BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) recognized some of its best and brightest fall sport student-athletes on Monday with the announcement of the cross country, soccer, volleyball and football Elite 22 Awards.
Saint John's runner Matt Burgstahler and Bethel's Annika Halverson earned cross country honors, soccer's Elite 22 awards went to Gustavus' Sophie Leininger and St. Thomas' Drew Winkoski, and the Tommies' Ellie Meyer and Austin Coates won volleyball and football honors. These six student-athletes join Augsburg's Brett Buckingham and Carleton's Ziyi Wang, who were recognized as Elite 22 award winners for men's and women's golf in October, as the Conference's 2017 fall sport Elite 22 honorees.
The MIAC Elite 22 Award recognizes the true essence of the term "student-athlete" by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the Conference championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. Modeled after the NCAA Elite 90 Award, the MIAC Elite 22 Award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade-point average (GPA) in each sport who meet similarly high, sport-specific athletic requirements.
In all sports with MIAC team postseason tournaments, including volleyball and soccer, the MIAC Elite 22 Award is presented to the individual with the highest GPA on the active roster at the MIAC Playoff championship contest. The MIAC Elite 22 Football Award is presented to the individual nominated for the honor with the highest GPA who helped his team finish in the top two in the MIAC standings. For cross country, the honor is bestowed upon the individual with the highest GPA among the top-15 individual finishers at the Conference championship meet. The winner must be a sophomore, junior or senior and in at least his or her second season of competition with their current team.
Burgstahler (Sr. | Sandpoint, Idaho) earned All-Conference and All-Region honors for his times on the course this year. He placed eighth at the 2017 MIAC Cross Country Championships with a time of 26:05 and crossed the finish line even faster (25:52) at the NCAA Central Region Championships. The Integrative Health Science major is a two-time Academic All-Conference recipient and boasts a 4.0 GPA at Saint John's.
Coates (So. | DB | Cedar Rapids, Iowa | Kennedy) lined up in the defensive secondary for a St. Thomas defense that led all of NCAA Division III in six different categories in 2017, including rushing yards and first downs allowed per game. The second-year defensive back has a 3.966 GPA in accounting at St. Thomas.
Halverson (Sr. | Wayzata, Minn.) has been both an Academic and an Athletic All-American in her decorated career at Bethel. She finished third at the 2017 MIAC Cross Country Championships, crossing the finish line in 22:10.3 and followed that performance with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Central Region Championships, qualifying for her third trip to nationals, where she earned her second career All-America honor in her final cross country race as a Royal. Halverson is a Sociology and Reconciliation double-major with a 3.94 GPA at Bethel.
Leininger (Sr. | M | Plymouth, Minn. | Wayzata) started all 20 games as a senior in 2017 and finished her playing career at Gustavus with six goals and 18 assists in 76 career games. An All-MIAC selection in 2015, Leininger's assist total ranks sixth in program history. The political science and psychological science double-major has a 3.99 GPA at Gustavus and was also recognized as an Academic All-District selection this fall by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) for her efforts in the classroom.
Meyer (So. | DS | Des Plaines, Ill. | St. Viator) played in 23 matches for the Tommies in 2017 before being sidelined with a season-ending arm injury late in the year. An All-Conference selection in her first collegiate season a year ago, the sophomore libero has logged 928 digs and 22 service aces in 56 career matches. She has a 3.98 GPA as a Biochemistry major at St. Thomas and was named an Academic All-District selection by CoSIDA last week.
Winkoski (So. | F | Wales, Wis. | Kettle Moraine) saw action in 13 games for the MIAC champion Tommies this season. Part of a men's soccer team that reached the NCAA Elite 8 and set a new school record for wins in a single season, Winkoski has also excelled academically, earning a 4.0 GPA as an engineering major at St. Thomas.
A physical award will be provided to the winners to commemorate their MIAC Elite 22 Award. The Conference also recognizes the honorees on the MIAC Elite 22 Award website, which will archive each of the 22 winners throughout the 2017-18 season.