Birgen Nelson, Jack Hanson Selected 2021-22 Gustavus Athletes of the Year

Posted on August 10th, 2022 by

SAINT PETER, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus College Athletics Department is pleased to announce the winners of the 20th Annual Gustavus Athlete of the Year awards. The 2021-22 recipients are track hurdler Birgen Nelson (Jr., Edina) and baseball first baseman Jack Hanson (Sr., Minnetonka). 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.

Birgen Nelson

Nelson had a banner year on the track, highlighted by a national championship, three All-America honors, and First Team CoSIDA Academic All-America distinction. Nelson capped her junior season by winning the national championship in the 100-hurdles at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Championships with a Division III meet record time of 13.44, breaking a 24-year old record. Nelson also earned All-America in the 400-hurdles at the outdoor championships with a runner-up finish, repeating as a dual All-American in the 100- and 400-hurdles. By taking first and second in her two events at the national meet, Nelson led the Gusties to a fifth place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, marking the highest finish in program history. Prior to the national meet, Nelson earned MIAC Outstanding Track Athlete and Outstanding Performance of the Meet at the 2022 MIAC Championships where she won all four of her events, leading the Gusties to their first MIAC championship in program history. The Outstanding Performance of the Meet came in the 100-hurdles where she broke her own conference record with a time of 13.71. Nelson is a five-time All-American after taking second in the 100-hurdles and fifth in the 400-hurdles at the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Nelson also took seventh in the 60-hurdles at the 2022 NCAA Indoor Championships. She was the first Gustie woman in program history to earn Indoor All-America in an individual track event. Nelson is the school record holder in the outdoor 100-hurdles, 400-hurdles, 4×100 relay, and indoor 60-hurdles, 4×400 relay, and 200-meter. Nelson has claimed 10 All-Conference honors and five conference titles. She was also named the USTFCCCA North Region Track Athlete of the Year. Nelson is the fourth women’s track & field athlete to be named Gustavus Female Athlete of the Year and first since Janey Helland in 2010-11. 

“Birgen’s historic year will go down as one of the best in school and conference history,” Head Coach Aaron Lund said. “Along with her impressive accomplishments and records, Birgen was also the first Gustie woman in program history to earn Indoor All-America in an individual track event, part of the first Gustie women’s relay team to win at the prestigious Drake Relays, and a captain of our team that won the first MIAC women’s track and field championship in school history. Birgen helped elevate our team and broke so many barriers because of her incredible dedication and desire to succeed. She is a true leader that loves this team so much. Her extraordinary work ethic, passion for the sport, and will to win are undeniable. Birgen paved the way and helped set the tone for the years to come. She will return this year as a senior captain and I am very excited to see what her and her teammates will accomplish next.” 

Jack Hanson

Hanson became just the second Gustavus baseball player in program history to earn First Team All-America laurels and regional player of the year honors. Hanson was also named MIAC Player of the Year after winning the “triple crown” in the MIAC when including all games played this season, leading the league in batting average (.491), runs batted in (57), and home runs (14). Hanson also led the MIAC in overall plate appearances (195), at-bats (167), runs (59), hits (82), total bases (143), on-base percentage (.544), slugging percentage (.856), total chances (315), and putouts (298). In conference games only, Hanson led the league in runs (26), hits (37), batting average (.507), on-base percentage (.565), and slugging percentage (.932). Hanson also made his mark in the Gustavus record books, setting the single season records for hits (82), RBIs (57), runs (59), and tied the home run record of 14. After starting all 42 games at first base this season, Hanson had 26 multiple-hit games, including six four-hit games, and 17 multiple-RBI games. His .491 batting average and 82 hits were both third best in NCAA Division III, while his 143 total bases ranked fourth. Hanson’s .856 slugging percentage was ninth highest in the country. Hanson is the second baseball athlete to be named Gustavus Male Athlete of the Year, joining Gustavus Hall of Famer Tony Konicek in 2006-07. 

“Each year he’s gotten better and the beauty of Jack is you couldn’t tell whether he was 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 with three bombs,” Head Coach Brad Baker said. “His demeanor stayed the same, he is the consummate teammate, and is such a treat to be around. You don’t even realize how special he is until you look at the numbers. He’s humble, quiet, and a great teammate. Clearly he’s been a huge offensive component to our team, but thing about Jack is that he can play anywhere. He can play any infield position and he just happens to play first base for us. We’re looking forward to next year to see if people in the pro levels can figure out how good he is. We know how good he is with the statistics that he’s put up, and they can’t ignore it. He’s a special baseball player so we’re thrilled to have him back next year. He’s just a really good kid.”

This year’s Athlete of the Year ballot included 10 men and 12 women. The men were Hanson, Andrew Stumbo (cross country), Dalton Thelen (football/baseball), Zach Jakes (football), Dane Hudson (swimming & diving), Matt Strom (swimming & diving), Andrew Becker (swimming & diving), Kaleb Feahn (basketball), Jacob Pedersen (golf), Nick Aney (tennis), and Alex Budde (tennis). Pedersen finished second in the voting, while Strom and Aney tied for third. The women were Nelson, Elizabeth Donnelly (cross country/track & field), Kate Holtan (volleyball), Emma Kniefel (basketball), Anna Sanders (basketball), Katie McCoy (hockey), Kayla Vrieze (hockey), Ellen Hofstede (swimming & diving), Madelyn Mueller (softball), Brooke Merila (gymnastics), Emily Kratz (golf), and Simona Potockova (tennis). Holtan took second in the voting, while Vrieze finished 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)

2019-20: no awards presented due to pandemic-shortened and canceled seasons

2020-21: no awards presented due to pandemic-shortened and canceled seasons

2021-22: Birgen Nelson (junior, track & field), Jack Hanson (senior, baseball)


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