Lincoln – Although the setting was different than past Night of the Lied events, the Husker Athletic family came together Tuesday evening to celebrate the achievements of University of Nebraska student-athletes during the 2019-20 year.
The first virtual event recognized the outstanding performances in competition, classroom and community outreach and was highlighted by the live announcement of the major award winners, including the Male and Female Student-Athlete of the Year, the Best Male and Female Athlete and the Outstanding Male and Female Newcomer.
Seniors Sierra Hassel (Women’s Gymnastics) and Luke Siedhoff (Track) won the most coveted awards at the 30th annual event, as they were selected as the 2019-20 Male and Female Student-Athletes of the Year, respectively, by a vote of the faculty members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee.
Hassel is the eighth Husker female gymnast to receive the award and first since Danielle Breen in 2018. A native of Johnston, Iowa, Hassel has been an instrumental performer for the Huskers and Head Coach Heather Brink throughout her four-year career. A two-time All-Big Ten performer, Hassel ranked second in the Big Ten on floor exercise and anchored the Huskers’ uneven bars lineup. She recorded eight event titles this season and all nine of her performances on floor exercise and balance beam scored a 9.825 or better. In the classroom, she is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2018. Hassel, an Academic All-America candidate this season, has been on the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll in all seven semesters at Nebraska. She will graduate with a double major in accounting and management next month.
Siedhoff is the eighth Husker male track and field athlete to be honored and the first since Drew Wiseman in 2017. Siedhoff has been a standout hurdler for Coach Gary Pepin, earning All-America honors in the 110-meter outdoor hurdles in both 2018 and 2019. He placed first or second in the 60-meter hurdles in five of six meets during the 2020 indoor season, including a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Championships in February. Siedhoff, a two-time Big Ten runner-up in the 60-meter hurdles, also qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2018 and 2019, placing seventh in the 110-meter hurdles in 2018 on his way to first-team All-America honors. In the classroom, he is a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten performer. He is a nine-time member of the NU Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll and a three-time USTFCCCA All-Academic team member. He will graduate in May with a double major in biological sciences and Spanish.
Hassel and Siedhoff will be Nebraska’s Big Ten Medal of Honor recipients in 2020. The conference’s most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student from the graduating class of each university who had “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.” Big Ten schools currently feature more than 9,500 students competing in intercollegiate athletics, but only 28 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In more than 100 years of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, almost 1,400 students have earned this distinction.
Rachel Orozco (Bowling) capped her Husker career by being selected as the Best Female Athlete. This is the second major honor she has taken home in the last three weeks, as she was selected as the National Collegiate Bowler of the Year earlier this month. This season, Orozco posted a team-high average of 211.9 ranking ninth on Nebraska’s single-season chart. Orozco collected five top-10 finishes in nine events, including a pair top-five finishes. A three-time first-team All-American, she led all Division I bowlers in three categories, including strike percentage, on her way to becoming the first Husker bowler since 2015 to be named national player of the year.
George Kusche (Cross Country/Track and Field) was named the Best Male Athlete for his performances over the past year. He qualified for the NCAA Championships in all three disciplines (Outdoor Track/Cross Country/Indoor Track) and broke school records in both the mile and the 3,000-meters during the indoor season. Kusche earned second-team All-America honors in the 1,500 meters at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships and was the first Husker male athlete to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championship in consecutive seasons in nearly 20 years. At the conference level, he was the runner-up at the 2019 Big Ten Cross Country Championships and earned a pair of bronze medals at the 2020 Big Ten Indoor Championships in the mile and 3,000 meters.
Two of the rising stars for Nebraska’s most successful programs in 2019-20 were honored for their achievements, as Madi Kubik (Volleball) and Peyton Robb (Wrestling) were selected as the top first-year performers.
Kubik was named the Outstanding Female Newcomer after helping the Huskers to a 28-5 record and an NCAA Elite Eight appearance. She was chosen as the VolleyballMag.com National Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year after averaging 2.73 kills and 2.52 digs per set last year. She had a season-high 22 kills against Purdue and had 20 kills and a season-high 17 digs in a five-set win at No. 7 Minnesota. She was the first Husker named conference freshman of the year since 2009.
Robb was named the Outstanding Male Newcomer after helping the Husker wrestling team to an 11-3 record, a No. 4 national ranking and a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships. Robb posted a 20-6 record at 157 pounds and earned a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, including a win over second-seeded Kaleb Young (Iowa) in the quarterfinals. An honorable-mention All-American by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, Robb’s six losses in 2019-20 were to ranked opponents by a cumulative total of eight points.
