU Athletic Department announced today. The duo will be recognized at Thursday night's Hilltopper Athletic Foundation Membership Social in the Topper Club at Houchens Industries - L.T. Smith Stadium.
Jesang earned All-American honors in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track to join Tony Staynings (1974-75), Ashley Johnson (1983-84), and Sean Dollman (1991-92) as the only WKU athletes to ever earn all-America honors in each of those three sports in the same school year.
The Kampala, Uganda native was the Sun Belt Conference individual cross country champion and became the first WKU cross country performer to earn All-American honors since 1992 after placing 13th in the NCAA Championships this past November. Jesang also earned All-American honors after finishing 7th in the nation in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Indoor Track Championships and fifth in the finals of the 5,000 meters of the NCAA Outdoor Track Championships.
Mendez-Valdez, who graduated this past May, was named the Sun Belt Conference's Male Student-Athlete of the Year for 2008-09. He also was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and earned a spot on the Associated Press All-America team as an Honorable Mention selection after leading the Hilltoppers to a 25-9 record and a second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth this past season.
After three seasons in a support role, Mendez-Valdez turned in a career year as a senior in 2008-09. Averaging 14.2 ppg, he became the first WKU player ever to make 100 three-pointers in a single season, connecting on 101-of-240 for 42.1 percent. His 140 assists were also eighth most all-time in a single season and his 1,138 minutes played rank as the fourth highest total. He finished the year ranked in the top 10 in the conference in six major statistical categories.
Mendez-Valdez had 23 double-digit scoring games including nine of 20 points or more, and his 1,066 career points ranks him 35th all-time in the WKU record books. He also ranks second all-time at WKU in three-point field goal percentage (42.3%), and fourth in career three pointers made (197) and assists (355). Mendez-Valdez scored 18 points, dished out 12 assists, and grabbed 10 rebounds in a January 1 win over Troy at Diddle Arena, marking the first ever known triple double in school history.
WKU has been annually honoring a male student-athlete since 1973 and a female student-athlete since 1980. Courtney Lee (men's basketball) and Crystal Kelly (women's basketball) were the respective winners in 2007-08.