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Penn State Student-Athletes Honored During Virtual “The Nittanys” For Numerous Academic, Athletic and Community Achievements

Courtesy of GoPSU Athletics 

Women’s Soccer earns highest team GPA


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted the annual “The Nittanys” for the 33rd consecutive year on a virtual platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nittanys recognizes teams and individual for their academic, athletic and community achievements.

“The Nittanys” were presented over one week virtually on GoPSUsports.com and on the GoPSUsports social media accounts. Awards were presented daily to honor the Penn State student-athletes and programs.

The annual awards feature several long-standing awards, as well as some more recently established honors.

Women’s Soccer Earns Highest Team GPA

The women’s soccer team was presented with the Milton K. Morgan Jr. Highest Team GPA Award for all 31 sports.

Also honored for their hard work in the classroom, the Varsity ‘S’ Club Most Improved Team GPA awards were presented to the women’s tennis and men’s basketball teams.

Individual Honors

Ernest B. McCoy Award
The McCoy award is named for the longtime Dean of Penn State’s College of Physical Education, who also served as the University’s athletic director. The award is given to a senior men’s and women’s student-athlete who has combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.

The honorees of the Ernest B. McCoy award were Kaleigh Riehl (women’s soccer) and Grant Ament (men’s lacrosse).

True Grit Award
The True Grit award recognizes a male and female student-athlete whose determination, and perseverance in overcoming serious adversity athletically or even personally, stands as a testament to their tremendous character and indomitable spirit. This award is sponsored by the Nittany Lion Club.

This year’s honorees were Jaida Travascio-Green (women’s basketball) and Aarne Talvitie (men’s hockey).

Above and Beyond Mr. & Ms. Penn State
This award was established by SAAB to recognize the contributions of one male and one female senior student-athlete who display the true spirit of

“WE ARE” as exemplified by their contributions and inspirations to their respective teams, as well their passion for everything Penn State. Recipients of this award are recognized for the following qualities: caring, encouragement, humility, honesty, humor, kindness, patience and school spirit.

This year’s award recipients are Kate Ryland (women’s hockey) and Austin Wilson (men’s swimming and diving).

Behind the Scenes Heroes
This award established by SAAB to recognize individuals who are the embodiment of what it means to be selfless in the service of others, with no expectation of recognition, but are vital to student-athletes success here at Penn State.

Dr. Carl Ohlson, Assistant Athletic Director for Performance Psychology Services, was awarded the Behind the Scenes Heroes award for his work with all 31 sports.

Phoenix Award
The phoenix has always been a symbol of what it means to be reborn, rise from the ashes and to shine brightly for all to see. This award recognizes a student-athlete whose determination and perseverance in overcoming some initial tough challenges academically, to now shine brightly and confidently here at Penn State.

The 2019-20 recipient of the Phoenix Award is Curtis Robison from the baseball team.

Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship
Recipients of this award receive a $7,500-dollar scholarship for post graduate studies. To be eligible for this award a nominee must be in their final season of competition, have a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher, is a model example of leadership and integrity, recommended by two of their professors, and plan to enroll in a graduate degree program after graduation.

This year’s Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship recipients are Mason Nadeau from baseball and Jade Rowland from women’s fencing.

THON Awards

THON Donor Drive Challenge
This award created by SAAB is in recognition of the team that raised the highest total this year on behalf of THON.

The team that raised the most money collectively for THON was women’s soccer.

Two additional awards were presented to two individuals who made major contributions to THON in 2019-20.

Emily Sciorra (women’s volleyball) was recognized as the student-athlete who individually raised the highest total on behalf of THON.

Sarafina Valenti (women’s soccer) was honored with the THON Spirit Award. This award recognizes a student-athlete whose commitment to bringing awareness and funding to find a cure to end pediatric cancer, has been unmatched in their energy, effort and passion for all things THON. Valenti danced at the 46-hour marathon three times in her four years at Penn State.

All-Academic Team

This award is presented to a student-athlete from each team that have earned the highest cumulative grade point average on his or her team, following 60 or more undergraduate hours earned at Penn State.

Full List

Mason Nadeau – Baseball
John Harrar – Men’s Basketball
Kamaria McDaniel – Women’s Basketball
William Wing – Men’s Cross Country
Alison Willingmyre – Women’s Cross Country
Brandon Huey – Men’s Fencing
Jade Rowland – Women’s Fencing
Emma Spisak – Field Hockey
Blake Gillikin – Football
Ryan Davis – Men’s Golf
Olivia Zambruno – Women’s Golf
Jack Baldwin – Men’s Gymnastics
Kristen Politz – Women’s Gymnastics
Evan Bell – Men’s Hockey
Katie McMillan – Women’s Hockey
Brandon Stern – Men’s Lacrosse
Kristin Roberto – Women’s Lacrosse
Keegan Ness – Men’s Soccer
Kerry Abello – Women’s Soccer
Amanda Grieco – Softball
Hayden Harlow – Men’s Swimming and Diving
Elizabeth Gaspari – Women’s Swimming and Diving
Chris Kuhnle – Men’s Tennis
Shannon Hanley – Women’s Tennis
Mark Porter – Men’s Track & Field
Victoria Tachinski – Women’s Track & Field
Nathan Smith – Men’s Volleyball
Kristin Krause – Women’s Volleyball
Dominic Giannangeli – Wrestling

Penn State Among the Nation’s Most Comprehensive and Successful Athletic Programs
Under the leadership of Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour, Penn State has one of the nation’s most comprehensive and successful athletic programs, featuring 800 student-athletes across 31 varsity programs (16 men’s, 15 women’s). The Nittany Lions’ 31 programs are tied for the fourth-highest number of sports sponsored by a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institution.

Record-Breaking NCAA Graduation Success Rate
The 2019 NCAA’s annual graduation rates study of in­stitutions across the nation revealed Penn State student-athletes at the University Park campus earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 91 percent to break the school’s all-time record of 90, which was previously set in the 2010, 2017 and 2018 NCAA reports. Nittany Lion students posted a 91 percent graduation rate compared to the 88 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2009-10 through the 2012-13 academic year.

Penn State student-athletes have delivered a Graduation Success Rate in the 88-91 percent range during each of the past 13 NCAA reports, improving from 88 percent in the 2015 report, to 89 percent in 2016, to 90 percent in 2017 and 2018, and a record-breaking 91 percent figure in 2019. Ten Nittany Lion programs earned 100% graduation rates and 18 programs were above the national average.

Penn State student-athletes have led the athletic department to 34 Big Ten championships and nine NCAA National Championships since October 2013. For the 20th time in the last 26 years the Nittany Lions finished in top 15 in the Learfield IMG College Director’s Cup.

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