Photo Provided by Joe Mattis, Gannon University
Baylor junior base Ceara Gray was named the 2018 National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA) Most Outstanding Athlete to headline the 2018 NCATA All-America Team, announced on Saturday evening. Baylor captured three major awards as junior Kaylee Adams was named the NCATA Specialist of the Year while Bears' head coach Felecia Mulkey earned NCATA Coach of the Year accolades. Converse College's Breana Clarke was named the NCATA Freshman of the Year after anchoring the Valkyries to the NCATA Tournament in their inaugural season of competition. Quinnipiac senior Grace Manthey and Gannon junior Lisa Wagaman concluded the major awards by earning the Louise Goodrum Academic Achievement Award.
Gray was a vaunted threat for the top-seeded Bears, who captured their fourth consecutive national championship earlier in the day against Quinnipiac. A base from Birmingham, Alabama, Gray was a critical component of seven heats that averaged a 9.75 or higher per meet during the regular season, including a seven-element acro heat that averaged a 9.88 and an inversion pyramid that averaged a 9.82. In addition, Gray joined a team routine that broke the triple-digit mark on three occasions. Gray becomes the second student-athlete in Baylor history to earn the Most Outstanding Athlete award, following in the footsteps of two-time recipient Kiara Nowlin '17.
Adams was an immensely reliable force as a base, top and tumbler, averaging well over a 9.5 throughout her heats this season as a versatile and consistent impact player. The junior's strongest contribution was in the tumbling event, where she averaged a 9.542 in the duo pass and a 9.936 in the six-element pass. Adams was a four-time NCATA Specialist of the Week throughout the campaign.
Clarke was a standout contributor who helped her team average a 93.66 in team event, a 9.36 in synchronized pyramid and a 9.41 in open toss during the year. Individually, Clarke excelled in tumbling, averaging a 9.51 in the aerial pass. At the end of the year, Clarke was an impact player who helped Converse earn a bid to the NCATA Tournament.
Manthey is a senior for the Bobcats, majoring in journalism with a minor in math and business. Wagaman is currently a junior on the Golden Knights roster with a major in criminal justice and a focus in pre-law. Both student athletes currently hold a 3.97 grade point average.
Mulkey earns her second NCATA Coach of the Year award after leading Baylor to its fourth NCATA National Championship and an unblemished, 11-0 season. Since arriving in Waco for the 2015 season, Mulkey has ushered than one of the most dominating eras by any competitive collegiate program, scoring a 41-1 record during regular season and postseason competition while scoring four consecutive national championships, matching the mark previously obtained by the University of Oregon during Coach Mulkey's tenure with the Ducks.
Adams, Gray and Clarke additionally earned spots on the NCATA All-America squad, consisting of the top 13 athletes from across the NCATA footprint. Baylor landed three student-athletes on the listing as senior Lauren Sturm earned her second NCATA All-America honor.
Azusa Pacific, Hawaii Pacific, Oregon and Quinnipiac placed two student-athletes apiece on the All-American list. The second-seeded Cougars were represented by seniors Heather Hovander and Ashleigh Pitts, who concluded their acrobatics and tumbling careers by helping Azusa Pacific set a new program record with a six-win regular season.
National Championship finalist Quinnipiac saw senior Abby Ziser and sophomore Camren Diaz earn All-America honors for the first time in their careers. Oregon placed senior Taylor Galvin and junior Casi Jackson on the All-America team, making Galvin a three-time All-American while Jackson earns the first All-American honor of her career. Tournament host Gannon landed a student-athlete on the All-America team for the third consecutive season as Cowan caps her career with her first All-American honor.
2018 NCATA All-America Team & Major Award Winners
Most Outstanding Athlete: Ceara Gray, Baylor
Specialist of the Year: Kaylee Adams, Baylor
Freshman of the Year: Breana Clarke, Converse
Louise Goodrum Academic Achievement Award: Grace Manthey, Quinnipiac & Lisa Wagaman, Gannon
Coach of the Year: Felecia Mulkey, Baylor
Heather Hovander, Azusa Pacific
Ashleigh Pitts, Azusa Pacific
Kaylee Adams, Baylor
Ceara Gray, Baylor
Lauren Sturm, Baylor
Breana Clarke, Converse
Chelsea Cowan, Gannon
Makayla Garland, Hawaii Pacific
Daisha Paulino, Hawaii Pacific
Taylor Galvin, Oregon
Casi Jackson, Oregon
Camren Diaz, Quinnipiac
Abby Ziser, Quinnipiac