Aug. 27, 2005
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Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina Department of Athletics this week announced that Adam Puett (cross country, track & field) and Jennifer Gardner (women's basketball) were named its 2004-05 Male and Female Student- Athletes of the Year.
In an effort to include all of the accomplishments of the 2004-05 athletic teams in the decision of athlete of the year, Western abstained from voting on the awards until the middle of the summer months, after the conclusion of the Catamount baseball and track & field seasons. The announcement was made last week at the annual, start-of-school student-athlete meeting which was held in the Ramsey Center.
Puett is a two-sport athlete at Western, competing in the fall cross country season, as well as both indoor and outdoor track & field in the middle and long distance events. Last season, as a junior, Puett placed fourth at the 2004 SoCon Championships to earn all-conference honors. He was also honored by the conference by being named the SoCon Runner of the Week twice during cross country.
The Huntsville, Ala., native added Track & Field Runner of the Week during the indoor and outdoor seasons. During the indoor season, Puett won the SoCon mile and was runner-up in the 3,000 meters. When the seasons changed, Puett's success remained constant. At the 49er Outdoor Classic in Charlotte, N.C., Puett won the 5,000-meter with an all-time personal best of 14:47.09. He also automatically qualified for the NCAA East Regional with a 3:48.14 mark in the 1,500-meters at the Sea Ray Relays in Knoxville, Tenn. Entering the NCAA regional meet, Puett ranked 27th in the region, but finished out the meet ranked 14th with his time of 3:50.27, a mere two seconds off his seasonal best. Puett was an All-Southern Conference performer in the 1,500-meter event, winning top honors at the 2005 SoCon Championship meet, which was held in Cullowhee.
Gardner, who graduated from Western last May, led the Lady Catamounts to the 2005 Southern Conference Championship and the program's first ever NCAA Tournament berth. She was first team All-Southern Conference after being named SoCon Player of the Week three times in 2004-05, the most by any conference player. At the SoCon Championship, Gardner was named Tournament MVP and first team All-SoCon Tournament after setting records for points in a game (45), points in a tournament (106), field goals in a tournament (33), free throws in a tournament (37), free throw attempts in a tournament (46) and rebounds in a tournament (43).
The Norcross, Ga., native concluded her outstanding Western career ranked in the top 10 in seven statistical categories. She scored 1,362 points for her career to rank eighth, and pulled down 890 rebounds to rank third on that WCU list. Gardner is only one of three Western Carolina players to ever score over 1,000 and tally 800-or-more rebounds in a career, joining the likes of Brenda Johnson (1974-77) and Emily Holliday (1983-86). Her 7.6 rebounds per game average ranks her fourth all-time. From the charity stripe, Gardner set a Western record by connecting on 444 free throws during her career on 564 attempts for 78.7-percent, both of which rank second in the WCU record books.
Off the court, Gardner was named to the 2005 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholars list as selected by Black Issues In Higher Education, and was selected to the SoCon's TIAA-CREF Winter Academic All-conference team.
Both Gardner and Puett were honored during the 2004-05 year as each was named the Arby's/Catamount Student-Athlete of the Month twice, garnering the honor in November and October 2004, respectively, and teaming to earn the same award in January, 2005.