October 15, 2009 - by
Golden Torch Gala Celebrates Academic Excellence Of Florida State Student-Athletes

Oct. 8, 2009




In a very unique event each fall called the Golden Torch Gala, Florida State University recognizes the very top academic performers from the previous year and the 2008-09 academic year, was one for the record books. Ten student-athletes were named to the spring 2009 President’s List with a perfect 4.0 GPA while 62 student-athletes earned Dean’s List status with a GPA of 3.5 or better.

On Thursday, Oct. 8th, coaches, student-athletes, administrators, Seminole boosters, athletic committee members, deans, faculty and other special guests came together, at the 19th annual Golden Torch Awards Gala, to recognize the outstanding academic achievements of Florida State’s student-athletes.

“This is one of my most favorite events,” Florida State Director of Athletics Randy Spetman, “because we celebrate our student-athletes who have excelled in the classroom while competing at the very top level. You represent what is great about intercollegiate athletics, each and every one of you and we are very proud of that.”

“You also represent what this university stands for … strength, skill and character. Strength, in the classroom and in the athletic arena, by balancing all of the rigors in each area. Skill, the discipline to master your studies and your athletic experience and character to not only challenge yourself but to challenge others around you to reach their highest potential.”

The name “Golden Torch Award” comes from the fact that the “golden torch” recalls the seal of the University which displays three burning torches, each representing a separate virtue: Vires (strength), Artes (skill), Mores (character). The student-athletes honored this year have risen to the top of their respective sports and have displayed great physical, mental and moral strength and are a source of great pride for Florida State University. The event is one of few events nationwide which recognizes student-athletes’ success outside the playing arena. The student-athletes that are recognized at the Gala bring distinction and honor to Florida State University by continuing to build the image of Florida State as a superior academic and athletic institution. The young men and women who proudly wear the garnet and gold are the school’s most visible ambassadors and work hard to promote the best interest of Florida State University.

The student-athlete who achieved the highest GPA in 2008-09 on their respective team is honored as Golden Torch Award winner. The men’s and women’s teams with the highest team grade point average and the overall top male and female student-athletes are also honored. The 2009 ACC Honor Roll members are recognized as well.

In addition to remarks by Spetman and Greg Beaumont, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the evening included two featured speakers, President Emeritus Sandy D’Alemberte and FSU Alumni ad former track and field standout Javier Garcia-Tunon.

“I’m very proud of what you do with your athletic programs and I want to summarize my opinions about this is one simple way,” D’Alemberte said. “When I was president, I am very proud to say that we had a thriving athletics program. In football, we won two national championships. We had two Heisman Trophy winners. That was a wonderful thing but as I begin to compare what happened during the time that I was president and during the time that T.K. Wetherell has been president, I have to say that I admire more what was accomplished during his time. He’s had three Rhodes scholars and two of them are very closely connected to athletics. Having two Rhodes scholars who are great athletes and three Rhodes scholars in all strikes me as a greater accomplishment. I must say that I am just so proud of what’s going on here today.”

This year’s football Golden Torch Award goes to a pair of seniors – safety Jeffrey Tacetta and linebacker Daniel Parvin – who have set not only a standard of excellence, but attained perfection with 4.0 GPAs.

Tacetta, an Ocala, Fla., native, earned his second Golden Torch Award. A walk-on and invaluable member of the team, Tacetta will graduate in the spring with a degree in marketing while adding a minor in advertising. He has earned Dean’s List honors four times and has been a member of the President’s List twice over his college career. He was awarded the 2008-09 Willie Lee Hall Johnson scholarship from the college of business.

Parvin hails from Palm Harbor, Fla., and is a four-year member of the football program. The one-time walk-on, who earned a scholarship prior to the start of the season, will graduate in December with a degree in civil engineering and will be an officer in the Navy’s civil engineering corps. A member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, Parvin joins his parents and grandmother as Florida State graduates.

Soccer’s Golden Torch Award winner is Tori Huster, a midfielder from Cincinnati, Ohio. Huster was named a freshman All-American by Soccer Buzz while earning a spot on the All-ACC freshman team following her rookie season in 2008. Huster earned a spot on the ACC Academic Honor Roll for the 2008-09 season after earning Dean’s List honors in the fall of 2008 and President’s List accolades following the 2009 spring semester. She maintained a 3.973 GPA while pursing a degree in exercise science.

Taylor Wilson is the Golden Torch Award recipient for volleyball. This marks the second year in a row that the junior from Clearwater, Fla., has earned the award. Majoring in Interior Design and boasting a 3.97 GPA, Wilson has excelled on the court as a defensive specialist and libero.

Representing women’s cross country as the Golden Torch Award winner is Heather Smith. A native of Coral Springs, Fla., Smith is a member of the Seminole Striders, a program that Bob Braman created at Florida State. She posted a grade point average of 3.84 while studying political science.

On the men’s side, the cross country Golden Torch Award winner is David Huckaby, from Fort Mill, South Carolina. Huckaby is a red shirt sophomore with the Seminoles and also competes for the track team. While persuing his exercise science major, Huckaby has maintained a 3.85 grade point average.

The Golden Torch Award winner for women’s swimming & diving is Jessica Sabotin, a sophomore from Altamonte Springs, Fla. Sabotin was a member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll. Last season, she broke the school record for the 400 individual medley en route to a fourth-place finish at the ACC Championships. While pursuing her degree in Early Childhood Education, Sabotin holds a 3.8 grade point average.

