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Abby Beeman wins Dapper Dan Top Award; dinner set for April 28

Apr. 4—CUMBERLAND — After a record-setting final season at Marshall, Abby Beeman emerged victorious in one of the most competitive Dapper Dan Top Award races in recent memory.

Beeman — who helped guide Marshall to its first NCAA tournament in 27 years, won Sun Belt Player of the Year and crossed the career 2,000-point threshold — bested NFL player Ty Johnson and All-American swimmer Daniel Diehl for the honor.

The Ridgeley, West Virginia, native is just the fourth woman to ever win the George Stevenson/Nick Perlozzo Top Award and the third person from Mineral County.

Beeman will receive the honor at the 75th Dick Sterne Memorial Dapper Dan Sports Banquet on April 28 at the Ali Ghan Shrine Club Ballroom. The event begins at 4 p.m. Light refreshments and appetizers will be served beginning at 3.

"It's a tremendous honor, one that caught me off guard a little bit with all the great athletes that have received that award," Beeman said. "To be mentioned in the same breath as those guys, it's really special.

"You always follow along with the people winning the Top Award, and it's always great athletes that represent this community."

The award is usually given annually to the individual or organization that brings the most national attention back to Allegany County, but exceptions have been made throughout the years to include bordering counties.

Besides Beeman, a Frankfort grad, other Mineral County winners included Grant Noel, of Frankfort and later Virginia Tech football, in 2001 and professional baseball player John Kruk, of Keyser, in 1988.

"We're reaching the plateau of the 75th year of the dinner, another milestone in a long heritage of the Dapper Dan with little league and the banquet," dinner chairman Adam Sterne said. "It's a special honor this year that we're honoring someone from outside of Allegany County.

"It's going to be a special night. For everything that she accomplished this year and her achievements, from Sun Belt Player of the Year and getting to the tournament. The community can show their appreciation for her. She's just an overall great athlete from her time at Frankfort and coming through."

Beeman ended a two-year run of Diehl winning the Top Award. Diehl, an Allegany grad competing in his first year at N.C. State, was an honorable mention All-American.

Diehl stopped a four-year streak by Johnson from 2016-19. Johnson, a Fort Hill grad, recently signed a one-year, $1,292,500 contract with the Buffalo Bills and is entering his sixth NFL season.

Beeman is the first woman in 24 years to win the Top Award. The last was Kacey Kahl, who won the national Elks Hoop Shoot 10-11-year-old division in 1999.

Crystal Fields, 11, was the 1979 top honoree after she won the National Pitch-Hit and Run championship, becoming the first female ever to win a professional sports youth program against males. The contest was held before the MLB All-Star Game.

The first woman to win the top award was Mrs. G. William Bibby in 1954. Bibby was a standout golfer at the Cumberland Country Club.

That makes Beeman the first college women's athlete to be honored.

"I want to be a great role model, not just for girls in this area but for everybody," Beeman said of her being a source of inspiration for local girls athletes. "There is plenty of hard work put in in this area. Women's sports are on the rise in general. It's just special and shows the trajectory that women's basketball is heading."

Beeman was voted Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year following a senior season in which she finished eighth in the country in total assists (209) and assists per game (6.3).

The 5-foot-4 point guard led the Sun Belt in assists a game by 1.4 more than second place (Shaulana Wagner, Troy, 4.9 avg.), was third in steals per game (2.3), sixth in scoring average (16.6) and tied for 23rd in rebounds a night (5.6).

Beeman helped guide Marshall to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1997 with a 95-92 victory over James Madison in the Sun Belt tournament championship game, earning tourney Most Outstanding Player along the way.

Marshall (26-7) received a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament and dropped its first-round game to No. 4 Virginia Tech, 92-49. Beeman was the lone Marshall player in double-figures with 12 points.

The graduate student passed the career 2,000-point threshold on Jan. 20 in a 97-85 victory over Coastal Carolina, and she finishes her college career with 2,236 points spanning her time with Marshall (978) and Division 2 Shepherd (1,258).

Beeman also reached the mark at Frankfort High School, ending her illustrious career in Short Gap with 2,228 points in 103 games — a 21.6 per game average. She was the first Frankfort girls basketball player to surpass the 2,000-career-point threshold.

It won't be the first time Beeman has attended the Dapper Dan banquet, as she was a two-time area girls basketball Player of the Year recipient.

With her college career over, Beeman is now considering playing overseas, with her end goal to get into coaching.

It's fitting, then, that one of the dinner's guest speakers is former Northern Garrett basketball standout Kaitlynn Fratz, who has been an assistant coach at the University of Maryland under Brenda Frese since 2019.

"It's really cool Kaitlynn is the speaker because she's basically living my dream," Beeman said.

While the night will be about honoring the positive attention Beeman has brought to the region, in addition to the achievements of the area's high school athletes, Beeman wanted to offer her appreciation for the community.

"All the support I've received from the community, from West Virginia to Maryland, has been phenomenal," she said. "I don't always get the chance to say thank you to everyone, but I just want to emphasize how much I've felt the support and how much it's meant to me through my journey."

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.