ELMHURST, Ill. Eleven Summit League cross country and track & field athletes have been named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District Teams. Of those, eight were first-team selections and now advance to the national ballot.
Those selected are IPFW's Hunter Paris and Valerie Hardesty, UMKC's Sara Hiller, North Dakota State's Greg Liebl, Scott Nei, Amanda Benz, Laura Hermanson and Cody Halsey, South Dakota State's Caitlin Berry and Stacy Huss, and Western Illinois' Walt Willis. Paris, Hiller, Liebl, Nei, Benz, Hermanson, Berry and Willis were selected to the first team, while Hardesty, Halsey and Huss were second-team picks.
Paris, a senior with a double major in biology and education, carries a 3.93 cumulative grade-point average. A Fort Wayne native, he was named to the Summit League Cross Country All-Academic Team in 2007 and was a second team all-league honoree. He earned league Runner of the Week honors following a 10th-place finish at the Pepperdine Invitational, where he broke his own 8,000-meter school record. He was the top IPFW finisher in all seven races last season, and was the top individual finisher at Western Michigan on October 12.
Hardesty, a senior Auburn, Ind., native, has a 3.92 cumulative GPA as a communications major. She helped IPFW to a share of the 2007 Summit League Cross Country title and finished her career with the fourth-fastest cross country times on a 6,000-meter course and the eighth-fastest time on a 5,000-meter course. In track, she placed seventh at The Summit League Championships in the 1,500-meter run.
Hiller, a Springfield, Mo., native, boasts a 4.0 GPA as a pharmacy major. The senior is a three-time all-league selection in cross country and was the conference champion outdoors in the 10,000-meter run in 2007. She was the recipient of the 2008 UMKC Stan Durwood Award, presented annually to the male and female student-athletes with the highest GPAs with a minimum of 100 hours passed.
Liebl, a senior from Montevideo, Minn., has a 4.00 GPA in business administration. He won the league's indoor title in the 5,000-meter run and was the outdoor runner-up in both the 5,000 and 10,000 runs as North Dakota State won both team titles. He also placed second at The Summit League cross country championship meet in October.
Nei, a sophomore from Maple Grove, Minn., has a 4.00 GPA in zoology. He set personal records and won the league's outdoor titles in the long jump (23-2 1/2) and triple jump (47-11), and was a placewinner in both events at the indoor meet. He led The Summit League in the long jump indoors and outdoors, and the triple jump outdoors.
Benz is a junior from Mounds View, Minn., with a 4.00 GPA in psychology. She was a two-time placewinner at The Summit League outdoor championships, where she finished third in the shot put and fifth in the discus.
Halsey is a senior from Martinsdale, Mont., with a 3.58 GPA in zoology and art. She won four Summit League outdoor championships in the 800-meter run, 1500-meter run, 3000-meter steeplechase and the 1600-meter relay, and her time in the steeplechase (10:44.94) was a meet record.
Hermanson is a junior from Burnsville, Minn., with a 3.93 GPA in business administration. She won four Summit League indoor titles in the 800-meter run, 1-mile run, 1600-meter relay, and distance medley relay. At the outdoor meet, she anchored NDSU's winning 1600-meter relay and was a three-time placewinner. Hermanson was a six-time Summit League Athlete of the Week, the league's April Athlete of the Month, and last year was selected to the National All-Academic Team by the U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association. She is president of NDSU's Student-Athlete Advisory Council.
Berry, a junior from Watertown, S.D., has a 4.0 GPA in biology/pre-dental. In cross country, she earned first-team All-Summit League honors with a fifth-place finish at the league meet. In track competition, she finished third in the 3,000 meters, fourth in the mile run and fifth in the 5,000-meter run during the indoor season, while placing fifth in the 10K and seventh in the 5K at The Summit League Outdoor Championships.
Huss has a 3.96 GPA as a sociology/pre-law major. A Fort Pierre, S.D., native, she holds a pair of individual school records on the track and has also lettered in cross country. The SDSU record-holder in the 400-meter hurdles (1:01.69) outdoors, she finished as runner-up in the event at The Summit League Championships. She was also a member of the Jackrabbits' 4x400-meter relay team that placed second. In indoor competition, Huss set a school record in the 600-meter run (1:35.98) during the 2008 season. She also is a member of SDSU's school-record distance medley relay team.
Willis is a senior law enforcement and justice administration major with a 3.97 GPA. A native of Loda, Ill., he took third in the hammer throw at the 2008 Summit League championships with a toss of 177-07 (54.13m), while also placing eighth in the shot put with a mark of 45-05.75 (13.86m).
To be eligible for Academic All-America honors, student-athletes must have a 3.20 or better cumulative GPA on a 4.0-point scale, have sophomore athletic standing and be a starter or key reserve.