Nora Holtan, Michael Hensch Selected as 2018-19 Gustavus Athletes of the Year Posted on June 17th, 2019 by

SAINT PETER, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus College Athletics Department is pleased to announce the winners of the 19th Annual Gustavus Athlete of the Year awards. The 2018-19 recipients are volleyball setter Nora Holtan (Sr., Rochester, Minn.) and track & field thrower/football defensive end Michael Hensch (Sr., North Branch, Minn.). The female and male awards are voted on by head coaches and to be on the ballot a student-athlete must have earned Student-Athlete of the of the Month or be nominated by their coach.

Nora Holtan

Holtan becomes the first student-athlete to be awarded Athlete of the Year three times after receiving the honor the past two years. It was a season of thirds for the Gusties’ standout setter as she earned AVCA First Team All-America and MIAC Player of the Year for the third straight season. The Rochester native garnered her second consecutive CoSIDA Academic All-America honor after being named to the Second Team. The AVCA named Holtan the Central Region Player of the Year and she was the Division III Player of the Week on Oct. 23 – both firsts in program history.

Holtan played a key role in Gustavus capturing its second MIAC regular season championship in the past four years with a perfect 11-0 record in the league and the third MIAC playoff championship in the past four years. Holtan, the most decorated student-athlete in 50 years of Gustavus volleyball, finished her career as the program’s all-time assists leader with 4,528 during her four seasons. She also ended her career with 1,194 digs (7th/program history) and 650 kills (32nd/program history). Holtan is the only player to wear the Black and Gold with at least 4,000 assists, 1,000 digs, and 500 kills. Holtan started all 30 matches and played all 113 sets throughout the year. The Rochester Mayo product averaged 10.16 assists and 2.5 digs per set. She also totaled 169 kills and posted a .283 hitting percentage. Her 31 aces were fourth most on a strong serving team.

It’s an honor for Nora to receive this award for the third year in a row, especially considering the field of phenomenal nominees,” Head volleyball coach Rachelle Sherden said. “Nora’s resumé of awards and accomplishments speaks volumes about her success as a student-athlete. However, it’s because of her uncommon and extraordinary work ethic, behind-the-scenes attention to detail, and unwavering dedication to her team and our program that make her so deserving of this award. She raised the bar and set a very high standard in our gym, which made everyone around her better and helped our team to achieve two MIAC championships, three MIAC playoff championships, and four trips to the NCAA tournament, including an NCAA elite eight finish, over the last four years. I’m very proud of Nora and grateful I was able to coach and work with her during her time as a Gustie.” 

Michael Hensch

Hensch joins Luke Speltz ’03 as men’s throwers to be named Athlete of the Year. Hensch capped an impressive collegiate career with three All-America honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The North Branch native took third in the hammer throw with a school record heave of 202-01.75, seventh in the shot put, and eighth in the discus, becoming the third Gustie to earn three All-America awards in the same year at the NCAA meet. At the MIAC Outdoor Championships, Hensch became the first athlete in the 99-year history of the MIAC to win the grand slam of throws, taking first in the hammer, discus, javelin, and shot. He also set the MIAC meet record in the hammer with a toss of 200-07. Hensch is believed to be the only collegiate athlete ever, in any division, to win all four throwing events at a conference championship. For his unprecedented performance, Hensch was named MIAC Outstanding Field Athlete for the third straight season and was also selected as the Central Region Field Athlete of the Year.

During the indoor season, Hensch took 11th in the shot at the national championships and 13th in the weight throw. He also set the facility weight throw record at Saint John’s McNeely Spectrum (60-05.25) and finished the year as a four-time MIAC Athlete of the Week. Not to be overshadowed by his field accomplishments, Hensch also played in all 10 football games as a defensive end and tight end. He made 25 tackles with 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. He was selected to the National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society.

“Mike did it the way you should and improved every year,” Gustavus throws coach Tom Thorkelson said. “His senior year in the hammer especially he had a big jump. I tell all my throwers that there are two ways to get better; in the weight room and with technique. He definitely got stronger, but to get better technique, that’s the hard part. He had the ability to make changes. A lot of kids don’t have that ability. He also worked hard in the classroom. Every national meet he had to work around finals or take a test early. He always put academics first and that will continue for him as he enters grad school at Concordia-St. Paul for physical therapy.”

This year’s Athlete of the Year ballot included 12 men and nine women. The men were Matt Berkner (football/baseball), Matthew Gibbons (soccer), Michael Hensch (track & field), Chase Johnson (tennis), Nolan Larson (swimming), Nolan Malo (basketball), Jacob Pedersen (golf), Taylor Rooney (track & field), Tanner Sonnek (swimming), Andrew Stumbo (cross country, track), Michael Veldman (football), and Patrick Whaling (tennis). Sonnek finished second in the voting and Rooney was third. The women were Amanda DiNella (hockey), Brianna Hartmann (tennis), Nora Holtan (volleyball), Katie Keelin (track & field), Justine Lee (basketball), Amanda Malo (gymnastics), Ginger Valentine (tennis), Maggie Webster (swimming), and Tierney Winter (cross country/track). Malo finished second in the voting while DiNella and Webster tied for third.


Gustavus Athletes of the Year

2000-01: Andrea Kleven (first year, swimming, track & field), Eric Butorac (sophomore, tennis)

2001-02: Sarah Moe (senior, hockey), Ryan Hoag (junior, football, track & field)

2002-03: Molly Biehn (junior, softball), Luke Speltz (senior, track & field)

2003-04: Angie Peterson (senior, basketball), Luke Benoit (senior, golf)

2004-05: Tara Houlihan (junior, volleyball, tennis), Joe Hartwell (senior, soccer)

2005-06: Hailey Harren (junior, cross country), Bobby Kroog (senior, soccer)

2006-07: Andrea Peterson (senior, hockey), Tony Konicek (senior, baseball)

2007-08: Lisa Brown (junior, track & field), Andy Bryan (senior, tennis)

2008-09: Rachael Click (senior, softball), Matt Stewart (senior, swimming)

2009-10: Melissa Mackley (senior, hockey), David Martinson (senior, hockey)

2010-11: Janey Helland (senior, track & field), Whitaker Davis (senior, swimming)

2011-12: Alissa Tinklenberg (sophomore, swimming), Ross Ring-Jarvi (senior, hockey)

2012-13: Lindsey Hjelm (senior, hockey), Alex Kolquist (senior, golf)

2013-14: Alissa Tinklenberg (senior, swimming), Jeffrey Dubose (senior, football)

2014-15: Jenny Strom (senior, swimming), David Lilly (senior, soccer)

2015-16: Alex Kopp (senior, gymnastics), Matt Boyce (senior, football)

2016-17: Nora Holtan (sophomore, volleyball), Tanner Sonnek (sophomore, swimming)

2017-18: Nora Holtan (junior, volleyball), Mohanad Alhouni (senior, tennis)

2018-19: Nora Holtan (senior, volleyball), Michael Hensch (senior, track & field)


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