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NCAA names 2020 Today’s Top 10 recipients

Outstanding former student-athletes to be honored at NCAA Convention

Ten exceptional former student-athletes will be recognized as the 2020 Today’s Top 10 Award winners at the NCAA Convention in January.

The award recognizes former student-athletes for their successes on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The recipients — who completed their athletics eligibility during the 2018-19 academic year — will be recognized at the Honors Celebration on Jan. 22 during the NCAA Convention in Anaheim, California.

The NCAA Honors Committee, which selects the honorees, is composed of representatives from member schools and conferences, as well as nationally distinguished citizens including past awardees.

Before 2013, the award recognized eight student-athletes and was known as Today’s Top VIII. The NCAA Honors Committee expanded the award to include 10 honorees to recognize the growing number of college athletes, sports and championship opportunities.

The following former student-athletes are the 2020 Today’s Top 10 awardees:

Jimmy Bendeck

School: Baylor
Majors: Finance; entrepreneurship and corporate innovation
Sport: Men’s tennis

Former Baylor men’s tennis captain Jimmy Bendeck won an Intercollegiate Tennis Association national championship in 2018 in doubles and earned All-America accolades in 2019. Bendeck’s team also won the 2019 Big 12 Conference championship. He has represented Honduras in international competition four times, including once in the 2017 World University Games and three times in the Davis Cup. Bendeck also earned three ITA Scholar-Athlete honors and received 2019 second-team Google Cloud Academic All-America At-Large honors. In 2017, Bendeck received the NCAA Elite 90 Award, presented to the student-athlete competing at a championship site with the highest grade-point average. In 2019, Bendeck was named the Big 12 Men’s Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year and received the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award, the Big 12 Conference’s highest academic honor. Bendeck also served two years as president of the Baylor Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and volunteered with organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and the Salvation Army.

Iman Blow

School: Columbia
Major: Biology
Sport: Fencing

Iman Blow, a former Columbia fencer, won the 2018 individual NCAA championship in the women’s foil event and was a member of two national championship teams in 2016 and 2019. Blow was a three-time All-American and two-time all-Ivy League honoree. She also helped her team win three Ivy League championships. She represented the United States in three Junior World Fencing Championships. She is also a member of the U.S. women’s foil team, which in 2018 earned a No. 1 world ranking for the first time in history. Blow, a two-time Academic All-Ivy League recipient, was a scholar in Gerald E. Thomson Undergraduate Premedical Program, which pairs premed students with mentors in the medical field and provides career exposure, development and practical experience. Blow spearheaded conduct training for minor athletes on the junior and cadet national fencing teams to help prevent sexual misconduct and educate athletes about resources available to them if they faced such misconduct. Her advocacy led to the creation of a Safe Sport training program for college athletes and adult members of the United States Fencing Association. Blow was also an active member of the Black Student Organization at Columbia, which offers a support system to students and addresses social and political issues that impact them.

Virginia Elena Carta

School: Duke
Major: Environmental studies and policy
Sport: Women’s golf

Virginia Elena Carta, a member of the Italian national women’s golf team, helped lead Duke to its 2019 national championship and Atlantic Coast Conference Championships in 2017 and 2018. She was also the 2016 individual NCAA champion and holds several NCAA records, including greatest margin of victory (8 strokes); lowest winning score after 72 holes (16-under par); and lowest aggregate score after 72 holes (272). A 2018 Rhodes Scholarship finalist, she received the 2019 Heidrick Family Leadership postgraduate scholarship, presented to student-athletes who demonstrate growth in leadership and who enhance the community around them, and the 2019 Weaver-James-Corrigan and Jim and Pat Thacker postgraduate scholarship, which is awarded to select student-athletes pursuing graduate degrees who have performed with distinction in the classroom and their sport while demonstrating exemplary conduct in the community. In 2018, Carta founded Birdies for Babies, a charity aimed at fundraising for the neonatal and pediatric intensive care units at Duke Children’s Hospital. Since its conception, the charity has raised more than $35,000. Carta, who graduated with distinction after defending her honors thesis on the topic of sustainable agriculture and development of local communities, is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental policy at the University of Cambridge.

Kaitlin Hatch

School: West Chester
Major: Marketing
Sport: Field hockey

Former West Chester field hockey standout Kaitlin Hatch earned two National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-America honors. For all four years of her college eligibility, she was named to the NFHCA Division II National Academic Squad. Hatch earned three first team all-conference honors, twice for the Eastern College Athletic Conference and once for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. She was also the 2018 PSAC Field Hockey Championship Most Valuable Player. In 2019, Hatch was named the Division II Honda Athlete of the Year finalist for field hockey and received the West Chester 1871 Award, which recognizes juniors and seniors who are high achieving in academics, leadership, community engagement and career readiness. Hatch spent four years as a member of her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, serving as president her senior year. With her leadership, SAAC organized fundraisers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, raising $35,000 during her tenure and revealing wishes to three local children. Hatch also volunteered as a youth field hockey coach, where she worked with U12, U14 and U16 teams and helped the U12 team win the national indoor championship. Hatch was also a founding member of the Women in Business student club at West Chester, which mentored young women and provided insight about college and career-related topics.

Kirby Hora

School: Augustana (South Dakota)
Major: Biology
Sport: Football

Former Augustana football team captain Kirby Hora was the 2018 Google Cloud Academic All-America Football Player of the Year for Division II and also earned Academic All-America honors in 2016 and 2017. A four-time all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference selection and 2018 Preseason All-American, Hora is tied for first in school history in forced fumbles and ranks second in school history in career tackles, with 410. He led the NSIC in 2017 with 129 total tackles, including 59 solo and 70 assists. Hora, who presented research at an experimental biology conference in San Diego, earned three NSIC All-Academic team honors. He has been recognized multiple times for academic achievement, including receiving an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and Augustana’s Dr. Jeffrey Behrens Sports Medicine scholarship, presented to Augustana sports medicine students who demonstrate excellence in academic integrity, work ethic, acceptance of responsibility, willingness to help others and their commitment to athletic training. Hora also received the 2019 Dr. William Britton Scholar-Athlete Award for academic excellence, the highest academic honor in the NSIC. He was an active member of his campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, including serving as president. Hora volunteered for several years with Habitat for Humanity, Necessities for Neighbors and Kids Against Hunger. He is now attending the University of South Dakota medical school.

Cassandra Laios

School: Case Western Reserve
Major: Electrical engineering: circuits and biomedical applications
Sport: Women’s indoor and outdoor track and field

Cassandra Laios, a former thrower for the Case Western Reserve track and field team, was the 2019 individual Division III national champion in the hammer throw and a three-time U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American. She won 10 University Athletic Association conference championships throughout her collegiate career and four honors as the conference’s Most Outstanding Performer in field events. In 2019, Laios was named the Field Athlete of the Year for the Great Lakes Region. She also earned 2019 Google Cloud Academic All-America honors, three USTFCCCA All-Academic honors and eight UAA All-Academic honors over her four years of eligibility. Laios was inducted into multiple honor societies in college, including twice into the Case Western Reserve Van Horn Society (student-athletes at the university who have recorded a cumulative grade-point average of 3.8 or higher); Tau Beta Pi (engineering); Alpha Eta Mu Beta (biomedical engineering); and IEEE Eta Kappa Nu (electrical engineering). Laios served two years on her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, volunteered with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and was a student ambassador in the office of student activities and leadership. Laios also traveled in 2016 to Botswana, where she helped install solar panels for local communities.

