Off at college: Wheeling's Blair honored for excellence on and off the track

  • Ayana Blair, a recent graduate from Illinois Wesleyan, leaves holding three school track and field records.

    Ayana Blair, a recent graduate from Illinois Wesleyan, leaves holding three school track and field records. Courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan

Updated 7/20/2021 1:17 PM

Ayana Blair, a track and field standout at Illinois Wesleyan from Wheeling, has earned a variety of accolades since finishing her senior season this spring.

Blair was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year. The award recognizes graduating female college athletes who have distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers from all three NCAA divisions.


Blair graduated as one of the top throwers in IWU history. She closed out her career with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA outdoor championships, and holds three school records.

A College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) All-District pick, Blair was named all-region, All-America, the CCIW indoor field Athlete of the Year, and IWU's spring recipient of the CCIW's Jack Swartz award.

Blair graduated with a degree in biochemistry.

ISU hires Kuzmanic:

The Illinois State women's basketball program has added Mount Prospect native Stephanie Kuzmanic as Director of Operations.

Kuzmanic comes to ISU after spending seven years teaching physical education and coaching varsity girls basketball at West Leyden High School in Northlake. She also has been coaching AAU basketball with ALL IN Athletics.

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Kuzmanic played at Carthage College from 2010-14 where she was a two-time All-American, a two-time CCIW Most Outstanding Player and was named the 2014 CoSIDA Academic All-American Player of the Year for NCAA Division III.

"I'm excited for this opportunity to work with (ISU coach) Kristen (Gillespie) and join the Redbird family," said Kuzmanic. "I'm looking forward to working at the collegiate level and can't wait to get to work. I'm thrilled to be around such a talented coaching staff and help contribute in any way I can."

Millikin, Wesleyan tennis net academic honors:

The Millikin University men's and women's tennis teams were honored for their academic performance by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).

Both teams were named All-Academic Teams. Six Millikin women's players and three men's players were honored for their individual excellence including sophomore Brianna Barconi (South Elgin), a digital media marketing major, and senior Danielle Beard (Timothy Christian), a business management major.


The Illinois Wesleyan men's and women's tennis teams also were recognized as an All-Academic Team, with Justin Piotrowski (Fremd) reeling in scholar-athlete honors.

For the women, junior Anna Cooper (Prospect) was selected as a scholar-athlete.

A student-athlete must have a minimum 3.5 GPA to be named an ITA scholar-athlete.

Zima honored:

Senior Emmett Zima (Maine South) of the Illinois Wesleyan football team was named second team Academic All-America by CoSIDA. Zima is the first Titan to earn the honor since Dennis Zic in 2010.

Zima appeared in 20 games over the course of his IWU career, racking up 62 tackles. He notched 35 solo stops, and assisted on 27 more, highlighted by five sacks.

In addition to earning Academic All-CCIW honors, Zima was IWU's fall recipient of the Jack Swartz award.

Zima, who boasted a 3.74 grade-point average, graduated with a degree in accounting in May.

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