CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Former Simpson women's basketball player Kate Nielsen has been selected as a finalist for the 2012-13 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) Scholar Athlete of the Year award.
Nielsen is one of three finalists for the newly-christened Johanna Olson IIAC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, joining former Dubuque soccer, basketball and track & field athlete Ashley Barwick and former Luther softball player Shari Huber.
The field for the Olson Award was pared to three finalists by a subcommittee of three faculty athletic representatives and three sports information directors. Also nominated for the Olson Award were former Central College cross country and track & field athlete Melony McDermott, former Coe College volleyball player Emily Ryan and former Loras College basketball player Brittany Cato.
Each Iowa Conference institution may nominate one male and one female student-athlete for consideration. The Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year are selected from among the finalists by a vote of the IIAC Faculty Athletic Representatives.
Nielsen looks to become Simpson's second IIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the award's 13-year history. Former men's basketball player and 2013 Hall of Fame Inductee Jesse Harris is Simpson's only other winner, taking home the 2002-03 award.
This year's winners will be released Wednesday, January 15.
Nielsen was a two-time all-Iowa Conference selection who, in her senior season, was named the Iowa Conference MVP and a D3hoops.com and WBCA All-American. She was also one of three finalists for the State Farm/WBCA Division III Player of the Year Award and one of 11 finalists for the Jostens Trophy, emblematic of the Division III Player of the Year. Nielsen finished her career with 1,258 points and 642 rebounds, one of six in school history to amass 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. As a senior, she set Simpson single-season records for rebounds (256), 3-point field goal percentage (.507) and free throws made (176) and scored the second-most points (648 – the most since 1977). Nielson was just the second player in school history to score 1,000 points in less than four seasons.
Nielsen helped the Storm to Iowa Conference Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances in each of her three seasons after transferring from Minnesota State, Mankato. As a senior in 2012-13, Nielsen led the Storm to a school-record tying 27 wins and an appearance in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
An exercise science major, Nielsen was a 2013 CoSIDA/Capital One First Team Academic All-America®, a two-time member of the Iowa Conference All-Academic Team and a two-time first-team CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District honoree. In six full semesters at Simpson, she was named to the President's List (4.0 out of 4.0) four times and the Dean's List (3.7 out of 4.0) twice and received Simpson's Barborka Award as the top senior student-athlete.
A native of Urbandale, Iowa and graduate of Johnston High School, Nielsen is currently pursuing a doctor of physical therapy degree at Des Moines University.
About the IIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Awards
The IIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Awards were first presented in December 2001 for the 2000-01 academic year. To be eligible for nomination, a student-athlete shall have graduated or exhausted their athletic eligibility during the academic year for which the award is given. The nominee must have demonstrated a high level of accomplishment and achievement in a varsity sport, have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale), and show evidence of scholarly achievements, community service involvement and leadership. Both awards were named for former Wartburg and Iowa Conference sports information director Duane Schroeder in May 2002. The women's award was renamed in December 2013 for former Luther College student-athlete Johanna Olson – the inaugural winner of the women's award – who lost a courageous battle with cancer earlier in the year.
About Duane Schroeder
The IIAC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award is named in honor of the late Duane Schroeder, former sports information director at Wartburg College. Schroeder served as Wartburg's SID for 43 years until his retirement in 2000. Upon his retirement from his sports information duties, he was named SID Emeritus and served as Wartburg's News Director until 2001. During much of his four decades at Wartburg, Schroeder served as the IIAC's information director and secretary/treasurer.
About Johanna Olson
The IIAC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award is named in honor of the late Johanna Olson, a former cross country and track & field student-athlete at Luther College who was the inaugural recipient of the award. Olson battled brain cancer for over 15 years before her fight ended on January 3, 2013 at age 33. She was originally diagnosed with a brain tumor as a college freshman in 1997 but went on to win the 2000 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship three years to the day after her initial brain surgery. In addition to the national title in cross country, she won three Iowa Conference Individual Championships and three IIAC Most Valuable Runner awards (1999, 2000, 2001). In track and field, she was the 2001 IIAC Most Valuable Performer, earning All-America honors in the 3,000 and 5,000 meter runs. Olson was also a member of the 2001 distance medley relay team that captured the indoor national title. She was named the United States Track Coaches Association (USTCA) regional and national Athlete of the Year in both cross country and track and field in 2000-01. In 1999, Olson was presented the Honda Awards Inspirational Athlete of the Year after returning from radiation treatments to compete at the national level.