INDIANAPOLIS --- The NCAA will honor eight outstanding student-athletes for their athletics success, academic achievement and community service as recipients of the NCAA Today’s Top VIII.
The awards will be presented at the NCAA Honors Celebration on Saturday, January 7, during the annual NCAA Convention in Indianapolis. The Convention will serve as the kick-off to the NCAA’s Centennial with the theme, Celebrating the Student-Athlete.
The NCAA Today’s Top VIII honorees are selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, which comprises eight athletics administrators at member institutions and nationally distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes. The committee members are: Cedric W. Dempsey, president emeritus, NCAA; Susan Hartmann, professor of history, Ohio State University; Calvin Hill, consultant, Dallas Cowboys; Gibbs Knotts, faculty-athletics representative, Western Carolina University; Valerie A. Richardson, associate athletics director for intercollegiate sports programs and senior woman administrator, Columbia University; Julie Power Ruppert, associate commissioner and senior woman’s administrator, America East Conference; Thomas J. Brown, commissioner, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference; and Timothy W. Gleason, commissioner, Ohio Athletic Conference.
The Today’s Top VIII are: Samantha Arsenault, University of Georgia, swimming and diving; Sarah Dance, Truman State University, swimming and diving; Carter Hamill, Amherst College, outdoor track and field, indoor track and field, cross country; Nicholas Hartigan, Brown University,
football; DeMeco Ryans, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, football; Christine Sinclair, University of Portland, soccer; Richelle Simpson, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, gymnastics; and Jamie Southern, California State University, Fresno, softball.
Following are brief summaries of the winners’ accomplishments:
University of Georgia
Women’s Swimming and Diving
An Olympic gold medalist in the 800-meter freestyle relay in Sydney, Arsenault was also a member of the 2005 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving national championship team at Georgia. The three-time all-American was a member of the NCAA championship 200-meter and 400-meter medley relays and finished second on the 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle relay teams. The team captain earned a gold medal at the World Cup in Paris in the 200-meter freestyle.
A science education: biology major, she was both an NCAA and Southeastern Conference postgraduate scholarship winner. Arsenault received the Kappa Delta Epsilon Education Honor Society’s “Perfect 4.0” award for four semesters with a perfect GPA and was the recipient of the Joel Eaves award for the Georgia student-athlete with the highest GPA entering their senior year.
A teacher’s aide for three years, Arsenault was awarded the Peach of an Athlete Award by the Atlanta-area Boy Scouts for her community service efforts and was the recipient of the Bell South Leadership Award, the Bell Key.
Truman State University
Swimming and Diving
A key member of Truman State’s past four consecutive national championship teams, Dance was a 28-time all-American and a member of seven national championship freestyle relay teams. She holds two national records in two events, the 400-yard and 800-yard freestyle relay teams, and is the school record holder in three events.
With a perfect GPA in exercise science with a minor in biology, Dance was named the 2005 NCAA Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship recipient. A four-time Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) Presidential Scholar and academic all-MIAA, she was also a four-time College Swimming Coaches Association of American Academic all-American. Named the 2005 ESPN The Magazine’s Academic all-American of the Year, Dance is currently attending medical school at the University of Nebraska-Medical Center.
Overcoming a hearing loss requiring her to wear hearing aids in both ears, while at Truman State, Dance was a member of Alpha Sigma Gamma, a campus service sorority and a weekly volunteer in a hospital emergency room. In 2005, she was selected to present research at the National Strength and Conditioning Association Conference.
Outdoor Track and Field, Indoor Track and Field, and Cross Country
Hamill was an eighteen-time all-American, a two-time NCAA champion in the outdoor 10K and a three-time NCAA champion in the indoor 5K. The three-sport captain for two years holds school records in the 3K, the 5K and the distance-medley relay.
A psychology major, Hamill was a three-time all-academic New England Small College Association Conference (NESCAC) selection and a member of Psi Chi, the National Psychology Honors Association.
In 2002, Hamill received the Gordon B. Perry Award for scholarship, citizenship and athletics. A recipient of the Howard Hill Mossman Trophy awarded annually to the Amherst graduate “who has brought the greatest honor to the school in his or her career – with the word honor relating both to achievement and to sportsmanship.” A volunteer for the Massey Cancer Center in the Medical College of Virginia, Hamill is currently working in production at NBC Sports.
A first-team Walter Camp all-American and a top three finisher for the Walter Payton Award, Hartigan was the Ivy League Player of the Year and received the Harry Agannis Award Winner as the top senior football player in the New England. The team captain holds several school and Ivy League records.
