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Inaugural Cowboy Choice Awards ceremony a big hit with OSU athletes

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ESPN analyst Maria Taylor, left, poses with Haley Woodard, a soccer player and president of Oklahoma State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Taylor emceed the inaugural Cowboy Choice Awards ceremony on Monday night in Stillwater. [BRUCE WATERFIELD/OSU ATHLETICS]
ESPN analyst Maria Taylor, left, poses with Haley Woodard, a soccer player and president of Oklahoma State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Taylor emceed the inaugural Cowboy Choice Awards ceremony on Monday night in Stillwater. [BRUCE WATERFIELD/OSU ATHLETICS]

STILLWATER — Haley Woodard walked out into the east lobby of Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, and it was full.

Full of her peers, full of her friends, full of her school’s student-athletes.

Woodard immediately headed back inside the then-empty arena for what she called, "a little scream moment."

“Everyone was here,” said Woodard, a senior soccer player and the president of Oklahoma State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. “There were athletes here that I thought we would have a hard time getting here. They’re here and they’re having fun.”

Led by Woodard, the SAAC staged the inaugural Cowboy Choice Awards, recognizing the school’s top athletes and teams. The idea had been floating around for a few years and gradually gained enough momentum for the SAAC to take it to school administration.

On Monday night at Gallagher-Iba, the work of countless people for months and months came to be a reality.

Consider it an OSU-only version of the ESPY Awards, honoring the school’s top athletes, teams, coaches and performances from the 2018 calendar year. So it was fitting that the first ceremony starred an ESPN personality.

Maria Taylor, an ESPN sideline reporter and analyst for multiple sports and one of the hosts of College GameDay, emceed the event, which gave awards in categories like, Performance of the Year, Upset of the Year, Athlete of the Year and others.

Taylor is a co-founder of Winning Edge Leadership Academy, which is designed to support young women and minorities in sports business. Woodard attended the Winning Edge retreat last year, and connected with Taylor.

“She’s my mentor,” Woodard said. “I want to be her one day. I saw that she did other award shows, and I was like, ‘Hey, would you want to come do one in Stillwater?’ And she was in.”

Taylor, a two-sport athlete at Georgia, was excited to take part.

“I graduated in 2009 and we did not have anything like this at the University of Georgia,” she said. “It’s a new thing we’re seeing across the landscape, and it’s cool, because it’s a night for all the student-athletes to get together and celebrate each other, get out of their sweats, dress up and take pictures.

“Finals are coming up. To have a moment like this to take a deep breath and celebrate, it’s cool to be a part of that.”

A steady stream of athletes poured through the GIA lobby to walk down the orange carpet before the event, displaying their outfits and posing photos for roughly 90 minutes before the ceremony began inside the arena.

The entire event was completed by roughly 8:30 p.m., and by all accounts, seemed to be a wild success.

“This is awesome,” OSU sophomore golfer Matthew Wolff said after receiving the award for Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. “To be recognized by your peers — there are so many great athletes at Oklahoma State. There are so many teams out there that a lot of people don’t recognize. To be recognized here is pretty special.”

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Cowboy Choice Award winners

Male Athlete of the Year: Viktor Hovland, golf

Female Athlete of the Year: Vanessa Shippy, softball

Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year: Matthew Wolff, golf

Female Breakthrough Athlete of the Year: Loryn Goodwin, basketball

Male Performance of the Year: Viktor Hovland, golf (won U.S. Amateur Championship)

Female Performance of the Year: Vanessa Shippy, softball (11-for-13 with six RBIs, nine runs scored to start season)

Men’s Team of the Year: Golf

Women’s Team of the Year: Equestrian

Male Hustle Award: Jonce Blaylock, wrestling

Female Hustle Award: Cassidy Watters, equestrian

Men’s Team Upset of the Year: Basketball over No. 4 Oklahoma

Women’s Team Upset of the Year: Tennis over No. 3 Florida

Volunteer Team of the Year (community service opportunities): Women’s tennis

Coach of the Year: Alan Bratton, men’s golf

Difference-Maker Award: Boone Pickens

Scott Wright

A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and... Read more ›

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