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2016 National Awards Day

September 15, 2016
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By Nikki Sherrill, Communications & Sports Information Intern

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced 22 honorees with the association’s highest individual honors in a video presentation (WATCH HERE) as part of its annual NAIA National Awards Day on September 15, 2016. Achievements of NAIA student-athletes, administrators and coaches were recognized, as well as the introduction of eight outstanding athletes and coaches who will be inducted into the 2016-17 NAIA Hall of Fame Class. 

2016-17 NAIA National Award Winners:

A. O. Duer Scholarship Award: Marissa DeWispelare, Doane University (Neb.); Lucas DuPriest, Bethel College (Kan.)
  Named in honor of the NAIA’s former executive secretary for his service of 26 years to the association, this scholarship recognizes academics, character and citizenship by junior student-athletes in any sport. Presented by Daktronics, the A.O. Duer Scholarship has been awarded to one male and one female junior athlete since 1967. Each student receives a $1,000 scholarship. 

Marissa, a cross country and indoor and outdoor track athlete at Doane (Neb.), has maintained a 3.91 GPA while majoring in Mathematics with a Secondary Education emphasis. From David City, Neb., the eight time All-American and 2016 National Steeplechase Champion is also a member of leadership honorary, Omicron Delta Kappa, a Special Olympics volunteer and a Doane Ambassador among many other citizen and leadership roles.

Lucas is a Fjaras, Sweden native who plays soccer at Bethel (Kan.). Majoring in History with a Peace, Justice and Conflict studies minor, Lucas has earned a 3.97 GPA and been named to the Dean’s List. Besides excelling on the field where he is team captain, Lucas serves as a Student Ambassador and has been a Home Health Aide in Kungsbacka County, as well as holds a student assistant title for the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. 

Emil S. Liston Award: Holly Hild, Hastings College (Neb.); Chandler Folkerts, Concordia University (Neb.)
 Presented by DakTronics, the Emil S. Liston award recognizes both academic and athletic excellence by junior student-athletes in men’s and women’s basketball. The scholarship is named in honor of the NAIA’s first executive secretary who was also a prime mover behind the men’s basketball tournament. This award has been presented annually since 1950 to one junior men’s and one junior women’s basketball student-athlete. Each student is awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

A Chemistry major from Omaha, Neb., Holly achieves high success on and off the court. Maintaining a nearly perfect GPA in her difficult major, the All-Conference Honorable Mention player for Hastings (Neb.) knows how to balance academics and athletics. Holly has a career goal of becoming a dentist and has taken all steps necessary to do so. She was selected to participate in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Holly also has served as a coach at a special needs basketball camp and as a Salvation Army Bell Ringer, among many others.

From Milford, Neb., Chandler is also a recipient of the Emil S. Liston Award. A member of the Concordia (Neb.) men’s basketball team, Chandler is a Physics major minoring in Mathematics with a 3.99 GPA. While on the team, Chandler has been named an NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, as well as a two-time First Team All-GPAC player and one-time National Player of the Week. He ranks No. 7 all-time at Concordia in blocked shots, No. 9 in rebounds and No. 10 in scoring. Chandler has served as a YMCA youth basketball coach, a volunteer at the Lincoln City Mission Food Pantry and a leader within his church. 

Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award: Natasha Hongsermeier, Morningside College (Iowa)
In honor of former NAIA President and President Emeritus of the United States Olympic Committee, Dr. LeRoy Walker, this award recognizes a junior or senior student-athlete who utilizes all five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character program and demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, campus and community leadership, athletic achievement and has a strong future ambition. This award is presented by Herff Jones. 

A two-sport athlete, Natasha has been a leader on the Morningside (Iowa) campus. With a perfect 4.0 GPA, Natasha majors in Biology, Chemistry and Music with a minor in Spanish. She recently completed a Summer Research Fellowship at MDI Biological Laboratories in Maine focusing on heart regeneration. Besides being a volunteer for many organizations, Natasha also is the founder and director of Musicians for Healing which is a group that donates their time and talent to help healing patients. She also is vice president of the Spanish Club and has been named all-conference for women’s tennis and helped her teams to GPAC championships. 