The men’s swimming & diving Golden Torch Award goes to Ed Denton, a senior on last year’s squad from Maidenhead, England. During his swimming career, Denton was a four-time member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll. He graduated with a 3.78 GPA and a master’s degree in Business Administration.

Kayli Keough is women’s basketball’s Golden Torch Award winner. The sophomore from Land `O Lakes, Fla., Keough is a well-rounded student-athlete who appeared in 18 games during her freshman campaign. She was named to the ACC Honor Roll for her performance in the classroom a year ago as she maintained a 3.83 grade point average as a Sociology major.

The Golden Torch Award winner for men’s basketball is Luke Loucks, a sophomore from Clearwater, Fla. In his first season as a Seminole, Loucks helped lead Florida State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, the school’s first appearance in the ACC Tournament championship game and to a 25-10 overall record. He earned a 3.38 grade point average in Business.

The women’s track & field Golden Torch Award winner is Keyla Smith, a sprinter from Daytona Beach, Fla. Smith earned All-American honors in 2007 as a part of the women’s 4×400 meter relay team. She was a graduate student a year ago as she earned a 3.84 GPA while studying Sport Management.

Javier Garcia-Tunon, a senior from Miami, Fla., the Golden Torch Award winner for men’s track & field, earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average over his entire undergraduate career and has been in the MBA program for the last two years. He is believed to be the first-ever four-time first team Academic All-American. Last season, Garcia-Tunon earned All-America honors in the men’s 400 meter hurdles for the first time in his career. Junior Coral Springs, Fla., native

Katie Rybakova is the women’s tennis Golden Torch Award winner. Rybakova had an excellent sophomore season with a 26-17 singles record that included an upset of the No. 5 player in the country to help push the Seminoles to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. She has been on the ACC Academic Honor Roll for two consecutive years. She is currently studying English Education and maintained a 3.34 grade point average last year.

The Golden Torch Award winner for men’s tennis is senior Vahid Mirzadeh. A Wellington, Fla., native, Mirzadeh was named to the 2009 All-ACC Academic team and was a key player on court as well during his first year of collegiate tennis. As a Business major, he earned a 3.4 GPA.

The winner of this year’s Golden Torch Award for women’s golf is senior Jamie Kuhn. The Miami, Fla., native is in her fourth season as a member of the team and has helped the Seminoles reach the NCAA Championship Tournament in each of her three seasons while maintaining a near perfect grade point average. She has a 3.88 GPA in Advertising.

The men’s golf Golden Torch Award goes to Matt Savage, a senior on last year’s team from Louisville, Kentucky. During his career as a Seminole golfer, he helped Florida State win the ACC Championship for the first time in school history and play in four consecutive NCAA Championship tournaments. He served as the team captain as both a junior and a senior and earned better than a 3.0 grade point average in Communications. He is now a professional golfer.

James Ramsey, a sophomore from Alpharetta, Georgia, is the Golden Torch Award winner for baseball. An outfielder, he played in 45 games, making nine starts in his first season at Florida State. He hit.294 with three doubles, two home runs and 14 RBI while posting a .412 on-base percentage. Ramsey finished second on the team with six pinch hits en route to posting a .273 average as a pinch hitter. He earned a spot on the ACC Honor Roll for the 2008-09 season after earning Dean’s List honors in both the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009. He maintained a 3.8 GPA while pursing a degree in Finance.

Softball’s Golden Torch Award winner is Kaleigh Rafter, who achieved a 3.94 GPA in the spring as a Criminology major. The former standout catcher was rewarded for her stellar work in the classroom with an NCAA postgraduate scholarship, which is given to just 29 women who excel academically and athletically and who are in their final year of intercollegiate athletics competition.

The Golden Torch Award team winner for the men is the tennis team. Led by Dwayne Hultquist, the Seminoles had another outstanding season and were rewarded when they hosted an NCAA regional for the third consecutive season and advanced to the Round of 16 with a thrilling victory over Auburn. The Seminoles had three players compete in the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments and Jean-Yves Aubone was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, and he became the first Florida State tennis player to be named a two-time All-American. While the Seminoles enjoyed great success on the court, they also excelled in the classroom as they earned a team GPA of 3.05, had 7 members on the ACC Honor Roll and two members named to the ACC All Academic Team.

For the 13th straight year, the women’s tennis team earned the Golden Torch Award. Capping off a great season was the Seminoles third-consecutive second round NCAA tournament appearance. Throughout the season, head coach Jennifer Hyde led FSU to a number of huge wins including a thrilling victory over the Florida Gators. Coach Hyde guided her team to a third-round ACC Tournament appearance after the Seminoles shocked ACC fans with an overpowering win over No. 7 Georgia Tech to move onto the semifinals for just the third time in program history. In the classroom, the women’s tennis team earned a 3.34 grade point average.

The overall Golden Torch Award that is given to the male and female student-athletes with the highest overall grade point average went to football’s Tacetta (4.0) and Parvin (4.0) and women’s soccer Huster (3.973).

“Tonight’s event was really nice,” golf’s Jamie Kuhn said. “It’s really nice to be recognized for such hard work and to see so many other athletes with great honors academically.”