Big South Announces 2013 Christenberry Award Winners

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) – The Big South Conference today announced that a League-record six student-athletes have been awarded the Conference’s prestigious George A. Christenberry Award for Academic Excellence.  The award is given to the male and female student-athlete who attain the highest GPA during their college careers.  It is the 10th time in the last 11 years that more than two student-athletes have been honored.

Coastal Carolina baseball player Justin Creel (4.00 in biology), Liberty football player Pat Kelly (4.00 in exercise science), Radford women’s soccer player Megan Rhodes (4.00 in elementary education and Spanish), High Point men’s soccer player Shawn Sloan (4.00 in biochemistry), Liberty women’s soccer player Lauren Stell (4.00 in graphic design) and Campbell women’s cross country/track athlete Laura Verschuren (4.00 in PE/teacher licensure) are this year’s recipients and all will graduate later this month.  The Conference will formally present the awards on May 30 at The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va., as part of the League’s Spring Meetings and Hall of Fame Dinner.

Big South member institutions nominate one male and one female student-athlete -- regardless if the sport is sponsored by the Big South -- for the annual Christenberry Award.  The honor is named for George A. Christenberry, the former President of Augusta College (now AugustaStateUniversity) and one of the founders of the Big South Conference.  A member of the Big South Hall of Fame, Christenberry served as the League’s first President from 1983-86.

“The Christenberry Award is the highest academic honor awarded to Big South student-athletes,” said Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander.  “It is incredible to think that six individuals completed their academic career with perfect GPAs, especially with the demands placed on them as student-athletes.  We congratulate Justin, Pat, Megan, Shawn, Lauren and Laura for their accomplishments in the classroom and on the field of play.  Their careers truly exemplify the highest ideals of the Big South Conference.”

Creel (Baton Rouge, La.) was named a Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree last week and helped Coastal Carolina win the 2012 Big South Regular-Season and Tournament championship.  He has started 79 of his 88 career appearances with the Chanticleers and owns a .244 career batting average.  This season he has played 30 games with 21 starts.  As a junior, he was third in the Big South with 12 sacrifice bunts and ranked fourth in the League with 161 assists in the field.  Creel also tied for eighth in the Conference with 31 walks in 2012.  A member of the 2012 Big South Presidential Honor Roll, Creel hit is only career home run -- a grand slam -- against Charleston Southern on May 18, 2012.  He was named Coastal’s 2012-13 Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year last week.

Kelly (New Orleans, La.), who was named one of two recipients of the 12th annual FCS ADA Scholar-Athlete of the Year honorees on March 27, and is a two-time Capital One/CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-American.  A three-time member of the Big South Presidential Honor Roll, Kelly was named to the FCS ADA Academic All-Star Team in 2011 and 2012.  This past season, he led the Big South and ranked No. 11 in the nation with 7.27 receptions per game, as he finished the season with a career-high 80 catches.  Kelly set the Big South single-game record with 16 receptions against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 27, and concluded his career 162 receptions (sixth in League history) with 2,107 receiving yards (seventh all-time).

Rhodes (Blacksburg, Va.) was a two-year starter and captain for the two-time defending Big South champion Highlanders.  She appeared in 62 career games and tallied seven goals and two assists for 16 points.  The 2012 Big South Women’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Rhodes earned All-Tournament Team honors in 2012 and received Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District Second-Team honors in 2011.  This past January she was selected as a semifinalist for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, which is awarded to one collegiate and one professional athlete who has made the greatest positive influence in the lives of others.  A two-time University Most Outstanding Student, Rhodes has also served as a student representative on the Radford University Board of Visitors and was named the RU Athletics Senior Leadership Award Winner for 2012-13.

Sloan (Geneva, Ill.) was named a Capital One/CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-American in the fall after being named the Big South Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second-straight year.  He is also a three-time winner of the E. Vance Davis Scholar-Athlete Award, which is given annually to HPU’s top male scholar-athlete.  Sloan finished the 2012 campaign second on the team with 22 points on six goals and team-high 10 assists en route to his fourth All-Big South honor.  He was third in the nation in assists per game as a senior, and is a two-time NSCAA All-Region selection.  Sloan, who earned Academic All-America accolades as a sophomore in 2010, concluded his High Point career with 24 goals and 27 assists for 75 points.  He was drafted and signed by the Columbus Crew of MLS in January.

Stell (Exton, Pa.) was a two-time All-Conference selection as a defender and played 64 games in her career with 60 starts.  She played 5,050 minutes in the backfield and tallied seven goals and six assists for 20 points.  Stell scored a career-high four goals in her senior season -- three of which were game-winners, while her personal-best for assists was a team-high four in 2011.  As a freshman, she was part of a defensive unit that shut out 10 opponents and helped the Lady Flames win the Big South regular-season title that year.  Stell is also a three-time member of the Big South Presidential Honor Roll and recently received the Athletic Director’s Commitment to Excellence Award for achieving a 4.0 as a Liberty athlete.

Verschuren (Guelph, Ontario) is a Big South Presidential Honor Roll member and was a four-time Atlantic Sun All-Academic Team honoree prior to the Camels’ return to the Big South in 2011.  A member of the Dean’s List and President’s List all four years at Campbell, she recorded a season-best 5K time of 19:34.32 at the Georgia Invitational during the cross country season, as well as a season-best 6K time of 25:32.20 at the Charlotte Invitational.  Verschuren, who ran a personal-best 5K time of 18:55.00 in the 2011 Big South Championship and posted a personal record in the 5,000-meters with a time of 18:21.24 at the Shamrock Invitational during her sophomore year, received Campbell’s Outstanding Health and Physical Education Major Award for 2013 in addition to co-creating and serving as president of the school’s Exercise Science Club last year.

Campbell has an honoree for the first time since 1993 and now has four recipients.  Sloan gives High Point its second consecutive Christenberry honoree and sixth overall.  Creel is Coastal’s first honoree since 2011 and 16th total, while Liberty marks the third time in the last four years that one school had both a male and female winner.  Rhodes is Radford’s eighth recipient of the Big South’s Christenberry Award and second-straight.  It is also the second consecutive year that two women’s soccer players have been honored in the same year.

Below are the 2012-13 Big South Conference Christenberry Award candidates, as nominated by their institutions.  Each individual receives a personalized medallion for this achievement.

SchoolFemale Nominee (sport)Male Nominee (sport)
CampbellLaura Verschuren (cross country/track)Ben Fish (baseball)
Charleston SouthernAmanda D'Ostroph (golf)Brad Sweatt (football)
Coastal CarolinaSamantha Palka (volleyball)Justin Creel (baseball)
Gardner-WebbCaroline Arledge (track & field)Dusty Quattlebaum (baseball)
High PointJanay Whittaker (soccer)Shawn Sloan (soccer)
LibertyLauren Stell (soccer)Pat Kelly (football)
LongwoodMarta Pinoyl-Davi (tennis)Stephen Shockley (basketball)
Presbyterian CollegeLindsay Krause (tennis)William Turk (soccer)
RadfordMegan Rhodes (soccer)Ryan Taylor (soccer)
UNC AshevilleGrace Blaylock (basketball)Dillon Tabar (baseball)
VMIKayla Johnson (rifle)James Snyder (football)
WinthropGiovanna Portiolli (tennis)Guy Kubi (tennis)