A total of seven student-athletes received the Outstanding Scholar Award, which is presented to student-athletes in their final season of eligibility or who are graduating next month while carrying a 3.90 or better GPA. The men’s honorees include Siedhoff and fellow men’s track and field athletes Kevin Cahoy, Givon Washington and Simon Wiedel as well as Noah Vedral (Football). The women’s recipients include Elsa Forsberg (Women’s Cross Country/Track) and Meghan Straub (Bowling).
The Herman Trophy GPA Award winners featured repeat winners for the first time since 2016 with women’s tennis and men’s cross country taking home top honors. Scott Jacobson’s women’s tennis team won for the third straight season and ninth time overall with a team GPA of 3.686 in 2019. The men’s cross country team under Coach David Harris earned its 10th Herman Trophy GPA Award with a team GPA of 3.300. It is the most Herman Trophy GPA Awards for any Husker program.
Life Skills presented the fourth-annual Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award Tuesday evening. This award, named in honor of the late Husker punter Sam Foltz, was presented to 27 student-athletes across all sports who exhibit strong leadership qualities, commitment to service and ability to encourage/empower peers. The Life Skills program also named five winners across all sports of its most prestigious individual award – the Heart & Soul Award. The 2020 Heart & Soul winners were Kayla Gadeken (Rifle), Sierra Hassel (Women’s Gymnastics), David Jensen (Wrestling), Sinclaire Miramontez (Soccer) and Haley Thiele (Women’s Golf).
Life Skills also honored the members of the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team, as a total of 296 student-athletes were recognized. Husker student-athletes volunteered to impact more than 20,000 people throughout the state of Nebraska in 2019-20.
Overall, a total of 323 Huskers earned academic medallions at A Night at the Lied. Gold medallions (93) were presented to those for highest academic honors (3.75-4.00 grade-point average). Silver medallions (79) were awarded to those for high honors (3.50-3.749 GPA), while bronze medallions (151) were presented to student-athletes with honors (3.00-3.499 GPA).
2019-20 University of Nebraska Athletic/Academic/Life Skills Awards
Female Student-Athlete of the Year & Big Ten Medal of Honor: Sierra Hassel, Women’s Gymnastics
Male Student-Athlete of the Year & Big Ten Medal of Honor: Luke Siedhoff, Men’s Track and Field
Best Female Athlete: Raquel Orozco, Bowling
Best Male Athlete: George Kusche, Men’s Cross Country/Track and Field
Outstanding Female Newcomer: Madi Kubik, Volleyball
Outstanding Male Newcomer: Peyton Robb, Wrestling
Outstanding Scholar Awards (7): Kevin Cahoy, Men’s Track and Field; Elsa Forsberg, Women’s Cross Country/Track and Field; Luke Siedhoff, Men’s Track and Field; Meghan Straub, Bowling; Noah Vedral, Football; Givon Washington, Men’s Track and Field; Simon Wiedel, Men’s Track and Field.
Heart & Soul Awards (5): Kayla Gadeken, Rifle; Sierra Hassel, Women’s Gymnastics; David Jensen, Wrestling; Sinclaire Miramontez, Soccer; Haley Thiele, Women’s Golf
Women’s Herman Team GPA Award: Tennis (3.686 GPA)
Men’s Herman Team GPA Award: Cross Country (3.300 GPA)
Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award (27): Austin Allen, Football; Jessica Aragon, Women’s Tennis; Akol Arop, Men’s Basketball; Nicole Baker, Women’s Track & Field; Emily Cheramie, Rifle; Cam Chick, Baseball; Audrey Freyhof, Women’s Cross Country; Nicklin Hames, Volleyball; Evan Hymanson, Men’s Gymnastics; Kristina Insingo, Women’s Track & Field; Kaitlynn Johnson, Women’s Cross Country; Taylor Johnson, Women’s Track & Field; Abby Johnston, Women’s Gymnastics; Noah Lukz, Men’s Track & Field; Collin Miller, Football; Izzie Murray, Swimming & Diving; Estefania Prieto, Bowling; Ally Riley, Softball; Kyle Ruettiger, Wrestling; Luke Siedhoff, Men’s Track & Field; Karlee Seevers, Softball; Jack Slagle, Men’s Cross Country; Kate Smith Women’s Golf; Jazz Sweet, Volleyball; Allison Ulness, Soccer; Ashtyn Veerbeek, Women’s Basketball; Jackson Walker, Football.