NAIA-National Sportsmanship Foundation "All That's Right in Sport" Award: Nic Nelson, Briar Cliff University (Iowa)
Each year, the NAIA and National Sportsmanship Foundation partner to honor one NAIA institution, team or individual for actions in NAIA competition that demonstrate extraordinary sportsmanship. This year, Nic Nelson, the head men’s basketball coach for Briar Cliff (Iowa) is being recognized for going above and beyond to show sportsmanship.

This year’s All That’s Right in Sport Award winner is Nic Nelson, the Briar Cliff men’s basketball head coach. In June of 2011, Steven Welp passed away. Welp left behind 10-year old son, Trevor. Nelson was a family friend of the Welp’s, and stepped in to fill a void for Trevor. Nelson invited Trevor to become part of the Briar Cliff team where he quickly became the ball boy, filled up water and got to be involved in every asset of the team. Knowing how much Trevor loved the team, Nic had his Chargers attend one of Trevor’s basketball games to act as a cheering section for the young boy. When Trevor hit the first shot of the game, the team erupted into cheers.

Since that game, Coach Nelson and his team have supported Trevor like he supports them. Trevor has continued to be on the bench with Briar Cliff and has become an integral part of the BCU family. One of the NAIA’s elements of sportsmanship is to be gracious. Coach Nelson has gone above and beyond what sportsmanship and being gracious means. 

Athletics Director of the Year: Dr. Darin S. Wilson, Georgia Gwinnett College 
Dr. Darin S. Wilson has been selected as the 2016 NAIA Athletics Director of the Year for his accomplishments within his institution’s athletic department. This prestigious award has been given annually to an athletics director for their success and development within all facets of athletic administration over to course of the previous year.

After departing Union College (Ky.) where he served as athletic director since 2003 as well as a baseball coach, Dr. Wilson was named the Athletic Director at Georgia Gwinnett in 2011. During his time with the institution, Dr. Wilson has led the athletics department to five national championships and seven conference championships, both within the first three years of competition. He also developed a new website for the department and created all athletic staff policies and student athlete handbooks.

In 2015, Dr. Wilson was named an Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year, and he also currently serves as President of the NAIA Athletics Directors Association (ADA). He also serves on the NAIA’s Direct Qualification Task Force and Growth Advisory Panel. 

Charles Morris Administrator of the Year: Valerie Beeson, American Midwest Conference  The 2016 Charles Morris Administrator of the Year award winner is Valerie Beeson from the American Midwest Conference. This honor, which was created in memory of the former NAIA Association Administrator of the Year, recognizes an NAIA member who has made significant contributions as an administrator of intercollegiate athletics, while also exemplifying the loyalty and enthusiasm which Mr. Morris had for the association.

Since 1994, Ms. Beeson has been serving as the AMC Eligibility Chair, the only one in the history of the conference. She understands and goes by and knows the NAIA Official & Policy Handbook better than most. Valerie is a member of more than a dozen national committees and task forces, including the National Eligibility Committee and Constitution and Bylaws Committee. In 2001, Valeria was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in the Meritorious Service category.

Wally Schwartz Faculty Athletics Representative of the Year: Elfie Farchmin, Webber International University (Fla.)
Elfie Farchmin of Webber International University (Fla.) is the 2016 Wally Schwartz Faculty Athletics Representative. This high honor, put into place in honor of past Vice President of Legislative Services and NAIA Hall of Famer Wally Schwartz, looks to recognize a faculty athletics representative who exemplifies the loyalty, enthusiasm and honesty in which Mr. Schwartz showed on behalf of the NAIA.

