Best Example of Taking One for the Team - 2006
OK, so it probably wasn't the finest moment of her college career: Kristi Yamaoka had just dropped hard to the floor of the Savvis Center, the victim of gravity and perhaps Murphy's Law. The Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Salukis were battling Bradley in the Missouri Valley Conference finals for a bid to the NCAA Tournament when Yamaoka plummeted from the apex of a human pyramid, resulting in a concussion, a spinal fracture and a bruised lung. That's when a lesser cheerleader would stop cheering with consciousness flickering in and out, and a backbone that's just been cracked. But as the medical team stretchered Yamaoka off the court and the Saluki band struck up the school's fight song ("Go, Southern, Go") to re-ignite the stunned crowd, Yamaoka staved off unconsciousness and pain to perform the cheer routine albeit with her arms only, as she was wearing a neck brace and strapped to a gurney at the time. This, truly, is the epitome of well, call it what you will: team spirit, fighting pride, spark. It's what a winner exhibits when the going gets tough. Final score: 59-46 Salukis.