| Photo courtesy UTEP
Football’s Will Hernandez and Cross Country/Track & Field’s Winny Koech were named the UTEP Male and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively, at the 44th annual “Dinner With the Miners” banquet on Thursday night at the Wyndham El Paso Airport.
Softball’s Courtney Clayton received the Golden Miner Award, presented to UTEP’s top all-around senior student-athlete based on athletics, academics and community service.
Hernandez is the only Miner since 1950 to receive Associated Press All-American honors in back-to-back years. The left guard garnered second team recognition in both 2016 and 2017. His senior year accolades also included first team All-American by Pro Football Focus and second team All-American by CBS Sports.
A starter in all 49 games with the Miners, Hernandez is the only offensive lineman in school history to garner first team All-Conference recognition in consecutive years. Following the 2017 campaign, Hernandez was invited to the NFL Combine, Reese’s Senior Bowl and State Farm All-Star Football Challenge. The Las Vegas was chosen by the New York Giants in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
A junior from Iten, Kenya, Koech won two titles at the 2017 Conference USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, presiding over the field in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. She later represented UTEP in the 10,000 at the NCAA Championships.
Koech continued to shine during the 2017 cross country season, opening the campaign by garnering back-to-back first-place finishes at the Lori Fitzgerald Invitational and NMSU Kachina Classic. She took second at the C-USA Meet. She qualified for the NCAA Championships, claiming 19th place and All-American honors while running the 6K race in 19:53.7.
This spring, Koech was the Conference USA runner-up indoors in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters. It marked the second consecutive year that she earned first team All-League honors.
Clayton has excelled on the playing field and in the classroom, while making a difference in the community as well during her time at UTEP. The softball standout has started all 205 games for the Miners, batting .359 with 51 doubles, six triples, 25 home runs and 115 runs batted in.
This year the senior from Cornelius, Ore. leads the Miners with a .394 average, 13 doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 28 RBI. She is first in Conference USA in triples while ranking second in total bases and third in batting average. She ranks second in school history in doubles and triples, third in batting average, and fourth in home runs and RBI.
In the field, Clayton is the UTEP record-holder with 385 assists. She was appointed the 2016 Conference USA Player of the Year. Clayton has earned numerous academic honors with the Miners including a four-time recipient of a C-USA Medal for posting a grade point average of 3.75 or higher.
She is also a two-time member of the C-USA Softball All-Academic Team. Clayton’s 56.5 community service hours lead all UTEP senior student-athletes.
The grade point average award was presented to the tennis team, and the community service award went to softball.
In addition, team MVP awards were presented to Omega Harris (men’s basketball), Tamara Seda (women’s basketball), Antony Kosgei (men’s cross country), Winny Koech (women’s cross country), Michael Saruni (men’s indoor track & field), Lilian Koech (women’s indoor track & field), Emmanuel Korir (men’s outdoor track & field), Tobi Amusan (women’s outdoor track & field), Will Hernandez (football), Charles Corner (men’s golf), Lily Downs(women’s golf), Bailey Powell (rifle), Lauren Crenshaw (soccer), Courtney Clayton (softball), Erandi Martinez(tennis), Macey Austin (volleyball), Javier Aguilar & Shelby Nava (Cheerleading), Asa Guevera & Tamara Seda(strength & conditioning) and Larry Felix (athletic training).
“Dinner With The Miners” is made possible by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club. The event was inspired by past Lion president John Phelan. In 1979, a $10,000 memorial endowment was established.
Due to the overwhelming community support of the event, the memorial fund was raised to $100,000 in 1983. A second endowment has already been established and continues to grow each year. These two endowments provide funds annually to offset the cost of student-athlete scholarships.