In 2014, Ms. Farchmin started as the representative for Webber International, as well as the chair of The Sun Conference Eligibility Committee. Within both of these jobs, she is responsible to ensure that all athletes and participants at the institution and conference are in accordance with the rules and regulations of eligibility in the association. She also serves as the Associate Dean for Title IX Compliance within Webber International.

Within this position, Farchmin also exemplifies all the qualities in which Mr. Morris himself had. Her colleagues understand she is an honest and loyal worker who will help her institution by making sure all assets are covered in compliance with the rules. With her service on multiple committees, it is evident she possesses all qualities necessary in this position. Farchmin is passing along all of her knowledge as she is also an associate professor at Webber International in the Sport Management department. 

Sports Information Director of the Year: Chris Wells, Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.)
This is the third year for this award presented to one sports information director based on accomplishments during the previous year in the areas of athletics communication, sports information, promotion and service to the NAIA. Each affiliated conference and the Association of Independent Institutions nominate one sports information director for this award.

The 2016 Sports Information Director of the Year is Lindsey Wilson’s (Ky.) Chris Wells. For 16 years, Chris has been the SID for the college after he graduated from the journalism and communication program at Lindsey Wilson in 2001. Chris runs all social media accounts for Lindsey Wilson including Twitter, Facebook, Periscope and Instagram and has helped the accounts finish in the top-10 the past two years in most gains on Twitter. He is also in charge of all content on the athletic website, and is the president of the Lindsey Wilson Athletics Hall of Fame.

Chris also serves as the Mid-South Conference Sports Information Director and just completed a two-year term as an NAIA-SIDA Board at-large representative. After that, he was elected as the second vice president for the board. He has been named the Mid-South Conference SID of the Year nine times and was the 2015 NAIA Clarence “Ike” Pearson Award recipient. 

Clarence "Ike" Pearson SID Award: Ron Smith, Westmont College (Calif.)
Given annually to a member of the NAIA Sports Information Directors Association (NAIA-SIDA), the Clarence “Ike” Pearson Award honors outstanding contributions to the profession. The award is named in honor of the former statistical crew chief of the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship in Kansas City, Mo.

This year, Ron Smith from Westmont College (Calif.) has been awarded the honor. Ron has been in the profession for 12 years with all of those years being spent at Westmont. Being at the institution for so long, Ron has been able to create high standards for the work done in the sports information department. He maintains and develops the athletic website, video broadcasting of competitions, and also upkeeps history books and records for the school. He is also noticeable on game day creating programs and media guides, helping with statistics and scoreboard control, as well as helping all media.

Ron has served as the SID representative for the Golden State Athletic Conference Executive Committee, as well as been on the NAIA-SIDA Board of Directors. Ron also redesigned the GSAC website and added many functions which revamped the website. 

NAIA Coach of Character Award: Tracy Gastineau, William Woods University (Mo.)
The Coach of Character Award is presented by Herff Jones and is annually given to an NAIA head coach who has been with the institution for a minimum of five years, and who has embraced all five cores values of the NAIA Champions of Character program. This is demonstrated through sport and how they instill a culture of community leadership through volunteering or service within their program.

Tracy Gastineau, the head softball coach at William Woods (Mo.) has been selected as this year’s Coach of Character. Tracy is from Fulton, Mo., and became the head coach for the program that she also played for in 1998. Tracy has led her team to four American Midwest Conference championships and has taken them to six national championships. She also has helped her team become the leading team on campus when it comes to volunteer hours. Tracy has implemented a team covenant of “Our Three Outs.” This stands for out-work, out-class and out-play. She says this promotes her team to focus on playing the game with character and less about the outcome of the game.

Athletic Trainer of the Year: Tracy Collins, Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho) 
The NAIA Athletic Trainer of the Year recognizes an NATA certified athletic trainer at an NAIA institution who has distinguished themselves as a model of the profession in personal conduct and professional allied health service to the NAIA student-athletes.

