On Monday, UNC student-athletes gathered in Memorial Hall for the sixth annual Rammy Awards: the Tar Heels' take on the ESPYS, in which athletes across all varsity sports were honored for their efforts on and off the field.
Monday was a night by and for athletes.
Seniors Marika Akkerman of women's tennis and Kenny Selmon of men's track and field hosted the show, and two musical acts were performed by athletes from sports ranging from rowing to baseball.
Almost all of the presenters were student-athletes, except Carol Folt, Bubba Cunningham and honorary cross country team member Yash Krishnan.
The event proved to be as much a celebration of the life of a student-athlete as a showcase of their talents. Before entering Memorial Hall, athletes flashed their best outfits on a “blue carpet” walk, surrounded by paparazzi and an assortment of appetizers.
Once inside, Akkerman and Selmon started the night off with a barrage of niche student-athlete humor — spanning from the endless construction of UNC’s facilities to the patented Nike puffy jackets only a select group of athletes seem to have.
Although there were some technical difficulties, most of the jokes hit home. They touched on topics that only people in the room could understand, and the understanding was most apparent in the presentation of this year’s Unsung Hero Award.
The recipient, Gwen Warren, works at the UNC Fueling Station, a store in the Loudermilk Center for Excellence that provides student-athletes with snacks on weekday mornings before and after workout sessions.
Warren was presented with the award, along with a custom UNC jersey, because of the wonderful impact of her unceasing positive attitude toward all students who visit the store. She received the loudest applause of the entire evening — because she is someone athletes know, love and appreciate.
Nicole Greene was a standout from the individual awards, winning both the Outstanding Championship Performance and Female Athlete of the Year awards for her individual NCAA title in the women's high jump.
Alongside Greene was Joel Berry II, who earned the Male Athlete of the Year award.
As for team awards, the Best Upset award went to the men’s lacrosse team, and the Most Outstanding Team award went to women’s tennis.
But as much as on-field achievements were acknowledged, off-field contributions by student-athletes were of equal importance on Monday night. Whether it was for academic achievements, well-roundedness, inclusion, overcoming adversity or service, the Rammys acknowledged the “student” part of UNC’s student-athletes — showing these honorees are much more than just talented competitors.
This rang true in the night’s musical performances, as well. In the first act of the night, rower Kate Hickert and men's golfer Tailin Song performed the Beatles' "Let It Be." Then, a rendition of "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman soundtrack was performed by rowers Ashton Brown and Elizabeth Mitchell, softball player Hailey Jensen and baseball player Jason Morgan.
From the athlete-centered humor to the celebration of Warren’s behind-the-scenes work, the night was a well-deserved celebration of UNC’s student-athletes, and an opportunity for all of them to take a break from their four-year balancing act to remember that they’re not alone.
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