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The Dig 3.0: Athletes of the Year Edition

The Dig is your source for news and information surrounding UTEP sports, Conference USA, and the rest of the country as well.

Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

It's Thursday and there's plenty more to talk about. So, in the third edition of The Dig this week, here's what's going on around UTEP sports, Conference USA, and the rest of the country as well.

First up, congratulations to UTEP's Risper Kimaiyo and Anthony Rotich. The two, who swept various individual awards throughout the cross country season, have capped off their year's by sweeping the Conference USA Cross Country Athlete of the Year Honors.

For Kimaiyo, the award wraps up a year in which she was awarded C-USA first team honors, was given the NCAA Mountain Athlete of the Year Award, and was named to the C-USA All Academic team. She also claimed four C-USA Athlete of the Week honors.

Rotich's season was littered with honors and awards as well. He was named an All-American, finishing fourth at the NCAA championships, and was also named the Conference USA Freshman of the Meet, after finishing first the conference championships. He also claimed three Athlete of the Week honors in C-USA.

Again, congratulations to both.

Next up, while the men were battling the NMSU Aggies at the Haskins Center, the women were putting their perfect record on the line against the Aggies in Cruces. Unfortunately for the ladies, they fell by one 69-68, as a pair of State free throws put them ahead with 12 seconds to play.

The Miners were unable to capitalize on their final possession, and they fell to 5-1 on the young season. Coach Keitha Adams had this to say following the loss:

"Our offense fell short in the second half...We didn't shoot very well today. They outshot us and executed better at the end. This was a tough environment."

Anete Steinberga led the way once again, finishing with 17 points and 6 rebounds, and Chrishauna Parker finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Kelli Willingham chipped in with 9 points and 5 boards, and Kayla was a monster on the glass, finishing with 7 points and 15 boards.

The loss was a tough one for the Miners, but there is still plenty of time to rebound from it. They'll have a couple of days to work, before getting back to action against Texas State this Saturday at the Don. That will mark the first of three straight home games, before the Miners hit the road again, this time to take on Kansas State in Manhattan.

In Conference USA news, UCF and Tulsa will battle it out this Saturday for the C-USA Football Championship. The winner will head to the league's top bowl, the Autozona Liberty Bowl. The championship game will take place at 12:00 p.m. ET this Saturday, and will be carried by ESPN2.

The conference released its bowl contingency plan, revealing that if Tulsa is to the lose the championship game, they'll head to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Forth Worth. SMU would head to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Rice would play in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, and East Carolina would take part in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL.

Should UCF lose the championship game, the Knights would head to St. Petersburg, ECU would head to New Orleans, and Rice would play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. SMU would still play in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

In conference expansion rumors, late yesterday twitter was filled with chatter that New Mexico State and Western Kentucky would be the newest additions to Conference USA. However, today, CBS' Dennis Dodd is reporting that New Mexico State, Idaho, and Georgia Southern are potential expansion candidates for the Sun Belt.

Dodd quotes C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky on the possibility of expanding to 16 schools:

"We're going to have a process...We kind of deal with arrangement of expectations. We focus on what the optimum structure is. Whether Big East moves again, we'll be ready. If they do, that's not really going to influence what we think is the best structure."

The words of the commissioner make it seem like the conference is just going to wait around and see what others do. So, for now, it does not seem like either New Mexico State or Western Kentucky are on their way to C-USA. Then again, we could all wake up tomorrow morning and find out otherwise.

Lastly, on the national level, ESPN is running their Jimmy V Week Campaign this week, in an effort to help in the fight against cancer. I'm not trying to get you to donate to anything, but if you feel the need to, get in contact with me so I can help point you in the right direction. Either way, here is the legendary, heartfelt speech delivered by the late Jim Valvano at the 1993 ESPY Awards. Valvano passed away at the age of 47 only weeks after.

"Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul." - Jim Valvano