A political science and history major, Hartigan was a semifinalist for the Draddy Award, the academic Heisman of football. The Brown University Presidential Fellow and 2005 academic all-Ivy selection was also a candidate for the Marshall Scholarship. Hartigan was a CoSIDA Academic all-American first team, a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, and was the 2005 CoSIDA Academic all-American of the Year.
A key contact for the football team for both the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life at Brown and the David Zucconi 5K Run in Providence, Rhode Island, he founded a summer deck-cleaning business in his hometown. Hartigan was also the organizer for a bench-a-thon to raise money for the Lawrence Rubida Fund benefiting research for Ewings Sarcoma Cancer.
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Named to the 2005 Sports Illustrated mid-year all-American team, Ryans was one of three finalists for the 2005 Butkus Award given to the best collegiate linebacker. A 2005 Walter Camp all-American, he was a semi-finalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award, awarded annually to the college football lineman who best exemplifies the discipline of Vince Lombardi, in addition to outstanding performance and ability. In 2004, he was nominated for the Butkus Award, the Lott Award and the Bronko Naguriski Award.
A four-time recipient of the Black Scholars Award, Ryans will graduate cum laude in December 2005 with a management degree. A finalist for the 2005 Draddy award, he was also a winner of a postgraduate scholarship awarded by the National Football Foundation. In 2005, Ryans was named the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar, the Paul W. Bryant Student-Athlete Award, given to Alabama’s top male and female student-athletes and the Commerce and Business Administration top student-athlete.
Ryans was a 2005 Wuerffel Trophy Nominee, honoring the player who best combines academics and community service with on-field distinction, and a nominee for the ARA Sportsmanship Award, presented to a Division I football player who exemplifies sportsmanship both on and off the field.
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
An NCAA Woman of the Year top ten finalist, Simpson was a nine-time all-American and a 2003 Honda Award finalist. Simpson was a two-time NCAA champion and a member of the Canadian national team that won a silver medal at the 2003 Pan American Games and that earned a spot to the Olympics at the Gymnastics World Championship. She holds seven of the top 11 all-around scores in Nebraska history and has a school-record eight perfect “10’s” in her career.
An International studies and French major, she was a recipient of both an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and a Big 12 Conference Postgraduate Scholarship. The three-time National Gymnastic Coaches Association academic all-American was also named the 2005 Nebraska Female Student-Athlete of the Year.
An avid volunteer, Simpson was a member of the Nebraska Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the 2005 Big 12 Conference Female Sportsperson of the Year. She was also the recipient of the AAI American Award, presented to a gymnast based on academics, athletics and civic responsibility.
University of Portland
Sinclair, named the Portland Female Athlete of the Year three times, was an integral member of the 2002 and 2005 NCAA Women’s College Cup championship teams and the two-time offensive most valuable player. A member of the Canadian national team since 2002, she is the second highest scorer in Canadian women’s soccer history, holds several NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer records, is the school record-holder for single-season goals and team points and is Portland’s all-time leader in career game-winning goals. She was the 2002 Honda Award winner for women’s soccer, the 2004 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Winner and was named one of 24 finalists for the 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year.
A life sciences major, Sinclair was a member of the Dean’s list every term while at Portland, a three-time WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection and a two-time member of the WCC all-academic team.
Sinclair regularly serves as a volunteer at the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the Ronal McDonald House, and helped organize a soccer clinic for Portland’s 2004 National Student-Athlete Day.
California State University, Fresno
A USA National Team member since 2002, Southern was a gold medalist at the 2002 Canada Cup and a silver medalist at the 2005 World Cup of Softball. Southern was a member of the three-time Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship team and was named the 2005 Joe Kearney Award as the female WAC student-athlete of the year. Named the WAC Freshman of the Year and a four-time WAC pitcher of the year, she is the all-time career win leader both at Fresno State and in the WAC. Named the Fresno State Female Athlete of the Year twice, Southern holds eleven Fresno State pitching records. As the number five draft pick, Southern is currently playing for the Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch League.
A liberal studies major, Southern was a four-time Fresno State and WAC Scholar-Athlete selection and three-time all-WAC academic selection. A member of the Dean’s List seven times, she was also a recipient of the Fresno State Torchlighter Award recognizing a senior who has lettered in two of the last three years and has at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA.
A member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Southern was a volunteer for Special Olympics and for the Fresno State Big Hero-Little Hero program. She also served as a teaching assistant and a volunteer reader at a local elementary school.