Hannah Orbach-Mandel

School: Kenyon
Major: Economics
Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Former Kenyon swimming captain Hannah Orbach-Mandel is a 25-time College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America All-American who won three individual NCAA national championships: the 400-yard freestyle relay (2019), 800-yard freestyle relay (2019) and the 400-yard medley relay (2018). An eight-time individual North Coast Athletic Conference champion, Orbach-Mandel also set four school records and holds three conference records. She is a two-time recipient of the school’s Shawn M. Kelly Memorial Award, which is presented to the swimmer who elevated Kenyon swimming to its highest team level with the most inspirational relay contributions. Orbach-Mandel is a four-time CSCAA Scholar All-American and earned two Google Cloud Academic All-America At-Large honors (third team in 2018, first team in 2019). She was also a 2019 recipient of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. In addition to serving all four years as a member of her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Orbach-Mandel volunteered at a local elementary school, where she tutored third graders struggling with math, English and reading. In 2019, she received the school’s Overcoming Adversity Award, presented annually to the swimmer or diver who most successfully overcame significant adversity.

Kristin Quah

School: Vanderbilt

Major: Biomedical and electrical engineering

Sport: Bowling

Former Vanderbilt bowler Kristin Quah helped lead the Commodores to a team national championship victory in 2018 and a national runner-up finish in 2019. A celebrated spare shooter, Quah also led Vanderbilt to the Southland Conference title in 2017. The 2016 National Tenpin Coaches Association Rookie of the Year went on to earn three NTCA All-America honors. Quah also has competed internationally as a member of the Singapore bowling team. She is a two-time recipient of the NCAA Elite 90 Award, presented to the student-athlete competing at a championship site with the highest grade-point average. She also received a 2019 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and the Southeastern Conference H. Boyd McWhorter Award, presented to the SEC’s top male and female scholar-athletes. Quah was a Vanderbilt Undergraduate Littlejohn Summer Research Scholar, where she studied MRI temperature imaging for noninvasive surgery, and she presented her findings at an international MRI conference in spring 2019. She was also a member of the SyBBURE Searle Undergraduate Research Program, which funds students who hope to explore aspects of science, technology, engineering and math through independent research and group projects. Quah served on the Vanderbilt Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and mentored freshman engineering students.

Anton Stephenson

School: Nebraska
Major: Health sciences
Sport: Men’s gymnastics

Anton Stephenson, a former gymnast at Nebraska, is a four-time College Gymnastics Association All-American. The 2018 USA Gymnastics vault champion and NCAA runner-up in vault won four individual Big Ten Conference championships and was selected to the all-conference team three times throughout his college career. In 2019, Stephenson was named the Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Year and received the Big Ten Medal of Honor, awarded to one male and one female student from the graduating class of each member school who demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career. Stephenson was a 2019 Google Cloud Academic All-American, four-time CGA All-America Scholar-Athlete and three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. Stephenson received the Nebraska Outstanding Scholar Award in 2019, and he also has been named a recipient of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, a Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship and the Wayne Duke Postgraduate Award, presented to one male and one female Big Ten senior for exceptional achievement in academics, athletics and civic service. Stephenson, who served all four years on his campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, received the school’s inaugural Student Luminary Award, presented to exceptional students who make a difference through leadership and a commitment to improving the campus or community. He also received the Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award, presented to 27 student-athletes across all sports who exhibit strong leadership qualities, commitment to service, and the ability to encourage and empower their peers.

Ginny Thrasher

School: West Virginia
Major: Biomedical engineering
Sport: Rifle

Former West Virginia rifle student-athlete Ginny Thrasher is a four-time Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association All-American. She won individual national championships in both smallbore and air rifle in 2016, and she led West Virginia to two team national championships, two national second-place finishes and four Great American Rifle Conference championships. She also earned five individual conference titles. The first gold medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Thrasher has competed internationally several times representing the United States. She was the 2016 USA Shooting Athlete of the Year and a 2016 AAU James E. Sullivan Award finalist, as one of the top amateur athletes in any sport. Thrasher remains a member of the U.S. national shooting team and hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games. Thrasher was the only engineering student selected to the West Virginia Order of the Augusta, which recognizes the university’s top eight graduating seniors. She is a 2019 recipient of the Big 12 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award and earned four CRCA All-Academic Team honors and three Academic All-Big 12 At-Large honors. Thrasher was an active member of the campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and has spoken at 80 events nationally as a representative of shooting sports. In 2018, she was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist.