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About this same time a year ago, Anne Martin and John Welk were asked to report to a prominent area at Eugene, Oregon’s Hayward Field, the home of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships for Division I men and women. “Our coaches told us we needed to be there to represent our team,” recalled Martin, a women’s combined events qualifier and two-time Husker captain.
Clueless about what they were representing or why, Martin and Welk were introduced to a crowd of thousands and honored as the recipients of the ELITE 89 Academic Recognition Award. The accolade, founded by the NCAA, recognizes “the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers.”
Martin, then a junior from Waverly, Neb., majoring in elementary education, had the highest cumulative grade-point-average of all female qualifiers for the 2013 NCAA Track & Field Championships. Welk, then a sophomore from Bismarck, N.D., majoring in nutrition science, had the highest GPA of all male NCAA Track & Field qualifiers. Martin qualified to compete in the heptathlon again at the 2014 NCAA Championships, and Welk qualified to compete in the 4x100-meter relay, so that begs an interesting question: Will the Huskers get surprised again next week in Eugene?
Martin, Welk Nominated Again for 2014 Award
“Anne and John were our nominees again this year for the ELITE 89 Award,” said Mike Nieman, the academic counselor for Nebraska men’s and women’s track & field. “There are no guarantees and winners aren’t known until they’re announced at the championship site, but it would be cool if we could sweep that award again.”
Nieman said Martin and Welk did not receive any grade lower than an A over the past year. Martin, in fact, received her bachelor’s degree last December and has earned a 4.0 this spring in her first semester of graduate school. She maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout her collegiate career.
The ELITE 89 represents the number of championship sites for NCAA men and women national championship events. The award reflects the ultimate student-athlete athletic/academic achievement. “You have to qualify both athletically and academically,” Nieman said, pointing out that the award venue varies. “For basketball and volleyball, it’s the Final Four. For baseball and softball, it’s the College World Series, and so on.”
Now you know why the NCAA ELITE 89 Award is such a distinctive honor, even when there are times the recipients don’t know what they’re accepting until they’re announced.
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