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PARDees Close Out Class of 2016's Athletic Careers

May 19, 2016
Past Award Winners: Albert Award | 1913 Trophy

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EASTON, Pa. - Four members of the Class of 2016 took home honors at the PARDees on Thursday evening. More than 350 senior student-athletes, family members, coaches and administrators were on hand at the annual awards show, the final event of their collegiate athletic careers.

Stephanie Benko, Greg Grewal, Matt Smalley and Devin Smith were named as Lafayette athletics' best at the event held in the theater at the College's Williams Center for the Arts.

Benko and Grewal secured the Class of 1913 Trophy, an endowed award presented to the senior student-athletes (male and female) who have attained the greatest distinction both as an athlete and a scholar. The award has been presented annually since 1940 and is currently selected by Lafayette's head coaches and athletic administrators.

Benko (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan) was an All-Patriot League First-Team selection in outdoor track and field in 2016 after winning the 3,000 meter steeplechase. She also placed fifth in the 5,000 meters at the same event. It was Benko's second Patriot League title in the steeplechase after winning the event in 2014 and finishing as the runner up in 2013. She holds the school record of 10:33.79 set in 2014.

A two-year team captain for cross country and track & field, Benko was named Lafayette's Female Maroon Club Scholar-Athlete of the Year this past fall. She maintains a 3.65 grade-point average while majoring in Biology and minoring in Spanish. Earlier this week, she was selected to the Academic All-Patriot League Outdoor Track & Field Team.

In her time on College Hill, Benko has served as the chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the President of the Delta Gamma Fraternity and as the vice president of fundraising for the Lafayette chapter of Colleges Against Cancer.

"Steph has been a tremendous leader for our cross country and track & field teams during her time at Lafayette," said Lafayette distance coach Jen Buirkle. "She has an unwavering work ethic that has allowed her to not only be our top runner, but also a leader in several other extracurricular activities on campus. She is the perfect example of the ideal Lafayette student-athlete as demonstrated by her achievements in the classroom, on the track and in the community."

Like Benko on the women's side, Grewal (Downington, Pa./Downingtown West) was named Lafayette's Male Maroon Club Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the fall of his senior year. He was the team's most valuable swimmer his last three seasons, working his way to individual school records in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breast, 100 IM, 200 IM and as part of the 200 and 400 medley relay teams. He is a three-time All-Patriot League Second-Team performer.

In his senior season, he qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 breast and made four NCAA Division I B qualifying standard swims, three times in the 100 breast and once in the 200 breast. A three-time Academic All-Patriot League honoree, Grewal was named the Patriot League Men's Swimming Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2016. The team captain maintains a 3.54 cumulative GPA while majoring in Chemistry. At the College's annual Honors Convocation, Grewal was tabbed for the American Institute of Chemists Award.

"There isn't a lot that Greg did not accomplish here at Lafayette," said Lafayette swimming and diving coach Jim Dailey. "He has had a stellar Lafayette career and has truly lived the Lafayette experience."

Smalley and Smith were given the Charles L. Albert '08 Award, presented to the student-athletes who are judged to be the most outstanding athletes. The endowed award was established in 1966. Smalley (Philadelphia, Pa./Father Judge) was a four-time All-Patriot League First-Team selection at cornerback and kick returner, and earlier this month signed a free agent contract with the N.Y. Giants. In his senior season, he started nine games and garnered team MVP honors.

A rare four-year letterwinner in football, Smalley's sophomore year may have been his best in terms of statistical production, as he collected All-Patriot League First-Team honors at corner and kick returner and finished eighth in the nation in kick return yardage. He was third in the nation in kicks returned for a touchdown, including school-record returns of 98 and 99 yards. Smalley also led the team with five interceptions in 11 games.

An All-Patriot League selection as a junior, he finished third on the team in tackles and led the team in pass breakups. Smalley's biggest play of the year came on the biggest stage when he returned a kick 60 yards against Lehigh in front of a sold out crowd at Yankee Stadium. The Computer Science major with a minor in Art finished his career with All-Patriot League honors at corner.

"Matt is one of the top players athletically in all my time here at Lafayette," said Lafayette football head coach Frank Tavani. "He was the best cover cornerback in the conference for three years along with being an outstanding special teams player."

Smith (Andover, N.J./Pope John XXIII), a four-time All-Patriot League First-Team selection and two-time Second-Team honoree, is the school recordholder in four individual sprint events and three relay events. She garnered All-Patriot League Second-Team status at the 2016 Patriot League Outdoor Championships with a second-place finish in the 4x400 relay which recorded the second best time in school history. She also anchored the 4x100 relay to a fourth-place finish and a school record. Individually, Smith broke a 32-year old school record in the trials of the 200 meters, finishing eighth in the finals and fourth in the 400.

Her 2015-16 indoor season was equally as impressive when she broke the meet record in the 400m (54.81) on her way to a Patriot League title in the event, a feat she first accomplished in 2013 (57.32). In the 2014-15 indoor season and the 2015 outdoor season, she ran the anchor legs of the 4x400m relays teams which set school records and won Patriot League championships. Smith collected All-East (ECAC Championships) laurels on three occasions. Against Lehigh, she went undefeated in the 200m and 400m indoor and outdoors and the 4x100m relays (outdoor) over four seasons.

A Chemistry major who maintains a 3.35 GPA, Smith is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and a volunteer at a local day care facility.

"Devin has been our rock for four years," said Lafayette track & field head coach Michele Curcio. "She will go down as one of the best sprinters (and athletes) in school history. Devin is the ultimate `team player,' willing to do whatever it takes to help her team win. There is no one else that I would want to anchor my relays or lead my team."

The PARDees, which featured a pre-ceremony red carpet and a reception afterwards, was hosted by Gary Laubach of the Lafayette Sports Network and Susan Averett, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics and Lafayette's Faculty Athletics Representative.

Director of Athletics Bruce McCutcheon and Benko delivered additional remarks at the annual event leading up to Saturday's 181st Commencement.