When it comes to athletic competition, former University of North Dakota student athlete
Casie Hanson personifies the old saying, “There is no â€˜Iâ€™ in team.”
Hanson, a former two-sport standout and St. Peter, Minn., native, was among the eight college athletes in San Antonio last week to receive one of the highest honors the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) bestows upon student athletes, the Todayâ€™s Top VIII Award.
Also at the 2011 NCAA Honors Celebration to receive NCAA awards were former pro football and pro baseball star Bo Jackson and U.S. Army four-star general Ann Dunwoody. ESPN2 will broadcast highlights of the award ceremony on Monday, Feb. 15, at 1 p.m. Central.
UND President Robert Kelley presented Hanson with the award, which recognizes outstanding athletic, academic, community service, and leadership accomplishments. Past recipients include NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees, John Elway, Doug Flutie, Payton Manning, Eli Manning, Steve Young and Tim Tebow.
â€œIt was very special,â€ Hanson related. â€œThey make you feel like youâ€™re one of the best.â€
So was this honor the top highlight of her athletic career?
â€œItâ€™s the most prestigious, but what Iâ€™ll always treasure the most is the one I won with my teammates last year, the Great West Conference championship in softball. This is probably second to that.â€
Hanson thanks UND, its coaches and the athletic department for their role in helping her earn the honor, but she places special emphasis on the athletes with whom she competed.
â€œWithout a team, I couldnâ€™t play,â€ she explained.
Hanson played softball at UND from 2006-2010 and was named GWC Player of the Year and the GWC Tournament Most Valuable Player. She received her degree in community nutrition and also earned her third ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America honor and was named the GWC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
She graduated as the program’s all-time leader in batting average (.452), hits (278), home runs (32) and runs scored (183). Hanson also played hockey for North Dakota from 2005-2009 where she also excelled on the ice.
Asked what it takes to be a successful student and athlete at UND, Hanson replied, â€œThereâ€™s no secret. Time management is the key to being a successful student athlete in both the athletics and academics.
â€œIt takes dedication and motivation if you want to succeed and get something out of your degree,â€ she continued.â€You might not be able to make it to all the parties and your social life might suffer a bit, but itâ€™s all about being able to prioritize.â€
Hanson, who is now a graduate assistant coach with the Bemidji State University women’s hockey team, watched UND defeat her new team twice at Ralph Engelstad Arena last weekend. Her ties to the University didnâ€™t factor in to how she viewed the game.
â€œIt was a little difficult to watch,â€ she admits.â€But Iâ€™m a competitor, so right now my loyalty and dedication is to BSU. I wanted to win.â€
Recipients of the Top VIII Award are selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, made up of eight athletics administrators at member institutions, in addition to nationally distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes.