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The NCAA has selected eight extraordinary student-athletes who will be honored in January 2012 as the Today’s Top VIII Award winners.
The honorees are:
The NCAA Today’s Top VIII Award recognizes student-athletes who completed their athletics eligibility during the 2010-11 academic year for their success on the fields and courts, in the classroom and in the community. Award recipients will be recognized at the Honors Celebration on Jan. 13 during the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis.
The honorees are selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, which is composed of athletics administrators at member institutions and nationally distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes.
Following are summaries of the winners’ accomplishments:
Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Major: Honors Business
Two-time first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Sam Acho earned many scholastic and athletics accolades while attending Texas. He received the William V. Campbell Trophy for top football scholar-athlete in the nation and the 2010 Wuerffel Trophy for all-around excellence in athletics, academic and community achievement. Acho was named the 2010-11 Male Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year, first-team all-Big 12 in 2010 and three-time first-team Academic All-Big 12 . He was a finalist for the 2010 Lowe’s Senior Class Award and the 2010 Lott IMPACT Trophy. Named one of Sporting News’ 20 Smartest Athletes, Acho was named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete in 2010 and an eight-time member of the UT Athletics Director’s Honor Roll. In addition to his work in the classroom and on the field, Acho participated in many volunteer opportunities, including leading medical mission trips to Nigeria and organizing fundraisers before the trips. He served as a representative at the Big 12’s Conference on Black Student Government, mentored middle school students and visited children’s hospitals. Acho was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Institution: University of Florida
Major: Health education and behavior
Kelsey Bruder helped lead the Gators to four consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances, including two appearances in the national championship series. She was named to the 2011 Women’s College World Series all-tournament team and set a Women’s College World Series record for runs scored. Bruder, who received the 2011 Honda Award for softball, was also the2011 SEC Player of the Year and a two-time All-American. In 2011, Bruder led the SEC in runs, doubles, slugging percentage, hits and RBI, and she was tied for first in home runs. In all, she set eight SEC records. Bruder completed her collegiate career with 15 school single-season records and nine single-game marks. Bruder was a 2011 Capital One Academic All-America honoree and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times. She participated in Shands Hospital visits, fundraising events and volunteered at an after school program. After her successful 2011 season, Bruder was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch Senior Draft to the USSSA Florida Pride.
Institution: University of New Haven
Major: Criminal justice
Sport: Indoor and outdoor track and field
A five-time indoor and outdoor track and field national champion, Shannon Gagne is the first female student-athlete to win three national championships at one meet across both track and field events in NCAA history. Gagne was named the 2011 United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year and National Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. In 2011, Gagne was named the 2011 Northeast-10 Conference Woman of the Year and Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was Northeast-10 Athlete of the Year and Most Valuable Athlete four times each. Gagne, who was a team captain, holds school records in nine events. The 2011 Capital One Academic All-America Player of the Year in the college division is also a two-time first-team Capital One Academic All-America choice. Gagne was named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team twice and the Northeast-10 All-Academic Team four times. Gagne was named to the university’s Dean’s List and the Northeast-10’s Commissioner’s Honor Roll in every semester. Gagne was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and president of the Legal Society, and she held a leadership role in fundraisers for St. Jude and domestic violence prevention.
Institution: University of Alabama
Major: Human development and family studies
Kayla Hoffman’s senior year included being a member of Alabama’s national championship team and earning the Honda Award, given to the national gymnast of the year. In addition to the team win, she finished second in both the all-round and the balance beam. Hoffman helped Alabama to four consecutive NCAA Regional team titles, and she won seven individual NCAA Regional titles during her career. The five-time first-team All-American was named the 2011 Southeastern Conference Female Athlete of the Year and the Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was named first-team all-SEC in 2011 and second-team all-SEC in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Hoffman won 55 individual events and scored a 9.9 or better 78 times during her career at Alabama. Finishing her academic career with a 4.0 GPA, Hoffman was named women’s at-large Capital One Academic All-American of the Year in 2011. Hoffman was named a National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women Scholastic All-American in each of her four years. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member participated in many volunteer activities, including the RISE Program for Special Needs Children and working with children at three hospitals.
Lee Ellis Moore
Institution: University of Mississippi
Sport: Indoor and outdoor track and field
Lee Ellis Moore, a 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier in the 400-meter hurdles, placed in the top 10 during the NCAA national championships three times during his four years at Ole Miss. Honored as a first-team All-American in the 400-meter hurdles, Moore was the Southeastern Conference champion in that event and was named first-team all-SEC in 2011. Moore also set a school record for the event in 2010. Serving as a three-time team captain, Moore was named the 2011 SEC Men’s Track and Field Scholar Athlete of the Year and a four time Capital One Academic All-American (a two-time first-team selection). The four-time SEC All-Academic pick received the Ole Miss Athletics Director Scholar-Athlete Award in 2010 and 2011. In recognition of his academic accomplishments, Moore was inducted into Alpha Epsilon Delta, Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies. Moore, who served as an officer on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, also was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leadership Team and the planning team for National Student-Athlete Day. He also volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Oxford.
Institution: University of Oklahoma
Danielle Robinson led the Sooners to back-to-back Women’s Final Fours in 2009 and 2010 and was named to the 2010 all-tournament team. She won a gold medal as a member of Team USA during the 2009 World University Games. With five All-America honors, Robinson was named to the State Farm Coaches’ Association first team in 2010 and Associated Press second team in 2011. The three-time all-Big 12 first-team selection was named to the All-Big 12 Championship Team in 2010 and 2011 and was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2008. Robinson is the school record holder for career games started and played. The top-scoring guard in school history, Robinson ranked second all-time for assists, steals and free-throw percentage. Robinson was selected sixth in the 2011 WNBA draft by the San Antonio Silver Stars. She was a 2011 Lowe’s Senior Class Award finalist, a three-time first-team Big 12 All-Academic choice and was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll eight times. Robinson completed more than 500 community service hours in her career at organizations including Meals on Wheels, Special Olympics and Race for the Cure.
Institution: Amherst College
Major: Art history; Spanish
Sport: Swimming and diving
Kendra Stern, the 2011 NCAA Division III National Swimmer of the Year, was a 13-time national champion during her four-year career at Amherst. Stern holds NCAA Division III records in the 100-, 200- and 500-yard freestyle events and led her team to top 10 finishes each year. The 24-time All-American finished first in 16 New England Small College Athletic Conference championship events and was named NESCAC Swimmer of the Year three times. Stern earned all-conference honors 28 times. In addition to her Division III records, Stern holds the school record for five freestyle events, as well as five relay events. Stern was a first-team Capital One Academic All-America honoree in 2011, a second team honoree in 2010 and a coaches association scholar in 2009. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and earned the 2011 Psi Upsilon and Anna Baker Heap Prizes. When not in the pool or classroom, Stern taught community swim lessons, volunteered at Mead Art Museum and Albuquerque Museum, and participated in fundraisers.
Institution: University of Miami (Florida)
Major: Communications broadcasting; sports administration
Sport: Swimming and diving
Brittany Viola is a two-time NCAA 10-meter platform national champion and was named diver of the meet at the 2008 NCAA championships. She is the 2011 USA Diving winter national champion (10-meter platform), and she won a silver medal at the 2009 AT&T USA Diving Grand Prix. The two-time first-team All-American also earned honorable mention All-America honors in the one-meter springboard in 2009 and in the three-meter springboard in 2007. In 2009, Viola was the Atlantic Coast Conference Most Valuable Diver and Diver of the Year. She was the 2007 ACC Freshman of the Year and swept all three diving events at the 2008 ACC championships. Viola was named to the President’s Honor Roll, Provost’s Honor Roll, Dean’s List, Athletic Director Honor Roll and UM Book Buster during her four years at Miami. She also was the 2011 ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year for swimming and diving. Viola served as an officer for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was a School of Communications peer advisor. She also volunteered for the 2010 Super Bowl Host Committee, Habitat for Humanity and Relay for Life.