CU sweeps 2016 Pac-12 Cross Country Scholar-Athletes of the Year

Ken Moreland

TUCSON, Ariz. – COLORADO seniors Ben Saarel and Erin Clark were named the Pac-12 Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Scholar-Athletes of the Year, the league office announced on Friday prior to the racing of the 2016 Conference Championships. The award, which is presented in each of the 23 sports the Pac-12 sponsors, was established to honor collegiate student-athletes who are standouts both academically and in their sports discipline.

Ben Saarel (Salt Lake City, Utah), a three-time NCAA Cross Country All-American and two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, boasts a 3.967 grade-point average in engineering physics at CU. He has been an instrumental part in helping the Buffaloes to three straight Pac-12 titles (2013-15), as well as two NCAA Championships (2013-14) and one NCAA runner-up finish (2015). The two-time Pac-12 All-Conference performer has posted All-America finishes of eighth (2013), seventh (2014) and 31st (2015) at his three NCAA Championship appearances. Additionally, he has earned several academic awards during his career as he was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic First Team in 2014, twice voted to CoSIDA Academic All-District First Teams, and three U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Teams (2013-15).

Erin Clark (Eugene, Ore.) is a two-time NCAA Cross Country All-American who completed her undergraduate degree this past summer with a 3.541 grade-point average in ecology and evolutionary biology. Now pursuing a master’s in educational foundations, policy and practice, Clark has earned Pac-12 All-Conference honors three times, including First Team accolades while helping the Buffaloes to the league title in 2015. She is also a three-time NCAA All-Mountain Region performer (2013-15) who registered All-America finishes of 11st and 31st at the past two NCAA Championship races. Off the course, Clark is a three-time USTFCCCA All-Academic Team honoree and two-time Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention selection.

In order to be eligible for the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, student-athletes must be a senior (in athletics eligibility) on track to receive a degree, have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher, participate in at least 50 percent of the scheduled contests in the sport and have a minimum one year in residence at the institution. Each Pac-12 institution may nominate one individual per sport, and the winners are selected by a committee of Pac-12 staff members at the conclusion of each sport’s regular season. The athletics accomplishments of the nominees are a consideration in voting for the award.

A Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be named in each of the Pac-12’s 23 sponsored sports: baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, beach volleyball, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, football, men’s golf, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics, men’s rowing, women’s rowing, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, softball, men’s swimming & diving, women’s swimming & diving, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s track & field, women’s track & field, women’s volleyball, and wrestling. The award was first established during the 2008-09 academic year.

Both Clark and Saarel will compete at the 2016 Pac-12 Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships on Friday, Oct. 28 at Randolph North Golf Course in Tucson, Ariz. The course opens to fans at 8 a.m., with the women's race beginning at 9:30 a.m., followed by the men’s race at 10:30 a.m. For more information on the Pac-12 Championships and for live updates, please visit www.pac-12.com/cross-country/championships.

Also Nominated:
Men – Jeffrey Gautreau, ARIZ; C.J. Albertson, ASU; Sean McGorty, STAN; Blake Nelson, WASH; John Whelan, WSU.

Women – Kayla Ferron, ARIZ; Georgia Bell, CAL; Maggie Schmaedick, ORE; Danielle Katz, STAN; Giselle Slotboom, UTAH; Kaylee Flanagan, WASH; Steffie Pavey, WSU.

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