Tracy Collins of Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho) has been named the 2016 NAIA Athletic Trainer of the Year. Tracy serves as the department’s head athletic trainer and has been helping all Warrior athletes stay healthy for more than a decade. She is a member of the National Association of Athletic Trainers and the Idaho Athletic Trainers Association. She has been on the Idaho State Board of Medicine for Athletic Trainers from 2000-08. She has been the head athletic trainer at the NAIA World Series since its return to Lewiston in 2000. Tracy led the establishment of the first ever Frontier Conference Athletic Training guidelines and policy manual. Tracy also has a love for running and that is evident as she helped to start up the cross country and track and field teams at LCSC. 

Larry Lady Officiating Award: John Drake, Men's Basketball Official
This award, named in honor of Larry Lady, the former NAIA Supervisor of Officials for basketball, football and baseball, recognizes officials of outstanding quality, high moral character, fine officiating ability and who are held in high esteem by their colleagues, administrators and athletes.

The 2016 Larry Lady Officiating Award is presented to John Drake, a men’s basketball official. John worked the Mid-South Conference Basketball Tournament from 1997-2012, and was chosen to officiate the championship game 14 times. He also worked the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament from 1989-2012, working the championship three times. He was selected to officiate the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship tournament from 2009-12 and worked a semifinal game in 2012. Since 2013, John has assisted with the DI Men’s Championship, serving as the coordinator of officials in 2015 and 2016.

John received the NAIA Service Award in 2013 and the KIAC Commissioner’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2013. In 2011, he was elected to the Kentucky High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. During his time officiating, John has worked for 10 NAIA Hall of Fame coaches. 

NAIA Hall of Fame Inductees: 
The Hall of Fame Award is the highest honor presented by the association. Nominees must have outstanding character and leadership ability, and be held in high esteem by their colleagues, former coaches and athletes. The Hall of Fame consists of an athlete and coach category for each sport and a category for general meritorious service.

Larry Wilcox, Benedictine College (Kan.), Football - Coach
Larry Wilcox has been the head coach at Benedictine (Kan.) for 37 years and holds a 263-140 record heading into the 2016 season. In his time with the Ravens, he has led them to 12 football championship series appearances, including two semifinal appearances in 1992 and 2001. Within the Heart of America Athletic Conference, Wilcox has led his team to six conference championships. He is a two-time AFCA Region Coach of the Year and an NAIA District 10 Athletic Administrator of the Year. Wilcox has been a lifetime member of the AFCA for 33 years and is a former NAIA Football Coaches Association President.

His career wins total is the most of any four-year collegiate head coach in the history of the state of Kansas at any level and he has the second most active wins among all NAIA coaches heading into the 2016 season. He also holds the second-most all-time wins in NAIA history, only one of two football coaches with more than 260 wins. 

Russ Davis, Vanguard University (Calif.), Women's Basketball - Coach
Going into his 21st season at the head of the Vanguard (Calif.) women’s basketball team, Russ Davis has a record of 525-129. He took his teams to 19 national championship tournaments in 20 years, four of those including semifinal appearances. Russ is a four-time NAIA Coach of the Year and a member of the Vanguard Hall of Fame. He has led his team to 11 Golden State Athletic Conference championships and been named the GSAC Coach of the Year nine times. He is the all-time leader in wins and winning percentage for the conference, and also holds the GSAC record for most conference victories in a single season when the Lions went undefeated in conference in back-to-back seasons.

He has 29 wins at the NAIA national championship, which is the highest of any active coach. His teams have been ranked in 170-straight national polls as of the 2015-16 season and ranked No. 1 41 times, which is third overall in history. They are also one of only two teams to be ranked No. 1 all season. 

Lonnie Kruse, Sterling College (Kan.), Women's Basketball - Coach
Lonnie Kruse was the head coach for the Sterling (Kan.) women’s basketball team for 33 years where he amassed a 706-244 overall record, the most coaching wins in Kansas women’s basketball history. After his playing time ended at Sterling, he decided to take on the challenge of becoming a women’s basketball coach. That decision started a coaching legacy that is strong in Kansas history.

