ABILENE – Abilene Christian Athletics Awards Week started with Monday’s announcement of the Hudson Wade Fighting Heart Awards. This year’s recipients are seniors Hayden Howell (basketball) and Michelle Mulrooney (soccer).
Howell and Mulrooney were chosen from a pool from 15 nominations, one representative from each Wildcat varsity team.
This prize, awarded annually since 2017, goes to unheralded student-athletes who are considered by their head coaches to be great teammates and competitors by maintaining a strong work ethic and positive attitude. The award’s namesake is Abilene native Hudson Wade, who died following a courageous battle with leukemia in February of 2016.
This is the first year that two recipients were chosen for the award. They join previous winners Nico Agritelley (tennis, 2017), Sam Denmark (football, 2018) and Hayden Farquhar (basketball, 2019).
Mulrooney was a three-year starter for the Wildcats along their defensive line since transferring from UC Davis. The team’s record during her three-year ACU tenure was an outstanding 35-21-5 (.615), and included three Southland Conference postseason tournaments and a berth at the 2018 NCAA Championships.
“”When you describe Michelle you would have to say she has a fighting heart,” said ACU head soccer coach Casey Wilson. “She would not let anyone get the better of her all while being cool and collected anchoring the defense as one of our captains. It’s been a pleasure to watch her play the past three years continuing a tradition of other high caliber center backs over the years.”
Soccer’s record against the league during this period was an equally stellar 21-10-2 (.667) as the Wildcats finished 16th in the nation (2018) with a 0.568 goals against average. This past year, Mulrooney’s line was responsible for six shutouts and a conference best .474 shutout percentage. They battled Baylor to a 1-1 tie at home to close non-conference play, and won their last four Southland matches by a margin of 8-2 (with shutouts vs. McNeese, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State).
Mulrooney played in excess of 1,700 minutes in each of her three years at ACU and scored goals in wins against Lamar and New Mexico State.
A native of Midwest City, Okla., Howell this year battled back from an injury that kept him out of action for the entirety of the Wildcats’ 2018-19 NCAA postseason run. He appeared in all 31 games (42.3 FG percentage) and averaged 3.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game to go along with 15 assists, six steals and five blocks.
“Howell is one of the toughest players we’ve had in our program,” said ACU men’s basketball head coach Joe Golding. “He’s faced adversity every year on the floor with his ankles and never used it as an excuse. He’s exactly what we are looking for in a student-athlete in how he acts and represents Abilene Christian University.”
Howell scored a season-best 14 points vs. Dallas Christian and pulled down five boards in back-to-back games vs. DCU and Howard Payne. Late in the year as the team solidified its No. 2 seed at the Southland Conference Basketball Championships, Howell averaged 16.0 minutes off the bench and posted an eight-point / four-rebound effort against the eventual regular-season champions from Stephen F. Austin.
Earlier in the year he scored eight points in nine minutes vs. Houston Baptist, and knocked down four-of-six shots to finish with 10 points vs. McNeese.
Howell’s career bests included 16 points vs. Incarnate Word in 2017 and seven rebounds / three blocks during a 2016 meeting vs. Schreiner. In five years (four seasons) at ACU, Howell played in 123 games and scored 100 or more points during each season (3.9 per game). He additionally averaged 2.1 rebounds per game with 48 career assists, 23 steals and 34 blocks.
Hudson Wade Fighting Heart Award Nominees
Baseball: Tanner Riley
Men’s Basketball: Hayden Howell
Women’s Basketball: Anna McLeod
Beach: Mackenzie Harris
Men’s Cross Country: Colton Gates
Women’s Cross Country: Avery Silliman
Football: Tracy James
Golf: Alex Clouse
Soccer: Michelle Mulrooney
Softball: Blair Clayton
Men’s Tennis: Joaquin Delgado
Women’s Tennis: Illeana Mocciola
Women’s Track and Field: Taylor Tolen
Men’s Track and Field: Ryan Linton
Volleyball: Eighmy Dobbins