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University of Texas senior Courtney Okolo runs in the 4x400 meter relay at the Texas Relays on April 2, 2016. (Shelby Tauber for the Austin American-Statesman)

Football

The year in review: 10 best Longhorn athletes of 2016

Posted December 24th, 2016

We’ve relived the highlights and rehashed the low-lights , but individually there were a few Texas Longhorns who shone brighter than the rest in 2016. These 10 athletes were the biggest stars on the 40 Acres this year.

10. Breaunna Addison

Former Longhorns women's tennis player Breaunna Addison. (TEXAS ATHLETICS)
Former Longhorns women’s tennis player Breaunna Addison. (TEXAS ATHLETICS)

Addison finished off her career as one of the most decorated tennis players in Texas history, and in the process helped the Longhorns to one of their most unlikely NCAA tournament runs ever. She was 37-4 in 2016 — the second-best winning percentage in program history — and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals  in singles with a win over No. 3 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo from UCLA. She also helped the Longhorns to the NCAA Round of 16.

RELATED COVERAGE: Bohls: Addison, Goldhoff pacing unlikely sweet tennis teams

Addison ended her career as a two-time Big 12 player of the year and three-time All-American, and claimed 109 singles victories.

9. Imani Boyette

Texas' Imani Boyette, left, and UCLA's Monique Billings fight for position under the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the regional semifinals of the women's NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Texas’ Imani Boyette, left, and UCLA’s Monique Billings fight for position under the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the regional semifinals of the women’s NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Aside from her incredible story, Boyette is a heck of a basketball player. She averaged 11.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and blocked 104 shots during her senior season, and led the Longhorns to the Elite Eight with an 18-point, 10-rebound showcase in the Sweet 16 win over UCLA. She finished her career as the only Texas player to achieve 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks.

RELATED COVERAGE: Paul and Imani Boyette mixing marriage, school and athletics

Off the floor, the No. 10 pick in the WNBA Draft was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. A survivor of multiple suicide attempts and molestation as a child, she has overcome those obstacles with the help of poetry and basketball. She is married to Texas football player Paul Boyette, who recently finished his career as a defensive tackle.

8. Micaya White

Texas Longhorns Micaya White spikes the ball against Baylor Bears defenders on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 at the Gregory Gym RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Longhorns Micaya White spikes the ball against Baylor Bears defenders on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 at the Gregory Gym RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As a redshirt freshman, White stood out on a team that made it all the way to the national championship and featured some of the best volleyball talent in the country. So much so, in fact, that she was named freshman of the year by VolleyballMag.com and picked up a first-team All-America honor from the American Voleyball Coaches Association.

RELATED COVERAGE: Micaya White, her fellow Texas freshmen ready for first NCAAs

White had 479 kills, 551 points, 83 blocks and 263 digs while hitting .273.

7. Connor Williams

University of Texas lineman Connor Williams warms up before the Longhorns game against Cal Sept. 19, 2015 at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX.
University of Texas lineman Connor Williams warms up before the Longhorns game against Cal Sept. 19, 2015 at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX.

If he were eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, teams would be lining up to pull the trigger on Williams. The Longhorns’ 6-foot-6, 288-pound sophomore left tackle was named a first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Football Writers Association of America. He also paved the way for D’Onta Foreman, Texas’ 2,000-yard rusher.

RELATED COVERAGE: Texas’ Connor Williams prefers the quiet approach

6. Ebony Nwanebu

Texas Ebony Nwanebu(2) celebrates her kill against Texas Tech during a Big 12 Conference match at Gregory Gym Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)
Texas Ebony Nwanebu (2) celebrates her kill against Texas Tech during a Big 12 Conference match at Gregory Gym Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

After a back injury sidelined her last fall, Nwanebu — the former national freshman of the year at USC — soared in her first full season with the Longhorns. Her 423 kills and team-high .379 hitting percentage earned first-team All-American status and Honda Sport Award consideration.

RELATED COVERAGE: Bohls: Look past her ribbon and nails — Texas’ Nwanebu is tough

Off the court, Nwanebu’s bubbly personality — showcased in her online video series ‘#EbbOnTheWeb’ — warmed Texas fans’ hearts all the way through the national championship match.

