PHOENIX, Arizona, June 6. FOUR swimmers were named Academic All-Americans of the Year in their various collegiate divisions this week in the annual release of the Capital One Academic All-American At-Large list, honoring the smartest student-athletes in the three NCAA divisions and one catch-all divisions for remaining postsecondary schools.
Elizabeth Beisel is the most notable of the four swimmers who received the All-American of the Year honors, earning the distinction as the top female student-athlete in the Division I ranks. Besides being one of the fastest in the world — with two Olympic medals and a 2013 NCAA championship to her credit — she's also an ace in the classroom. She holds a 3.63 grade point average as a telecommunications major at the University of Florida.
Swimmers swept the Division II category, with Incarnate Word's Mark Rubin and Ashland's Julie Widmann taking All-American of the Year honors. In addition to earning a 3.98 GPA in biology, Rubin celebrated his first NCAA championship in March, winning the 1000-yard freestyle. Widmann previously won the 100 backstroke at the NCAAs, and this year helped her team win the 200 free relay. In addition, she is a marketing major with a 3.90 GPA.
Curtis Ramsey, who just completed his NCAA eligibility for Kenyon College with five NCAA relay titles, was named the Division III All-American of the Year. He's been on the Academic All-America list for three years, with high grade point averages each year. He wrapped up this school year with a 3.84 GPA in economics.
“I have had many great professors and teammates that have supported me all the way, and I couldn't have done it without them,” said Ramsey, who is set to start training as a bank examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. “I'm always striving for my best, but I think the culture at Kenyon always helps students be their best.”
Now in its 61st year, the Academic All-America announcements bring a certain level of prestige to a university — and a major topic of conversation as the college recruiting season officially begins. Student-athletes are nominated for consideration by their school's sports information department, and the list is published each year by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). To be eligible, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.30 GPA and be a sophomore. Additionally, the student-athlete must be a “varsity starter or key reserve,” according to CoSIDA, a term that applies to just about every college sport except swimming and diving.
Ninety-five aquatic sports athletes appear on the four lists. Three lists are comprised of student-athletes in each of the three NCAA Divisions. The fourth list consists of schools that are part of the NAIA, are located in Canada or are two-year institutions. The At-Large roster includes fencing, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rifle, skiing, swimming and diving, tennis, water polo and wrestling.
Beisel wasn't the only Olympian on the Academic All-American list in the Division I category. Andrew Gemmell and Connor Jaeger, both of whom represented the USA in the 1500 freestyle in London, earned second-team distinctions this year. Jaeger, a mechanical engineering major with a 3.36 GPA, also won the 500-yard and 1650-yard freestyles at the NCAA championships for the University of Michigan. Gemmell, an economics major carrying a 3.94 GPA at the University of Georgia, was recently picked for the open water world championship team. Shannon Vreeland, who swam on the winning 800 free relay in London, was a third-team pick on the women's side. Like her Georgia teammate Gemmell, she's an economics major and is also studying international affairs, earning a 3.84 GPA.
Also of note in the men's roster is NCAA champion Kevin Cordes, who coupled an amazing NCAA championships last March with a 3.50 GPA in pre-business to earn a place on the third-team list.
Five water polo players made the lists, most notably two from the NCAA championship teams at the University of Southern California: Matt Burton (second team, 3.69 GPA in communications) and Flora Bolonyai (first team, 3.39 GPA in economics).
Besides Rubin and Widmann, 24 other swimmers claimed Academic All-American honors at the Division II level. Of those, three won NCAA championships in 2013. Robbie Swan, who collected a perfect 4.00 GPA in business at Florida Southern, helped the school win the 200 medley relay at the March championships. Ivan Nechunaev of Grand Canyon University swam the butterfly leg on the winning 400 medley relay, and also earned a 3.98 GPA in finance and economics from the Phoenix school. And Kayla Scott's breaststroke was a key leg for Wayne State's winning 200 medley relay. Scott earned a 3.63 GPA in psychology.
Also on the list is Marko Blazevski, the 2012 NCAA Division II champion in the 400 IM and also a 2012 Olympian for Macedonia in that event. He earned his spot on the Academic All-America list with his 3.82 GPA in finance at Wingate University.
Ramsey wasn't the only standout student-athlete on the Division III roster. Of the 24 swimmers on the list, two of them earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages.
Sullivan Cohen graduated summa cum laude from Bridgewater State in Massachusetts with a degree in sociology, with a focus on global studies. As if that weren't enough, he minored in economics. Cohen was a conference qualifier in several events, including all three backstroke distances.
Breanna Stillo also graduated in May, with a perfect GPA in biomechanical and chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. Like Cohen, Stillo did not compete at the NCAA championships but was University Athletic Association champion in the 200 medley relay and set numerous school records.
Daniel Ramirez, the NAIA champion and record breaker in the 100 freestyle (43.42) and 100 backstroke (47.61), was named to the College All-American first team. It's the first honor for the sophomore from Oklahoma Baptist, who is majoring in business and carries a 3.84 grade point average.
Ramirez, a Mexico native, was joined by four other Oklahoma Baptist swimmers on the Academic All-America list. Nick Schuttinger, a three-time NAIA champion in the 100 fly, 50 free and 200 free in March, all in division record times, made the second-team list. Schuttinger is majoring in interdisciplinary studies and holds a 3.74 GPA. Andrew Nelson made the list as a second-team member and was part of Oklahoma Baptist's winning 800 free relay at the NAIA championships. In the classroom, he holds a 3.75 GPA in cross-cultural ministry. Making the third-team list in the College Division was Gilles Cantrelle, who earned a 3.36 GPA as a graphic design major.
On the women's side, Laura Galarza, a finance/marketing major with a 3.56 GPA, also represented Oklahoma Baptist in the national honors.
“We have some very good students who have a limitless career in their futures,” said Dr. Sam Freas, the head swim coach at Oklahoma Baptist. “They are very hard-working students. Our goal is to be the best small-college swim team in the history of swimming, and we want to develop kids who are limitless in their thinking and what they can do in the sport of swimming.”
“I never expected to be on that list,” Ramirez told Swimming World. “It's a great achievement because it's my second year at an American university, and to do so well is a great accomplishment for me.”
Freas added that Ramirez is one of the hardest-working student-athletes he's coached in his decorated career, noting that getting past the language barrier was one reason why he puts so much time into studying.