PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania’s Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics (DRIA) handed out its major intercollegiate senior student-athlete awards Tuesday night, April 23, in a ceremony held at The Sheraton University City. Five awards were handed out.
In the two largest awards of the night, wrestling standout Mark Rappo (Holland, Pa.) was honored with the Class of 1915 Award while women’s track athlete Leslie Kovach (Irwin, Pa.) received the Association of Alumnae Fathers’ Award.
The Class of 1915 Award, given annually since 1931, is presented to the male student-athlete who best exemplifies the spirit and tradition of University of Pennsylvania Athletics. The recipient must be a senior student-athlete who shows outstanding athletic, academic, and leadership qualities. The academic standard is a 3.0 GPA. Voting on the award is conducted by the head coaches of Penn’s men’s varsity programs as well as selected athletic department administrators.
The Fathers’ Award, meanwhile, has been given annually since 1945 to the person who is recognized for her contribution to Women’s Athletics at the University of Pennsylvania. The recipient must be a senior student-athlete who shows outstanding athletic, academic, and leadership qualities. The academic standard is a 3.0 GPA, and voting on the award is conducted by the head coaches of Penn’s women’s varsity programs as well as selected athletic department administrators.
The Norman J. Goldring Awards were given to Joshua Dembowitz (Cherry Hill, N.J.) from men’s lightweight rowing and Cassi Henderson (Elizabethtown, Pa.) from the women’s rowing team. The Goldring Award is given to one graduating male and female student-athlete with the highest GPA who earned a varsity letter in his/her senior year. Henderson also was recipient of the George H. Frazier Award, which is given to a graduating student-athlete (male or female) with the highest GPA who competed on one of the following teams: basketball, crew, track, soccer, baseball or football.
CLASS OF 1915 AWARD – Mark Rappo, wrestling
Mark Rappo continued his family’s run of excellence in the Penn wrestling program, following in older brother Rick’s footsteps with another successful career on the mat. A two-time All-Ivy selection, Rappo posted 80 career wins with two trips to the NCAA Championships and a final national ranking of No. 11 by Amateur Wrestling News at 125 pounds.
Rappo was a dual-meet machine for the Red and Blue, finishing his career with a 42-8 record in dual meets over his four seasons (including a 22-3 record in home duals). In his senior year, Rappo was 12-1 in dual meets, extending his home winning streak to 14 matches to conclude his career.
After two seasons as a spot starter, Rappo ascended to the starter’s role in his final two campaigns with the Red and Blue, winning 51 matches over his final two seasons. In 2010-11, he made the most of his first year as the go-to guy at 125 pounds, winning a career-high 28 matches. In March of 2012, he wrestled his way to the title bout of the EIWA Championships, earning his first trip to the national tournament. At NCAAs in Philadelphia, Rappo pulled off the first upset of the tournament, knocking off the No. 9 seed in the first round.
This season, Rappo replicated his trip to the EIWA final, again earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. During the course of the season he picked up four major decisions, three technical falls and two falls—including the team’s fastest fall of the season in 1:05.
In addition to his All-Ivy honors on the mat, Rappo has been honored many times throughout his career for his efforts in the classroom. In 2011, he was named National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-Academic as well as Academic All-Ivy. This year, he was named Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area in the men’s at-large category.
Mark will graduate in May from Wharton with a concentration in Finance.
ASSOCIATION OF ALUMNAE FATHERS’ AWARD – Leslie Kovach, women’s track & field
Despite a career cut short by injury, Leslie Kovach will leave Penn as arguably the greatest distance runner in school history. She is one of just two outdoor All-Americans in program history and will graduate as the school record holder in the outdoor and indoor 5,000 and outdoor 10,000.
As a sophomore, Leslie became just the second women’s outdoor All-American at Penn, and the first in nearly 20 years. (Chris Lundy originally accomplished the feat in the 3,000 meters in 1992.) Leslie earned the honor when she finished in 16:16.10 to place 18th in the nation in the 5,000 meters at the 2011 NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Her All-America performance was no surprise; Leslie was always at her best on the biggest stage. Earlier that year, against some of the best competition in the nation at the Penn Relays, Leslie made school history with a fourth-place finish of 16:11.59. That topped her previous career best by nearly a half minute, and knocked off Stacy Kim’s school record (16:20.46) by nine seconds.
Possibly more impressive than both those performances, though, were the record-setting runs in the 10,000 meters. In back-to-back weeks, she shredded a 26-year-old record. At the 2011 Heptagonal Championships, Leslie capped the first day of competition by rewriting her own school record in the 10k. Just a week after posting the fastest time in Penn history in the event, Kovach became the first member of the Red and Blue to break the 35-minute mark as she took nearly another 30 seconds off her record with a fifth-place time of 34:51.93—nearly 90 seconds faster than any other Quaker in history.
In addition to those record-setting marks, and the school record in the indoor 5,000 meters, Leslie will finish sixth all-time at Penn in the indoor 3,000 and third all-time in the outdoor 3,000 meters. Prior to injuries that cost her most of her final two seasons, Leslie earned All-East honors in the indoor 5,000 meters and outdoor 3,000 meters, and was a star for the women’s cross country team where she was All-Ivy and all-region for the Quakers.
Leslie is a psychology major in the College.
GOLDRING AWARD (male) – Josh Dembowitz, men’s lightweight rowing
A four-year member of the Penn men’s lightweight rowing team, senior Josh Dembowitz was originally a walk-on for the Quakers. He has served as a coxswain throughout his tenure with the Red and Blue and has worked his way up to the second varsity boat this season.
“Josh has always been an incredibly hard worker,” said men’s lightweight rowing head coach Nick Baker. “He has not only survived, but excelled on a team filled with recruited athletes and rowers with a lot of experience. He has always been eager to get better, which is why he’s learned so much and has become such a great asset to the team.”
During his first two seasons with the Quakers, Josh periodically found his way into Penn’s boating lineups. As a junior, he served as the coxswain at the prestigious Head of the Charles and helped lead the fours to a sixth-place finish overall and fourth among collegiate teams. He then solidified his spot as the coxswain for the third varsity in the spring. This season, Josh has found a consistent seat as the coxswain for the second varsity.
Josh is a political science major with a creative writing minor in the College.
GOLDRING AWARD (female) – Cassi Henderson, women’s rowing
FRAZIER AWARD – Cassi Henderson, women’s rowing
Cassi Henderson began her rowing career as a walk-on at Penn, but has enjoyed a standout career that she hopes will end with medals in a few weeks.
As a sophomore, Cass rowed on Penn’s varsity 4 boat that won its heat and then took fourth place at the EAWRC Sprints; one year later, she again rowed on the varsity 4 as Penn again advanced to the Grand Final, this time at the inaugural Ivy League Championships.
This year, Cassi has rowed in the critical 1 seat on the Quakers’ second varsity 8 boat. (The NCAA conducts championships in first varsity 8, second varsity 8, and varsity 4.) Penn has the Ivy League Championships coming up on May 19 on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J.
“Cassi is a great kid,” said head women’s rowing coach Mike Lane. “She was a walk-on four years ago, and has done a great job of improving to the point of rowing in one of our NCAA boats each of the last three years. She has a tremendous work ethic, spending hours at the boathouse perfecting her stroke while also getting amazing grades and spending time as a tutor.
“She is the type of woman every coach wishes they had an entire team full of.”
Cassi is an engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS).