GLENDALE — Some of the best high school and junior college student-athletes, teams and coaches in the area were honored on Tuesday night, but with a distinct twist.
The inaugural ACE Awards, held at the Alex Theater and sponsored by the Glendale Character and Ethics Project, not only celebrated some of the most successful from Glendale Community College and Glendale, Hoover and Crescenta Valley high schools, they highlighted those who best exemplified the project's core ideals of sportsmanship, responsibility, integrity and strong moral character.
"It means a lot to me," said Crescenta Valley High senior girls' soccer player Frances Boukidis, who received the award for Female Athlete with Character and Ethics of the Year. "I'm thankful for being recognized for having character and ethics and it's just as important as the tactics of the game or having the technical ability."
The award for Male Athlete with Character and Ethics of the Year was presented to Glendale senior boys' water polo player Gor Asryan.
Scholastic Athlete with Character and Ethics awards were also given out, with Glendale senior swimmer Katalina Sher winning Female of the Year and Crescenta Valley senior boys' volleyball player Eric Boyd winning Male of the Year.
Hoover did well in coaching and team awards, with football Coach Chris Long winning High School Coach of the Year for a male team sport and the Tornadoes basketball team capturing High School Male Team of the Year.
"It means a lot, because as a team, we've done a lot of things together," said Hoover senior guard Samson Injigulyan, whose team organized a fundraiser locally for earthquake relief in Haiti. "This shows that after all the effort we put in, somebody actually recognized it. I was really looking forward to this.
"As much as they're my teammates, they're my friends."
Long coached the Tornadoes to an improved season in 2009 that ended with a coveted win over archrival Glendale.
"It was huge, I was nervous and excited for it," Long said. "It means a whole lot to me and our football team and definitely our school also.
"I preach about family and having our priorities right and for me and the football team to win a character and ethics award, it was big. I appreciated it."
The Crescenta Valley High girls' cross-country team won the award for High School Female Team of the Year and Glendale girls' tennis Coach Bob Davidson was named High School Coach of the Year for a female sport.
Glendale High won for Spirit Team of the Year.
Glendale college also received awards in many of the same categories.
Basketball player Jose Garcia won the award for Glendale College Male Athlete with Character and Ethics of the Year and the award for Glendale College Female Athlete with Character and Ethics of the Year went to volleyball player Ashleigh Diller.
"I was really shocked," Diller said. "It really makes me happy because it shows all my hard work paying off, but I didn't do it just to get mentioned.
"I just do it because I love playing and I like to have a good time and make sure everyone who's out there with me has a good time, as well."
Vaqueros cross-country and track and field Coach Eddie Lopez was honored as Glendale College Coach of the Year and two of his squads garnered team-of-the-year accolades.
The women's cross-country team, which captured a state title in November, won the award for Glendale College Female Team of the Year and the mens' cross-country team, which finished third in the state, was named Glendale College Male Team of the Year.
"I was pretty surprised and happy about this event," GCC runner Jonathan Alpizar said. "I invited most of the track team [too], so it was a pretty big thing."
The final award of the event, which featured entertainment provided by the Crescenta Valley cheer/song team and the Hoover drum corp, was the Tom Miller Community Spirit Award.
Posthumously named for Miller, a Glendale native and community booster, the award was presented to Craig Yaussi for his years of work with the YMCA and other efforts.