Wednesday February 20, 2013Swim Olympian Elizabeth Beisel & Baseball All-American Mike Zunino Are 2012 Ben Hill Griffin Award Winners
University of Florida 2008 and 2012 swimming Olympian Elizabeth Beisel (North Kingstown, R.I.) and two-time All American and 2012 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Winner and Dick Howser Trophy recipient Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) will be honored as recipients of the 2012 Ben Hill Griffin Award for their overall contributions to the Gator athletics program and Gainesville community last year. The 2011 winner as well, Zunino becomes the first Gator baseball player to receive the Ben Hill Griffin Award twice.
Established by Gator Boosters, Inc., and the University of Florida Athletic Association, the award honors the top male and female student-athlete at the University of Florida and is named after Ben Hill Griffin and his family, who have been long-time avid supporters and fans of Gator athletics. The Ben Hill Griffin award is based primarily on athletic achievement; academic achievement and extra-curricular involvement are also considered.
A nine-time All-American in the pool, a 2011 World Champion and the 2012 SEC Female Swimmer of the Year, Beisel led the Gators to a 10th-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Championships last season, winning the 200-yard backstroke individual national championship. She became one of five swimmers in the country ever to swim the 200 back under 1:50.00, joining fellow Gator and current UF volunteer assistant coach Gemma Spofforth and swimmers Elizabeth Pelton, Natalie Coughlin and Kate Fesenko.
Beisel additionally notched a team-best four All-SEC honors at the 2012 SEC Championships, where she broke her own SEC Championships record in the 400 IM, when she touched in 3:58.35 – the first sub-four minute effort of her career. The Gator Olympian picked up three SEC titles last year, bringing her career tally to five overall.
Beisel first represented the Red, White and Blue in the 2008 Summer Olympics, where she placed fourth overall in the 400m IM, touching in at 4:31.78, while taking fifth in the in the 200m back with a 2:08.16. In 2012, Beisel returned to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, taking home silver in the 400m IM with a personal-best 4:31.27. She additionally picked up bronze in the 200m backstroke after touching in at 2:06.55 for the United States.
Beisel was also successful in the classroom for the Orange and Blue, as she was named to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-America Women’s At-Large First Team during her sophomore season.
Zunino left his mark on the Florida baseball program, both on and off the field. He is currently among the 18 non-roster invitees to the Seattle Mariners spring training camp after being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in last June’s Major League Baseball Draft, the highest selection in school history.
The recipient of the 2012 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy and the Johnny Bench Award, Zunino batted .373 (41-for-110) with 35 RBI, 29 runs, 10 homers and 10 doubles in 29 games for the Everett (Wash.) AquaSox, the Class A short-season affiliate of the Mariners, before hitting .333 (17-for-51) with eight RBI, six runs, four doubles and three homers in 15 games for the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals of the Double-A Southern League. Playing for Peoria of the Arizona Fall League, Zunino was a key cog in the Javelinas’ run to the league title and was named to the AFL’s Top Prospects Team. In the championship game, he finished 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI as Peoria edged the Salt River Rafters, 4-3. Baseball America rated him No. 1 on the Mariners’ list of top-10 prospects at the beginning of December and said that he was the best power hitter and the best defensive catcher within the organization.
Zunino was Florida’s “Triple Crown” winner last season in helping the Gators to their third-consecutive NCAA College World Series appearance, leading the team in batting average (.322), RBI (67) and homers (19). The Cape Coral, Fla., native paced the Orange and Blue in total bases (164), doubles (28), sacrifice flies (11) and slugging percentage (.669). He was also 9-for-10 on the basepaths.
According to the final 2012 NCAA statistics, Zunino was first nationally in sacrifice flies, third in doubles, fourth in round-trippers, fifth in total bases, ninth in doubles per game, 10th in RBI and 11th in slugging percentage. A two-time, first-team All-SEC recipient and two-time member of the league’s All-Defensive Team, the three-year starter registered a .994 fielding percentage in his final campaign, with three errors in 510 chances, and threw out 20 runners who attempted to steal on him.
Zunino became the first Gator catcher to be voted as a first-team All-American twice. He batted .327 in 193 career games, including 188 starts. His total of 17 sacrifice flies matches Mario Linares’ (1988-91) for the most by a UF player, he ranks fourth on the school’s all-time list in both doubles (58) and homers (47), occupies sixth in slugging percentage (.620) and RBI (175) and rates seventh in total bases (425). Zunino also totaled 224 hits, scored 159 runs, drew 72 walks and was 24-of-30 on stolen-base attempts. His sterling fielding percentage of .995 is second on the school’s career chart, as well as his 1,340 putouts. He committed just eight errors in 1,473 total chances. The Gators posted a 147-56 (.724) record over his three seasons, the top three-year performance in the program’s existence.
Zunino contributed to the Gainesville community and beyond, assisting with the annual Climb for Cancer event, coupled with visits to the Shands Hospital pediatric care unit and to local elementary schools to mentor local Gainesville community children. He was also involved with the Friends of Jaclyn organization, as the Gator baseball team has adopted a ‘teammate.’ Friends of Jaclyn matches children who have brain tumors with high school and college athletic teams to provide support for the child and spread awareness of brain tumors throughout the community. UF Baseball added Nick Gehlman in 2010 to mentor through the Friends of Jaclyn mission.
Beisel and Zunino will be honored with the Ben Hill Griffin Award at the 2013 Hall of Fame Banquet, to be held on Friday April 5, in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Please contact Gator Boosters at (352) 375-4683, ext. 5021 for information on attending the banquet.