Under Kruse’s guidance, the Warriors won 12 KCAC regular-season championships and made the NAIA national championship 16 times, including 10 second round, two quarterfinal and one semifinal appearances. His personal honors include being inducted into the Sterling College Hall of Fame and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. He is also the namesake for the Sterling College basketball court and the KCAC Coach of the Year award. Lonnie is now enjoying retirement in Sterling. 

Rachel (Binneboese) Leavitt, Northwestern College (Iowa), Women's Basketball - Athlete
A hometown hero who stayed in Orange City, Iowa to play for Northwestern (Iowa), Rachel (Binneboese) Leavitt ended her playing career with a 101-27 overall record. This record includes a 1999 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship second round appearance, a 2000 national runner-up and ultimately a 2001 national championship title for her team. Rachel made an immediate impact as a freshman for the Raiders and eventually led her team to the national championship her senior year. As a forward, Rachel scored 2,515 points, pulled down 1,118 rebounds and had 288 steals in her career. She was a 1998 NAIA Second Team All-American, 1999 and 2000 First Team All-American, NAIA Scholar Athlete, Emil S. Liston national winner and the National Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001. Rachel currently serves as a school principal in Iowa. 

Turk Lords, Montana State University-Northern, Wrestling - Athletes 
A 2001 NAIA National Wrestler of the Year, Turk Lords is one of the most decorated wrestlers in Montana State-Northern history. Turk had a successful athletic career at Montana State-Northern, achieving a 126-10 overall record in wrestling competition. He was a four-straight NAIA national champion, starting in 1998 until 2001 in the 197-pound weight class. He also earned All-America status all four years of his career. In 2013, Turk was inducted into the Montana State-Northern Hall of Fame. He continues to coach wrestling while also owning two businesses.

David Ray, Montana State University-Northern, Wrestling - Coach
The amount of talent within the Montana State-Northern wrestling program is very evident. One of the leaders of this program, David Ray, has helped to promote that legacy of success. David led the wrestling program to four national championships in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004, when he was also named National Coach of the Year. At the end of his career with Montana State-Northern, he had accomplished an overall record of 158-96-5. After his coaching time ended, Ray had a four season-stint with Southern Illinois-Edwardsville before retiring. 

Emmett Willson, Montana State University-Northern, Wrestling - Athlete
Just like most Montana State-Northern wrestlers, Emmett Willson found success on the mat during his career. After four years and a 163-16 overall record, Emmett is another legend coming out of the program. Every season during his collegiate career, Emmett placed in the top-three at the national championship, winning third place in 2001 before going on a three-year national championship winning streak (2002-2004). In 2004, Emmett was a Dan Hodge Winner which recognizes the most outstanding wrestler of the year, and was inducted into the Montana State-Northern Hall of Fame in 2014. Since his career has ended, Emmett has become the owner and project manager for his company, Diamond J. 

Denise Williams-Mitchell, Wayland Baptist University (Texas), Track & Field - Athlete
A native of Jamaica, Dennis Williams-Mitchell was a four time NAIA National Champion for track and field. The Wayland Baptist (Texas) alum won the triple jump twice in the indoor season and once during the outdoor season, as well as winning the 100-meter hurdles in the outdoor championships in 1987. She was a 22-time All-American (10 indoor, 12 outdoor) and was a part of two team national championships. Denise held the Wayland Baptist triple jump record for 20 years, the 100-meter hurdle record for six and still holds the shuttle hurdle relay record at the institution. She was voted by her teammates as the 1988 Roscoe Snyder Award winner which is given to the top senior student-athlete. Since her collegiate days have ended, Denise moved to Canada where she became an account representative and now a real estate agent. 

The Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized throughout the year at their respective NAIA National Championships, national coaches’ association meetings or at the 76th NAIA National Convention in San Diego, Calif. More detailed information about each inductee will be released prior to these ceremonies. View the complete list of NAIA Hall of Famers.