Utah's Venters, Oregon's Bienenfeld named Pac-12 Cross Country Scholar-Athletes of the Year
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Utah's Emily Venters and Oregon’s Aaron Bienenfeld were named the 2022 Pac-12 Women’s and Men’s Cross Country Scholar-Athletes of the Year, the Conference office announced ahead of Friday’s Pac-12 Championships. The awards, which are presented in each of the 24 sports the Pac-12 sponsors, were established to honor collegiate student-athletes that are standouts both academically and in their sports discipline.
Venters, who is currently wrapping up her post-baccalaureate degree with a 3.95 cumulative GPA, has twice earned USTFCCCA All-Academic recognition in cross country (2017, 2018) and was an All-American in 2018 after finishing 39th at that season's NCAA Championships while at Boise State.
The third-place finisher at last year's Pac-12 Championships and a member of the All-Pac-12 first team, Venters has enjoyed a successful senior campaign in 2022. She secured her first career collegiate victory at the Roy Griak Invitational in September and followed that up with a sixth-place finish at the stacked Nuttycombe Invitational two weeks ago.
Venters is the first cross country or track & field student-athlete from Utah to earn Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year accolades and the ninth Ute overall in any sport.
Bienenfeld, who began his collegiate career at Cincinnati, is a non-profit management graduate student at Oregon with a 4.00 GPA. Fifth at the Pac-12 Championships last season to earn All-Pac-12 first-team honors, he was 18th at the 2021 NCAA Championships to secure All-America honors in his first season with the Ducks.
He won in his season debut this year at the Bill Dellinger Invitational in September and finished 24th at the Nuttycombe Invitational in October. A three-time NCAA Championships qualifier in track and field last season, he was third in the 10,000 meters at the 2022 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships. Bienenfeld was also the American Athletic Conference's individual cross country champion in 2019.
He's the 20th Oregon student-athlete to be named a Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year all-time and the fourth in men's cross country, joining Matt Wisner (2021), Sam Prakel (2017) and Galen Rupp (2008).
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 is 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 2008-09 academic year.
Men – Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau, STAN; Peter Herold, UCLA; Andrew Kent, COLO; Vincent Mauri, ASU; Jeffrey Sillers, ARIZ; Leif Swanson, WSU.
Women – Kaitlyn Barthell, COLO; Christina Geisler, OSU; Maggie Karp, ARIZ; Jenna Lee, ASU; Malia Pivec, ORE; Alaina Stone-Boggs, WSU; Melissa Tanaka, STAN; Emma Tavella, UCLA.