Release Courtesy of Matt Higgins – MIAC Assistant Executive Director
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) announced the winners of a new prestigious conference award Friday. The University of St. Thomas’ Max Hamilton and Gustavus Adolphus College’s Libby Larson were honored for their combined athletic and academic achievement with the MIAC Elite 22 Award in men’s and women’s swimming and diving, respectively.
The MIAC Elite 22 Award recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the conference championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. Modeled after the NCAA Elite 89 Award, the MIAC Elite 22 Award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade point average (GPA) in each sport who meet similarly high, sport-specific athletic requirements.
The MIAC Elite 22 Award in men’s and women’s swimming and diving is presented to the individual with the highest GPA that is a sophomore, junior or senior and in at least his or her second season of competition with their current team and recognized as a member of the All-Conference Team at the MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships, which includes the top three finishers in each event.
Hamilton helped the St. Thomas men finish second at the 2013-14 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships. The Tommies racked up 740 points, which was good for a runner-up finish behind two-time champ St. Olaf (848 points). Hamilton and his teammates were solidly in second, 204 points ahead of the rest of the field.
The St. Thomas sophomore earned his All-Conference honor, which qualified him for the Elite 22 Award, in the men’s 400-yard medley relay. Hamilton swam the second leg of the team that finished second with an NCAA B cut time of 3:23.86. The Tommies finished ahead of everyone except the Oles, who set a new meet record in the event.
Hamilton’s outstanding work in the classroom also played a big part in his Elite 22 honor. The sophomore Mechanical Engineering major has a near-perfect 3.95 GPA. He is a native of Richfield, Minn., and is a graduate of Richfield High School. This is the third major honor for St. Thomas men’s swimming and diving in Head Coach Tom Hodgson’s 35th and final season, as fellow Tommies Mike Lanz and Nick Johnson were named MIAC Men’s Swimmer- and Diver-of-the-Year, respectively.
Larson received the women’s swimming and diving Elite 22 award for her role in the Gusties’ latest MIAC championship, and her outstanding work in the classroom. Larson and her teammates racked up a school record 886.5 points to win the 2014 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championship. They cruised to a 189.5-point margin of victory, and Gustavus’ fifth-straight title is now the second-longest championship streak in MIAC women’s swimming and diving history, and they’ve claimed seven titles in the past eight seasons.
The Gustie distance swimmer earned her All-Conference award, which contributed to her Elite 22 selection, with an outstanding performance in the women’s 1,650-yard freestyle. Larson finished second in the mile behind only three-time MIAC champ Elise Guenther of St. Thomas and her time of 17:57.00 and top-three finish resulted in her All-Conference honor.
Larson has also excelled out of the pool as well, as the junior English major has a near-perfect GPA of 3.968. She is a Detroit Lakes, Minn., native and a graduate of Detroit Lakes High School. Her Elite 22 selection caps a magnificent MIAC season for Gustavus, as Head Coach Jon Carlson was voted MIAC Women’s Swimming Coach-of-the-Year, and teammate Alissa Tinklenberg won her second-straight MIAC Women’s Swimmer-of-the-Year award.
A plaque will be provided to Hamilton and Larson to commemorate their MIAC Elite 22 Award, and they are recognized on the MIAC Elite 22 Award web site, which will archive each of the 22 winners throughout the 2013-14 season. Hamilton is the fourth St. Thomas student-athlete to claim the new honor in 2013-14, and Larson is the first Gustie to win the conference’s new award.
The MIAC Elite 22 Award was modeled after the NCAA Elite 89 Award, which honors the student-athlete with the highest GPA at the championship site for each of the NCAA’s 89 sponsored-sports across Divisions I, II and III. The award emerged from the MIAC’s strategic plan, and was unanimously approved by the conference’s governance structure in May.