Nebraska seniors Bjorn Barrefors and Mary Weatherholt were honored by the Big Ten Conference on Wednesday as they were both named 2013 Medal of Honor winners. The conference’s most prestigious award, the Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.”
Barrefors and Weatherholt were chosen as two of 24 student-athletes conference-wide recognized for the award. This year’s list of distinguished student-athletes includes a two-time Olympian, U.S. and Canadian National Team members, NCAA Champions, Academic All-Americans, an NCAA Elite 89 honoree and numerous All-Americans. All 24 recipients have been named Academic All-Big Ten at least once in their careers and 15 received All-Conference recognition this academic year. This year’s honorees are pursuing diverse fields of study with a list of majors that includes business, engineering, human biology, mathematics and movement science, among others.
Barrefors is a senior three-time captain combined event athlete from Stockholm, Sweden. A member of two conference championship teams, he is a six-time All-American and two-time conference champion who has also broken the Nebraska school records in the men’s heptathlon and decathlon. Barrefors most recently finished fourth in the decathlon at the 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championships, while he finished first in 2012 with a record-breaking performance. At the NCAA Championships in 2012, he came in fourth in the heptathlon and eighth in the decathlon. Barrefors has finished in the top 15 in every NCAA Championship he has competed in, while totaling a top-10 finish in all conference championships. He carries a 3.75 GPA in computer science, with a minor in mathematics and physics. He was selected as the 2012-13 University of Nebraska Male Student Athlete of the Year across all sports and is a two-time first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American (2011, 2012) and was also named a third-team CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2010. He was a recipient of the NCAA Elite 88 Academic Award during the 2010 indoor track and field season and is a two-time honoree of the USTFCCCA All-Academic team. Barrefors is a three-time academic All-Conference award winner and a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. He is also a two-year member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, serving as president during the 2010-11 school year.
Mary Weatherholt put together one of the most dominant seasons in Nebraska women’s tennis history during the 2013 season. The senior from Prairie Village, Kan., led Nebraska to the Big Ten regular-season title – its first conference crown in women’s tennis since 1978 – and the school’s first-ever appearance in the 16-team NCAA Team Championships. She earned All-America honors in both singles and doubles competition, becoming the first tennis player in school history to earn All-America honors in singles. Weatherholt posted a 30-2 record and was the 2013 NCAA Singles runner-up, the best finish ever by a Husker women’s tennis player. Weatherholt also paired with Patricia Veresova at No. 1 doubles and reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 2013, finishing with a 22-3 record. The All-America honors were just part of the accolades Weatherholt received during the 2012-13 academic year. She went unbeaten at No. 1 singles in the Big Ten and was selected as the Big Ten Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Year for the second straight season. In her two seasons of Big Ten tennis, she is a combined 21-1. She won the ITA/Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship for her leadership and sportsmanship on the court. In the classroom, Weatherholt, who is a graduate student after graduating in May of 2012, was selected as the University of Nebraska Female Student-Athlete of the Year across all sports.
The Big Ten Medal of Honor was the first award in intercollegiate athletics to demonstrate support for the educational emphasis placed on athletics. It was acclaimed throughout the nation, and in particular by the NCAA “as one of the significant gestures yet made in college sports.” The Big Ten Medal of Honor was expanded in 1982 to include one female student-athlete from each institution. In 2014, the conference will celebrate the 100th anniversary of this prestigious award.
Big Ten Medal of Honor Recipients
Brandon Paul, Men’s Basketball
Alina Weinstein, Women’s Gymnastics
Amy Cozad, Women’s Swimming and Diving
Luis Soffner, Men’s Soccer
Javier Balboa, Men’s Gymnastics
Morgan Johnson, Women’s Basketball
Jack Greenlee, Men’s Track and Field
Katie Zurales, Women’s Gymnastics
Jacob Jarzen, Men’s Swimming and Diving
Caroline Powers, Women’s Golf
Quentin Mege, Men’s Track and Field
Noora Raty, Women’s Ice Hockey
Bjorn Barrefors, Men’s Track and Field
Mary Weatherholt, Women’s Tennis
Luke Farrell, Baseball
Gabriella Flibotte, Women’s Lacrosse
Alicia Herron, Softball
Max Stearns, Men’s Fencing
Petra Januskova, Women’s Tennis
John Urschel, Football
Robert Maci, Football
Ariel Turner, Volleyball
Elliot Krause, Cross Country and Track and Field
Kendall Schmidt, Women’s Rowing