Student-athletes honored at the Nittanys

April 26, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- The annual Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) Academic Achievement Awards Banquet was held Monday night with a new and dynamic format, as Penn State student-athletes hosted, "The Nittanys."

More than 40 Penn State student-athletes and several teams were recognized for their academic, athletic and community engagement achievements during the past year in the Academy Awards-style format. The celebration of comprehensive excellence was held in Rec Hall.

Sponsored by the Milton and Lois Morgan Academic Support Center for Student-Athletes and the Student-Athlete Welfare and Development unit, the event featured the presentation of several long-standing awards from the Academic Achievement Awards Banquet that was held for nearly 30 years and the introduction of two new awards.

The Nittanys were hosted by David Goodwin (men's hockey) and Sarah Piazza (women's lacrosse).

The men's golf team, coached by Greg Nye, and the women's swimming and diving teams, coached by Tim Murphy, won the Varsity 'S' Awards, presented to the men's and women's teams with the highest team GPAs. Men's golf won its third straight Varsity 'S' Award.

Lois Morgan then presented the men's golf team with the Milton Morgan, Jr. Highest Team GPA Award for all 31 sports, for the second consecutive year and the fourth time overall. The combined average GPA was 3.11 among all of Penn State's teams during the 2015 fall semester.

Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour addressed the student-athletes who gathered on a rare open date in the Penn State competition calendar.

"I want to thank all of our students and staff who put so much time into this event," Barbour said. "It's been spectacular; excellence on parade and a celebration of our student-athletes. You were willing to take the Penn State challenge and you have achieved academically, athletically, socially and in the community. Penn State Athletics has never been better academically than we are right now, thanks to you. Once a Penn Stater, forever a Penn Stater."

Penn State student-athletes have an NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 88 percent and have earned 191 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America selections, the fourth-highest total among Division I programs. Since the fall 2012 semester, the Nittany Lions have won seven NCAA championships and 24 Big Ten Conference crowns. Last semester, a school record 516 Nittany Lions earned at least a 30 grade-point average or higher.

Jones and Chakey Receive True Grit Awards
The Nittany Lion Club annually presents the True Grit Award to two student-athletes for overcoming adversities while continuing to succeed in the classroom and on the athletic field during their careers. Women's swimmer Kaitlin Jones and men's lacrosse player James Chakey were recognized as the recipients during the Nittanys.

The Student-Athletes Above and Beyond Awards were presented to the male and female student-athletes who have a positive attitude and live and breathe everything Penn State. The recipients were field hockey's Haley Kerstetter and men's hockey's Luke Juha.

"This means a lot to me," said Kerstetter. "I want to thank all my teammates. Penn State has been the best experience of my life."

"Penn State athletes work so hard," Juha said. "I love the culture we have created."

The Phoenix Award was presented for the first time to a student-athlete that had a challenging start academically, but is excelling in the classroom. The recipient was Payton Banks (men's basketball).

Zanellato and Widlacki Earn THON Awards
Two Penn State Dance Marathon (THON) Awards were presented. Matt Zanellato (football) was recognized for raising more than $15,000 for the Four Diamonds Fund in 2015-16. Angela Widlacki (women's soccer) received SAAB's THON Spirit Award. Zanellato and Widlacki danced for the 46 hours on THON 2016 in February.

Penn State's Big Ten Post-graduate Scholarship recipients were recognized -- Rebecca Stanley (women's fencing) and Christian Kaschak (men's soccer).

The Nittany Lions' Ernest B. McCoy Award winners also were honored
Britt Eckerstrom (women's soccer) and Nico Megaludis (wrestling). The McCoy Award has been presented annually since 1971 to one senior female and one senior male student-athlete who have combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.

The CHAMPS Cup Awards for community outreach were presented for the 11th time. Claiming the small teams (20 or fewer on roster) award for the sixth consecutive year was the women's gymnastics team. The large teams (20 or more on roster) award went to the Nittany Lion football team's offensive unit.

Also presented for the first time was the Nittany All-Academic Team, given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average on each team. The recipients were:

Nittany All-Academic Team (Individual highest cumulative GPA on each team)
Baseball: Alex Malinsky
Men's Basketball: Devin Foster
Women's Basketball: Peyton Whitted
Men's Cross Country: Conrad Lippert
Women's Cross Country: Sarah-Jane Underwood
Men's Fencing: Oskar Tang
Women's Fencing: Clarisse Luminet
Field Hockey: Haley Kerstetter
Football: Gordon Bentley
Men's Golf: JD Dornes
Women's Golf: Halley Morell
Men's Gymnastics: Joseph Boyle
Women's Gymnastics: Nicole Medvitz
Men's Hockey: David Thompson
Women's Hockey: Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen
Men's Lacrosse: T.J. Sanders
Women's Lacrosse: Shelby Wells
Men's Soccer: Kyle MacDonald
Women's Soccer: Teddy Chase
Softball: Shannon Good
Men's Swimming & Diving: Andrew Schuehler
Women's Swimming & Diving: Mackenzie Hornibrook
Men's Tennis: Tomas Hanzlik
Women's Tennis: Samantha Tutelman
Men's Track & Field: Robert Cardina
Women's Track & Field: Kayla Zoschg
Men's Volleyball: Spencer Sauter
Women's Volleyball: Carley Muller
Wrestling: Geno Morelli

Last Updated April 28, 2016