DES MOINES, Iowa – The Drake University athletic department announced and honored its 2016-17 departmental award winners during the annual ‘Welcome Back Picnic’ on Sunday, Aug. 27, at the Knapp Center. Women’s golf’s Grace Dunn earned the Dixie Byers Comeback Player of the Year honor for her efforts during the 2016-17 season. She scored an average round of 78.2 over 28 rounds and earned three top-20 finishes while playing with a heavy heart after missing the 2016 MVC Championship due to the death of her father. She had a season-low 54-hole score of 216 (71-70-75) at the Bradley Invitational, finishing tied for second and was was the team’s top scorer at four tournaments. The award is named after longtime Drake supporter Dixie Byers who has battled cancer numerous times to continue faithfully supporting the Bulldogs.Women’s basketball’s Becca Hittner had a breakout first season as a Bulldog to be named the department’s female Newcomer of the Year. Hittner was named All-MVC First Team, the MVC Freshman of the Year and earned a spot on the MVC All-Freshman Team. She was awarded MVC Newcomer of the Week six times (Dec. 19, Dec. 26, Jan. 3, Jan. 23, Feb. 13, Feb. 20) and averaged 12.4 points per game and ranked ninth in MVC scoring. The awards recognized some of the top performers and student-athletes from last season as the Bulldogs embark on the 2017-18 season. The awards and those honored include,Bulldog Way Director’s Cup Award – Women’s BasketballHowlett Award Male Student-Athlete of the Year – Reed Fischer, cross country/track & fieldHowlett Award Female Stduent-Athlete of the Year – Lizzy Wendell, women’s basketballDixie Byers Comeback Player of the Year – Grace Dunn, women’s golfFemale Newcomer of the Year – Becca Hittner, women’s basketballMale Newcomer of the Year – Antonio Sanchez, men’s soccer The highlight of the presentation was the announcement of the Howlett Award winners. The award is given to the top male and female student-athletes of the year. Cross country and track & field’s Reed Fischer and women’s basketball’s Lizzy Wendell were named the recipients of the honor after completing their careers as some of the most decorated student-athletes in Drake history. Fischer recently completed an equally decorated season in which he earned NCAA All-America honors in the 10,000 meters with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. That performance came just weeks after winning the event at the MVC Championship to claim his fourth MVC title of the season. During the indoor season, he swept the 3,000 and 5,000 titles at the MVC Championship and was the MVC Cross Country Champion in the fall. Fischer set school records as a senior in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meters as well as the outdoor 5,000 meters. His record setting performance in setting the outdoor 5,000 meters came at the Drake Relays to shatter the 39-year-old record and run the fastest 5,000 meters the Relays since 1988. Wendell garnered Associated Press honorable mention All-America honors and WBCA honorable mention All-America accolades. She was also named the Missouri Valley Conference Jackie Stiles Player of the Year and an All-MVC first team selection in leading the Bulldogs to the regular-season with an unblemished 18-0 record and MVC Tournament championship. She led the MVC in scoring for the third-straight season with a 21.0 clip that ranked 13th in the nation and her 692 points in 2016-17 ranked ninth all-time in both Drake and MVC history. Antonio Sanchez of men’s soccer was named to the MVC-All Freshman Team and scored Drake’s sole goal in the MVC quarterfinals match against Evansville. He saw action in 18 games and finished his season with four assists to earn the Bulldogs’ male newcomer of the year honor. Print Friendly Version Women’s basketball was honored as the Bulldog Way Director’s Cup winner after recording one of the most successful seasons in program history. The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Tournament after claiming the MVC regular season and tournament championship. The Bulldogs won 22-straight games including an 18-0 record in conference action to become the first team to post a perfect record in MVC play. The Bulldogs finished the season 28-5 record to tie the program record for wins and the team was ranked nationally for multiple weeks. Off the court, the program has completed more than 1,000 community service hours in each of the past four academic years. The more than 4,000 hours have been completed around the Drake and Des Moines communities. In the classroom, the women’s basketball team has been exceptional with four straight seasons of ranking in the top 10 of all Division I teams in team grade point average. The 2016-17 team compiled a 3.600 GPA to rank ninth in the prestigious WBCA Top 25 academic team honor roll.