5. Beau Hossler

Texas golfer Beau Hossler, seen here at the University of Texas Golf Club, has already won five individual tournaments this spring, helping the Longhorns vault to No. 1 nationally, according to Golfweek. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas golfer Beau Hossler, seen here at the University of Texas Golf Club, has already won five individual tournaments this spring, helping the Longhorns vault to No. 1 nationally, according to Golfweek. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Surely you know Beau. A teen sensation before he even stepped on UT’s campus, Hossler accomplished plenty once he got there. He won five events during his junior season and was named the Fred Haskins Award winner as the nation’s top collegiate golfer. He also led the Longhorns deep into the postseason before a major shoulder injury sidelined him for the national championship match against Oregon.

RELATED COVERAGE: Beau Hossler leaving Texas, ready for PGA Tour challenge

That injury might have been his defining moment as a Longhorn. After injuring his shoulder on the 16th hole, he played through agonizing pain and sunk the match-clinching putt to send Texas to the championship. He turned pro in July.

4. Townley Haas

Townley Haas of the United States poses for a photo with his gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Townley Haas of the United States poses for a photo with his gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Here’s where this list really picks up steam. A case could be made for each of the top four at No. 1. Haas is a 20-year-old gold medalist, fresh off his first Olympic gold medal as part of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. He also made the final in the individual 200 free, finishing fifth in Rio. Haas, who was still a true freshman last spring, holds the NCAA, American, U.S. Open, NCAA Championship meet, school and Big 12 records in the 200-yard freestyle. He won NCAA championships in the 200 free, 500 free and 800 free relay.

RELATED COVERAGE: Longhorns lap competition at NCAAs, claim 12th national title

3. Joseph Schooling

Singapore's Joseph Schooling shows off his gold medal in the men's 100-meter butterfly medals ceremony during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Singapore’s Joseph Schooling shows off his gold medal in the men’s 100-meter butterfly medals ceremony during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Why Schooling over Haas? It really could go either way, but I’ll go with the guy who won his country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Schooling’s came in an individual event, the 100-meter butterfly, while Haas won his as part of a relay. Oh, and Schooling beat Michael Phelps.

Singapore awarded Schooling a cool $740,000 for winning gold, causing the NCAA to reconsider its stance of allowing athletes to keep bonuses awarded by national federations. And in case you’re wondering, Schooling has four individual NCAA national championships to his name — including a record-breaking one in the 200 butterfly.

Legitimate cases could also be made for Jack Conger (national champion, gold medalist, subject of international investigation) and Will Licon (national champion), but I decided to spread the love and limit the list to two per sport.

Which brings us to…

2. D’Onta Foreman

Not much more needs to be written about Foreman’s 2016 season. He rushed for 2,028 yards, the second-most in Texas history. He did it in 11 games, and went from a virtual unknown to a potential first-round NFL Draft pick.

He’s ahead of the swimmers because, well, the swimmers didn’t have to swim with teammates (or opponents) on their backs. It would have been awfully entertaining if they had.

1. Courtney Okolo

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: (L-R) Natasha Hastings, Phyllis Francis, Allyson Felix and Courtney Okolo of the United States react after winning gold in the Women's 4 x 400 meter Relay on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 20: (L-R) Natasha Hastings, Phyllis Francis, Allyson Felix and Courtney Okolo of the United States react after winning gold in the Women’s 4 x 400 meter Relay on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

While Foreman didn’t get an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, Okolo won her sport’s award as the best athlete in the country. After a year that included four national championships, an NCAA record and a gold medal, Okolo hoisted The Bowerman earlier this month.

RELATED COVERAGE: Courtney Okolo is writing the book on sprinting at Texas

Okolo defended her indoor title in the 400 meters, broke her own collegiate record by running 49.71 at the LSU Alumni Gold in April, then took the NCAA crown in Eugene, Oregon. She also anchored victories in the 4×400 relay both indoor and outdoor, including an incredible come-from-behind win in Eugene. And while Okolo missed out on qualifying as an individual for the Olympics, she made up for it by running the opening leg on the United States 4×400 team that took gold in Rio.

Get caught up with the end of the year series: 

Dec. 19: Texas football’s top 10 plays of 2016

Dec. 20: 10 best Longhorn newcomers of 2016

Dec. 21: 10 best Texas football moments of 2016

Dec. 22: 10 worst moments of 2016 Longhorn football

Dec. 23: Top 10 recruits to come to Texas in 2016

Dec. 24: 10 best Longhorn moments of 2016

Dec. 25: 10 best Longhorn athletes of 2016

Dec. 26: 2017 Longhorn storylines to watch

Dec. 27: 5 Longhorn squads that can win it all next year

Dec. 28: 10 Longhorn football recruits to watch in 2017

Dec. 29: 10 Longhorns athletes to watch in 2017

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