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Riley Sorenson awarded Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award

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Despite heartbreaking personal challenges throughout the 2015 season, the senior center's strength and dedication to his team shined through.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Dealing with tremendous personal adversity throughout the 2015 season, Washington State starting center Riley Sorenson continued to thrive on the field for the Cougars, but it was his character off the field that shined through.

Sorenson, a senior who has started 21 games in his WSU career, and his family were dealt two devastating blows throughout the season. His father, Bart, passed away after suffering a heart attack minutes prior to the Hyundai Sun Bowl and just under two months prior, his mother, Karen, was diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

Sorenson persevered.

On Monday evening, the Pac-12 Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) voted to award Sorenson with the Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award for the 2015-16 season, citing "the strength of character to his team that he displayed throughout the 2015 season even while he and his family faced extreme personal challenges."

"I would first like to thank my friends, family, teammates, and countless other individuals that reached out to me during this time," Sorenson said after receiving the honor. "I could not have done it without the unrelenting support.

"Obviously this past fall was a very emotionally tough time for me in my personal life, but all of the support that I received from everyone involved made it possible for me to go about my life as my family would want me to."

"This is a tremendous honor for Riley and more so due to the fact that we was nominated and later selected by his peers through the conference," Washington State head coach Mike Leach added. "Riley has faced unimaginable adversity this past year, handled it with great courage, and remained focused on being a student-athlete.

"To have others recognize what Riley has fought through and for him to remain a leader on this team is a testament to his character and selflessness."

As noted in the release, the Sportsmanship Award is selected by members of the Pac-12 SAAC and is based on good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in participation of intercollegiate athletics, as well as 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 winners are then nominated for the NCAA Division I Sportsmanship Award.

"I would like to thank the Pac-12 Conference and the entire Pac-12 SAAC for the recognition that comes with receiving the Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award," Sorenson said. "It is truly an honor to be deemed worthy to receive this award above all of the other athletes in the Pac-12, and for that I'm very grateful."

Go Cougs.