May 3, 2011
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - Senior sprinter Jeff Gudaitis, who has been coping with papillary thyroid cancer for several months, has been named the recipient of the 2011 Pac-10 Sportsmanship Award, conference commissioner Larry Scott announced.
A Tacoma native and graduate of Tacoma Baptist High, Gudaitis was looking forward to big things in the 2011 season. As a junior in 2009, he competed at his first NCAA Championships, running in both the 400-meter dash and as the lead-off runner on UW's 4x100-meter relay squad. He redshirted the 2010 season due to a foot injury but was expected to be a major contributor upon returning.
An economics major with a 3.2 grade point average, Gudaitis started his return, but was slowed by fatigue. After the team doctor noticed a lump on the right side of Gudaitis' neck, he was sent for more testing. Five days later, Gudaitis was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.
Gudaitis has recently undergone radiation treatment, and through it all, he has remained positive, strong and poised. He has chosen to see the bright side of his diagnosis, and is glad that it was detected in its early stages. Gudaitis has stayed involved with the team, attending practices and home meets to support his teammates. The team has responded in kind by selling rubber bracelets for five dollars that say "Washington" and "Let's Roll", a phrase Gudaitis would say to himself before races, to help with the medical expenses.
The Sportsmanship Award is selected by members of the Pac-10 Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and is based on good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in participation of intercollegiate athletics, as well as a demonstration of good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Nominees must have demonstrated the values of respect and integrity through a specific action, ideally directed toward an opponent. The student-athlete must have consistently demonstrated the values of respect and integrity in his or her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics.
Conference award winners are then nominated for the NCAA Division I Sportsmanship Award. Gudaitis is the first Husky to win the award, which was started in 2004. Arizona gymnast Katie Matusik won the 2011 women's award.