Arizona’s Thompson, Colorado’s Saarel named Pac-12 Track & Field top scholar-athletes
STANFORD, Calif. – ARIZONA senior Alyssa Thompson and COLORADO senior Ben Saarel were named the 2018 Pac-12 Women’s and Men’s Track & Field Scholar-Athletes of the Year, the league office announced on Saturday prior to the start of the Conference Championships. The award, which is presented in each of the 24 sports the Pac-12 sponsors, was established to honor collegiate student-athletes who are standouts both academically and in their sports discipline.
Thompson (Tucson, Ariz.) carries a sterling 4.00 grade-point average as a physiology major at Arizona, where she was recently named the athletics department valedictorian for her class. A two-time Pac-12 All-Conference performer and NCAA Second Team All-American in 2016, Thompson has excelled in her senior season by setting personal-bests in both the pentathlon and heptathlon, culminating with a podium finish in third place at last weekend’s Pac-12 Track & Field Combined Events Championships. Thompson has been a model student along with her consistent improvement in competition, earning Pac-12 All-Academic First Team and USTFCCCA All-Academic honors in 2016 as well as ACC and USTFCCCA All-Academic accolades during her freshman year at Wake Forest. She plans to continue her education in Arizona’s College of Medicine next year.
Saarel (Salt Lake City, Utah), a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American and the 2016 Pac-12 Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year, boasts a 3.98 grade-point average in engineering physics at CU. He is currently the Colorado school record-holder in the 1,500-meter run (3:38.40), an event in which he earned NCAA All-America honors in 2014 and 2017. Saarel has succeeded in his athletics pursuits to the tune of nine total All-America finishes – five in track & field and four in cross country – despite battling ulcerative colitis during his collegiate career. Along with Academic All-America accolades in 2016 and 2017, Saarel is also two-time Pac-12 First Team All-Academic and USTFCCCA All-Academic performer in track & field.
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 24 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, women’s lacrosse, 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 2007-08 academic year.
Both Thompson and Saarel are entered to compete at the 2018 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships this Saturday and Sunday, May 12-13, at Cobb Track & Angell Field in Stanford, Calif. For the first time in event history, both days of the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Network, all regional channels, the Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com with Saturday coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. PT, followed by Sunday coverage at 3:00 p.m. PT. For more information on the Pac-12 Championships and for live results and scores, please visit pac-12.com/tfchamps.
Men – Collins Kibet, ARIZ; Khalil Parris, ASU; Max Leach, CAL; Sam Prakel, ORE; Sean McGorty, STAN; Nick Ponzio, USC; Andrew Gardner, WASH; Michael Williams, WSU.
Women – Alethia Marrero, ASU; Asha Culhane, CAL; Erin Clark, COLO; Alli Cash, ORE; Amber Peschka, OSU; Elise Cranny, STAN; Kendall Gustafson, UCLA; Kendall Ellis, USC; Jessica Sams, UTAH; Amy-Eloise Neale, WASH; Devon Bortfeld, WSU.