UMW's Taylor Johnson One of Three Awarded CAC Medal of Inspiration Award

Christopher Newport sophomore Krista Lewis (Chesapeake, Va./Hickory), Mary Washington junior Taylor Johnson (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) and St. Mary’s senior Kelsey Wirtz (Parkton, Md./Hereford) were selected by the conference Senior Woman Administrators as recipients of the CAC Medal of Inspiration for the 2013-14 academic year.

Replacing the CAC’s Unsung Hero Award last year, the Capital Athletic Conference Medal of Inspiration is awarded to persons from the CAC who have persevered through extraordinary circumstances and whose determination, devotion, and passion are exemplary, revered among their peers, and worthy of special recognition.

CAC institutions may nominate candidates for this honor annually. The Senior Woman Administrators from all CAC schools will review nominations and determine recipients with the charge of bestowing this medal upon only the most deserving individuals. In any given year, there is neither a requirement that the CAC Medal of Inspiration be awarded, nor a limit as to the number of people who may receive the medal.

Lewis, the first CNU student-athlete to win the CAC Medal of Inspiration, is a sophomore softball pitcher who was named the CAC Co-Rookie of the Year and earned all-conference and all-region as one of the Captains’ top pitchers. She compiled a 20-2 overall record with a 1.74 ERA, including a perfect game and two no-hitters in helping CNU win the 2014 CAC softball title.

As a freshman, Lewis suffered through a rare medical condition that forced emergency surgery in her arm. After pre-season practice began in the Spring 2013, Lewis’ fingers and hand would become very tired and even would turn blue. She was diagnosed with Reynaud’s phenomenon and her symptoms continued to be monitored with the hopes that the symptoms would subside in warmer weather. As the weather warmed, though, her symptoms progressively worsened and Lewis was referred to the team doctor.

She was then referred to a vascular surgeon for further consultation. Before further imaging was obtained and Lewis could attend her appointment with the vascular surgeon, her symptoms rapidly progressed and was forced to go to the Emergency Room. Tests revealed a 100% occlusion in her right subclavian artery and a 100% occlusion in the right ulnar artery at the wrist. Emergency vascular surgery was performed and Lewis was hospitalized for four days.

This occlusion is incredibly rare and difficult to diagnose, and the type of treatment she received was very unique because she is a pitcher. Her condition is normally seen in baseball players and even then it is extremely rare. For it to happen in underhand athlete like softball vs overhand like baseball is insanely rare. Worst case for her would have been the inability to fix the two blockages and she would have not been able to pitch anymore. She also would have been potentially for her day to day life to be affected if this wasn’t caught and surgery wasn’t successful.

Lewis went from potentially never being able to pitch again to leading the Captains to the NCAA Tournament as the league’s rookie of the year, pitching a pair of no-hitters including a perfect game.

Johnson, a junior men’s basketball player, was a key member of the Eagles’ 2014 CAC championship team and the first Mary Washington student-athlete to be awarded the CAC Medal of Inspiration. UMW posted a 25-6 overall record and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the team’s second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

As team captain, Johnson led Mary Washington men’s basketball to its greatest season ever in 2013-14. His numbers rank him as one of the top players in the CAC, as evidenced by his being named all-conference, but the fact that he played the entire season with fractures in both feet make his accomplishments incredible. The pain in Taylor’s feet prevented him from practicing all season.

During practice, he would watch and rehab his feet, and only participated during games. He spent countless hours in the training room, and dealt with immense pain in both feet all year. When not playing in games, Taylor constantly had a walking boot on one foot or the other, alternating between the two injuries, or one on each foot.

Despite all of this, he gave full effort every game out, and grabbed 6.5 rebounds as a 6-3 player who often guarded players much taller and heavier. His effort and will to win was a catalyst in the team’s success.

Taylor also showed maximum effort in the classroom as a business major, and was a member of the 2014 CAC All-Academic squad for a 3.2 GPA for the year. He was a finalist for the Allstate Good Works team as well for his community service efforts.

Wirtz, a senior on the women’s soccer team, is the first St. Mary’s student-athlete to win the CAC Medal of Inspiration. She also won the SMC Athletic Director’s Award in 2013-14 in recognition of her inspirational return from an early-season ACL tear by leading the Seahawks to a 5-2 record down the stretch.

The Seahawks’ starting goalie, Wirtz suffered a torn ACL just two games into the season. That prognosis was a tough pill to swallow for any athlete but even tougher for a senior. After leading St. Mary’s to a 1-0-1 start, the team captain was forced to watch from the sidelines. However, that didn’t stop her from motivating her teammates each and every day, including serving as a mentor and coach for the rookie keeper who had to step in to fill her shoes. The Seahawks went 1-7-2 in Kelsey’s absence.

Following 5 weeks of intensive rehab to build her confidence and strengthen her knee, she returned to the pitch with a knee brace on October 9th against Frostburg State and led the team to a 1-0 win with eight saves. She earned CAC Defensive Player of the Week honors on October 14th after guiding St. Mary’s to a pair of shutout victories against CAC rivals. The pair of wins enabled the Seahawks to move into a tie for second place in the standings.

Playing in a knee brace for the first time, Kelsey made a season-high eight saves in soggy conditions for the win over FSU, who had entered the game tied for first place. She followed with two stops in 81 minutes in a 3-0 shutout of Wesley. With Wirtz in goal, St.Mary’s posted a 5-2 mark in its final 7 games of the season, including a 3-game win streak. She registered 3 shutouts during the win streak while recording 306 minutes of scoreless action. Wirtz’s determination, perseverance, and dedication in the face of a potential season-ending injury is a testament and definition of a true athlete.