MIAC nominates Nelson for NCAA Woman of the Year, Aney for DIIICA Men’s Sport Student-Athlete of the Year Posted on August 1st, 2023 by

By BJ Pickard, MIAC Associate Commissioner

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) announced its nominees for the NCAA Woman of the Year and the Division III Commissioners Association (DIIICA) Student-Athletes of the Year awards on Tuesday.

Gustavus Adolphus College’s Birgen Nelson has been selected as the MIAC’s nominee for both the NCAA and DIIICA Women’s Sport Student-Athlete of the Year awards, while fellow Gustie Nick Aney has been chosen as the conference’s nominee for the DIIICA Men’s Sport Student-Athlete of the Year honor.

Birgen Nelson

Nelson (Edina) earned a 3.96 GPA while double-majoring in political science and classical languages at Gustavus. She finished her Gustie track & field career by repeating as the NCAA Division III national champion in the 100-hurdles and the runner up in the 400-hurdles. Nelson also won the national championship in the 60-hurdles at the 2023 NCAA Indoor Championships. Nelson became the most decorated track & field athlete in Gustavus history as a three-time national champion and eight-time All-American while graduating with 14 school records (indoor 60M, 200M, 400M, 55H, 60H, 4×200, 4×400, outdoor 100M, 200M, 100H, 400H, 4×100, 4×200, sprint medley). Nelson owns three NCAA DIII all-time records in the indoor 60-hurdles (8.33), outdoor 100-hurdles (13.32), and outdoor sprint medley relay (3:59.32). She also owns the top four all-time NCAA DIII times in the 60-hurdles and is a two-time USTFCCCA North Region Track Athlete of the Year and two-time MIAC Track Athlete of the Year. She has also received CSC Academic All-America honors each of the last three years.

Outside of competition, Nelson has put her political science degree to use as a hall representative in Student Senate, a member of the Gustavus Board of Conduct, the student body Co-President, and the Legislative Affairs Co-Chair for the Minnesota Association of Private College Students.

“I am a prime example of how athletics can change lives for the better,” said Nelson, who will next be attending Duke University to earn a Master’s degree in Public Policy. “I am relentless in my pursuit of excellence, but also in justice for those who have not been given a chance.”

The NCAA Woman of the Year was established in 1991 to honor graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service, and leadership throughout their collegiate careers. The NCAA encourages member schools to honor their top graduating female student-athletes each year by submitting their names for consideration for the award. This year’s nominees included 248 women from Division I, 127 from Division II, and 202 from Division III. A total of 23 sports are represented, with multisport student-athletes accounting for 125 of the nominees.

Nelson was among seven extremely deserving student-athletes nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award by MIAC institutions this year. Other institutional nominees included Bethel’s Allie Fauth-Kilgore (softball), Hamline’s Alexandra Maddux (cross country/track & field), Macalester’s Journey Amundson (track & field), Saint Benedict’s Maggie Beckman (track & field), St. Catherine’s Kaitlyn Blair (ice hockey), and St. Scholastica’s Alcia Draper (volleyball). All seven individuals were also considered to receive the MIAC nomination for DIIICA Women’s Sport Student-Athlete of the Year.

Nick Aney

Aney (Rochester) graduated with a 3.99 GPA in biochemistry at Gustavus. A recipient of the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship earlier this summer, Aney also earned his third consecutive CSC Academic All-America honor and received the College’s first Academic All-American of the Year award this past year. Aney is a three-time All-American after reaching the quarterfinals of the 2023 NCAA Doubles Championships, the semifinals of the 2021 NCAA Doubles Championships, and finishing in the top eight at the 2021 ITA Cup after upsetting the No. 1-ranked team in the country in the first round. Aney received the 2022 MIAC Arthur Ashe Award for high achievement and character, and is a two-time MIAC Elite 22 Award recipient. Aney posted a career singles record of 48-38 and is 71-35 in doubles play. He helped the Gusties win conference championships in both the regular season and MIAC Playoffs in 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023, and capped his senior season by clinching the match point in an upset win over defending national champion Chicago to go to the Elite Eight. In the final 2023 ITA Division III rankings, Aney and partner Daniel Fouchier ranked No. 16 in the nation in doubles, while Aney was the No. 28-ranked singles player in the country.

“Being a part of the Gustavus men’s tennis team has truly been one of the most meaningful and beneficial experiences I’ve had in my entire life,” said Aney, who is set to continue his education at the University of North Carolina’s School of Dentistry. “The support system in place at Gustavus has also been really critical in helping me succeed on the court and in the classroom.”

Beyond athletics, Aney has volunteered at Good Samaritan Dental Clinic and Channel One Food Bank in Rochester, Minn., and has been a leading participant in the Gusties’ Big Partner/Little Partner program. He also co-founded the Gustavus Pre-Dental Club and served as a first-term seminar peer mentor and academic leader in guiding first-year students to help ease the transition to college.

Aney and Saint John’s Michael Wozniak (football) were finalists for the MIAC’s nomination for DIIICA Men’s Sport Student-Athlete of the Year. This is the second year of the DIIICA awards, which recognize graduating student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service, and leadership. Voting is conducted by the commissioners within each of the ten regions, with the top men’s sport and women’s sport honorees recognized as finalists for the Awards Committee to select the Division III Commissioner’s Association Men’s Sport and Women’s Sport Student-Athlete of the Year. Recipients of both the DIIICA awards will be announced later this month.

Following the announcements of Conference nominees, the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will choose the Top 30 honorees — 10 from each division. The selection committee will determine the top three honorees in each division from the Top 30, and the nine finalists will be announced in November. From those nine finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will announce the 2023 NCAA Woman of the Year at the NCAA Convention in Phoenix, Ariz. in January 2024.


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