GPAC Announces NAIA National Award Nominees

July 21, 2022 6:20pm

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(Sioux City, Iowa) – The Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) has announced those chosen as the 2022 nominees for the top honors in the NAIA, including the A.O. Duer Award, the Emil S. Liston Award, Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award and the NAIA Coach of Character Award.

"Once again the GPAC group of nominees is outstanding this year," said GPAC Commissioner Corey Westra. " Naming these nominees is one of most exciting things we do as a conference each year and I am confident that our student-athletes stack up among the best at the national level."

A.O. Duer Award

The A.O. Duer Scholarship Award is named in honor of the NAIA's former executive secretary who served the association for 26 years. This award has been annually presented since 1967 to a male and female student-athlete completing their junior season in any sport who has excelled in scholarship, character, and citizenship.

Female Nominee: Rachel Battershell, Concordia University

The female nominee for the A.O. Duer Award is Rachel Battershell, a member of the Concordia University Track and Field Team. She is two-time NAIA National Champion, ten-time NAIA All-American and has eight career GPAC Conference event titles (five individual, three relay). She holds six school records between indoor and outdoor track at Concordia.

Battershell, from Wheatland, Wyoming, is triple-majoring in Biology, Chemistry and Exercise Science with a 3.99 GPA.

“Rachel is one of the most remarkable humans that I have ever known,” said Concordia Track and Field Coach Matt Beisel. “She possesses a high intelligence, a keen sense of wit, a ravenously curious and inquisitive mind, a tremendous work ethic in both the classroom and the athletic arena, a heart for others and an aptitude for service.”

Male Nominee: Luke Jenness, Northwestern College

The male nominee for the A.O. Duer Award from the GPAC is Luke Jenness from Northwestern College, a member of the Raiders Wrestling Team. He is a three-time national qualifier and has been named first team all-conference three times as well.

Jenness, from Primghar, Iowa, holds a grade point average of 3.92 while working towards a double-major in Exercise Science and Biology.

“Luke is obviously a gifted athlete, as he has demonstrated every season with the wrestling team,” said Northwestern Dean of Natural and Applied Science Dean Calsbeek. “What I have found to be unique however, is how quickly he reflects any success to others: his coaches, his sparring partner, his teammates and God. In my opinion his character is what sets him apart. It is impeccable.”

“Luke’s great leadership attribute is his servant’s heart,” said Raiders Wrestling Coach Rick Dahl. “He is not a vocal, in your face leader. He leads by example and with a genuine care for those on his own team.”

NAIA Emil S. Liston Award

The Liston Award is named in honor of the NAIA's first executive secretary and the prime mover behind the NAIA Men's Basketball National Tournament. The award has been presented annually since 1950 to one junior men's and one junior women's basketball student-athlete who has shown high athletic and scholastic achievement.

Female Nominee: Karly Gustafson, Dordt University

Karly Gustafson, a women's basketball player from Dordt University, is the GPAC female nominee for the NAIA Emil S. Liston Award. She is a three-time all-conference award winner and was given the 2022 NAIA National Tournament Hustle Award.

Gustafson, from Ethan, South Dakota, holds a GPA of 3.7 while majoring in Social Work at Dordt.

“Not only is Karly an incredibly gifted athlete, but she also ranks among the highest performers in the classroom setting as she pursues a career in social work,” said Dr. Tara Boer, Instructor of Social Work at Dordt. “She has demonstrated reliability, empathy and cultural competence as she works towards helping others reach their fullest potential.”

Dordt Women’s Basketball Coach Bill Harmsen said, “Karly is simply one of the most driven individuals I have been around. She has certainly felt the highs and lows of being part of a team. Her competitive fire is balanced with a sincere desire to lead her teammates with compassion.”

Male Nominee: Mason Walters, University of Jamestown

Mason Walters, a men's basketball player from the University of Jamestown, is the GPAC male nominee for the NAIA Emil S. Liston Award. Walters has been named a first-team NAIA All-American and GPAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year twice.

Walters, from Jamestown, North Dakota, holds a GPA of 3.6 with a major in Business Administration.

“He is dedicated to succeeding in any endeavor that he undertakes,” said Jamestown Men’s Basketball Coach Danny Neville. “Mason will go down as one of the hardest workers and best player I have ever coached.”

“This past spring, Mason received the Student Leader of the Year Award at the University of Jamestown Honors Convocation,” said University of Jamestown PresidentDr. Polly Peterson. “This award, presented by the Office of Student Affairs, recognizes one outstanding student leader who has demonstrated a pattern of success in all aspects of his or her college experience. I have had the privilege of observing his exemplary character, leadership, and citizenship, both here at the University and in the community of Jamestown.”

Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award

Nominee: Ashtyn Veerbeek, Dordt University

Ashtyn, of Dordt University, a native of Sioux Center, Iowa, is the GPAC nominee for the Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award. This award is presented annually to an NAIA Student-Athlete who embodies the NAIA Champions of Character initiative and the five core values of respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership, and sportsmanship.

Veerbeek graduated in May of 2022 with a Business Management major and a 3.893 GPA. She was a member of the Dordt Women’s Basketball program. She was named the GPAC Player of the Year in 2022, and was a two-time all-conference performer. She was a two-time NAIA All-American and helped lead her team to a 29-9 record and a National Tournament Runner-up finish.

“Ashtyn sets herself apart from the rest of the field in her humble, unselfish, loving nature and possesses one of the most Christ-serving souls I have ever encountered,” said Dordt Women’s Basketball Coach Bill Harmsen. “She is self-sacrificing of her time and resources. She is the first to lend a hand, give a word of encouragement or a hug to a teammate.”

“As an athlete I helped build a vision for our team, our desires and goals for the season and held teammates accountable and encouraged them to a high standard of excellence on and off the court,” said Veerbeek. “I always aimed to put the team first which empowered the team to perform at the highest level and on the biggest stage. I strived to listen, have empathy, awareness, and foresight into the team and its pulse.”

NAIA Coach of Character Award

Nominee: Kris Korver, Northwestern College

Kris Korver from Northwestern College is the GPAC nominee for the NAIA Coach of Character Award. This award recognizes a head coach who is dedicated to deliberately teaching character through sport.

Korver is the head men’s basketball coach at Northwestern.

“Five years ago, Coach Korver felt the burden to invest into the lives of the young men on campus, regardless of their sport,” said Northwestern Wrestling Coach Rick Dahl. “That vision has birthed a unique opportunity and caring environment for young men to be encouraged to dive into God’s Word and to live into each young man’s best version of themselves.”

“A better tomorrow is never guaranteed, but perfecting habits today gives us a better chance to create the beautiful tomorrow,” said Korver. “In our program, we aim to live out our mantra which is “live with the end in Sight”, and we believe habits matter much more than we think, especially in basketball marriage, family life and future adventures.”

“We hope to use basketball as a tool to help build up the next generation of the “stay in the ring no matter what” character filled Christian husbands, fathers and servant leaders,” added Korver.

The national winners will be named during the NAIA National Awards Day in September. The NAIA winners will be recognized as part of the NAIA National Awards Luncheon at the NAIA National Convention next Spring in New Orleans, Louisiana (March 30-April 3, 2022).