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Big West Announces 2016 Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year

3/2/2017

2016 Big West Schlar-Athletes of the Year

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The 2016 Big West Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year from the nine conference institutions will be honored at a special banquet on Thursday, March 9 at the Wyndham hotel in Garden Grove, Calif.  Each institution selected its own honorees.

Here is the list of each school's top Male and Female Scholar-Athlete. The complete Commissioner's Honor Roll list for each institution was also announced, and can be viewed by clicking on the above PDF link.

2016 BIG WEST MALE SCHOLAR-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

Jesse 
Yap,
 Cal 
Poly 
(Singapore) 
A redshirt junior, Jesse earned second team All Big West Conference honors as a sophomore for the Cal Poly men’s golf program.  His career scoring average is currently fourth all-time in the Cal Poly record books and he has three career top-10 finishes.  He and his teammate Jordan Wright have qualified for the 2017 US Amateur Four-Ball Championship to be held later this Spring.  An industrial engineering student, Jesse has a near perfect GPA.  The Singapore native enrolled at Cal Poly after completing his compulsory military service in the Singapore Armed Forces.  He plans to pursue a professional golf career. 

Nicolo 
D’Amato,
 Cal
 State 
Fullerton
 (Lake 
Forest,
 Calif.)

A midfielder for the men’s soccer program, Nico just completed his third successful season with the Titans.  He has helped lead Cal State Fullerton to two Big West Conference championships and two NCAA tournament appearances.  He has earned All Big West Conference Honorable Mention honors and finished the most recent season third on the team in goals scored and second in assists.  A Dean’s List honoree, Nico has also earned All Big West Academic Team honors.  He is a volunteer coach for the Fullerton Rangers Youth Soccer Club and is a volunteer in the Titans Tales reading program.  A Kinesiology major, Nico plans to become a Physician’s Assistant. 

Andre
 McBride,
 CSUN
 (Oakland,
 Calif.)

A junior sprinter for the Matadors, Andre captured the 2016 Big West Conference championship in the 200m and finished third in the 100 m.  He advanced to the NCAA West Regional Championships were he captured a top-30 finish in the 100m.  He has served in a leadership role with the NAACP and volunteers as a reading and a writing buddy for elementary school students.  He is a member of the CSUN Scholar Athlete Honor Society and has taken two separate mission trips to Mexicali.  A Business Management major, Andre is a first generation college student.  He plans to serve as a youth or high school track coach one day.  He hopes to attend either law school or to pursue a MBA.  He currently serves as a Development intern in the athletics department and he hopes his career will keep him involved in athletics. 

Robert 
Marlow, 
Long 
Beach
 State 
(Ventura,
 Calif.)

A senior member of the Long Beach State indoor and outdoor track and field team, Robert is a key member of the throws team.  The captain of the team, Robert has earned All Big West Conference honors and last year earned All America Honorable Mention accolades in the hammer after qualifying for the NCAA Championship and placing 24th overall.  He currently is ranked third all-time in Long Beach State history in outdoor hammer throw and sixth all-time in indoor.  Robert has spent many hours volunteering both in Long Beach and in his hometown of Ventura, including serving as a high school tutor/mentor, volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club, and with the River Haven Homeless Shelter, the Compost Community Service Project, Coats for Kids and as an instructor for Best Day Ever, a program that assists individuals with disabilities participate in beach activities such as swimming, kayaking and surfing.  Robert graduated last Spring with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy and is now pursuing his Masters in Political Science Law, Politics and Policy. 

Matthew
 Bender,
 UC
 Davis
 (Shafter,
 Calif.)

A thrower for the Aggies track & field team, Matt completed his successful career last Spring.  He competed in four Big West Conference championships and is currently ranked fourth all time in school history in the discus and eighth all time in the hammer.  He works as a ski instructor for kids and as a ski coach for young skiers who are training to compete in ski racing.  He is involved in a leadership position with Athletes in Action and volunteers with Recycle to Reach, a program that collects recyclables to buy lunches and reusable water bottles for the Davis homeless population.  He is currently completing his third internship with the US Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center.  His work with the Center includes analyzing sediment transport in rivers, creating predictive models of icejams and updating mathematical models of dikes and sills to identify endangered animal habitats.  A fifth generation California farmer, Matt is currently interviewing with agricultural engineering firms.  Eventually, he may take over his family’s almond farm.  He will graduate in March 2017 with his degree in Industrial Engineering. 

Sebastian
 Heim,
 UC
 Irvine 
(Speyer,
 Germany)

A junior tennis player for the Anteaters, Sebastian was the first player in Big West Conference history to earn freshman of the year and player of the year in the same campaign.  His sophomore season, he was named first team All Conference despite missing 10 matches due to injury.  He has already earned Big West Athlete of the Week two times this season, a distinction he has earned five times in his career.  He has earned Dean’s List honors multiple times and has been named Academic All Conference.  He also represents the men’s tennis team on the UCI Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.  Sebastian is a double major, studying both Economics and International Studies.  He plans to attend graduate school and to work in the financial sector and possibly in real estate. 

Michael
 Wong,
 UC 
Riverside
 (Hong
 Kong)

A sophomore member of the men’s golf team, Michael helped lead the Highlanders to the 2016 Big West Conference Championship and a berth in the NCAA Regionals.  A native of Hong Kong, Michael is a member of the Hong Kong National Golf Team and a former member of the National Soccer Team.  He won the Hong Kong Amateur Open in 2014 and also qualified for and played in a professional European Tour event while in high school.  He has volunteered with Riverside Veterans and with Feeding America.  He also served as a co-chair for a charity golf tournament in Hong Kong that raises money for underprivileged youth.  An Economics major, Michael has earned Chancellor’s List Honors and is a member of the UCR Honors Program.  He has initiated a Capstone Research Project in macroeconomic policy.  He plans to pursue his dream of being a professional golfer and to ultimately enter the business world. 

Morgan
 Mays,
 UC
 Santa
 Barbara
 (Malibu,
 Calif.)

A senior standout for the Gauchos tennis program, Morgan earned first team All Big West Conference honors in singles and second team in doubles in 2016.  His senior campaign got off to a strong start when he and his doubles partner won the ITA Southwest Regional Championship.  They advanced to the ITA/USTA Indoor National Championship held at the Billie Jean King Center in New York.  They won their opening match before upsetting the #1 ranked doubles team in the Nation in the round of 16.  They eventually lost in the quarterfinals.   Morgan is the winner of the Golden Eagle Award, presented annually to a UCSB student-athlete with the highest GPA who also exhibits integrity and citizenship.  He is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and has volunteered with Special Olympics, Bryan Bros Foundation and Operation Kindness.  A Film and Media Studies major, Morgan plans to pursue a professional tennis career and to eventually have a career in sports media.



Felix 
Albert, 
Hawai‘i 
(Karlstadt, 
Germany)



A junior member of the Rainbow Warriors men’s tennis program, Felix has earned honorable mention All Big West Conference honors in singles and second team All Big West Conference honors in doubles.  With a 4.0 GPA, Felix has earned Dean’s List honors each term he’s been enrolled at Hawai’i and is the recipient of not only the distinction as the men’s tennis team’s top scholar-athlete, but also earned the Jenny Matsuda award as the top male scholar athlete.  He is also a Top 5 UH Scholar-Athlete, and is currently ranked #1.  He is a member of the UH Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.  A Business Administration Finance major, Felix also earned membership in the German Physics Association as a high school student.

2016 BIG WEST FEMALE SCHOLAR-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

Molly
 Haar,
 Cal
 Poly 
(San
 Jose,
 Calif.)
 A senior distance runner for the Mustangs, Molly has helped lead the Mustangs to successful finishes in both cross country and track and field.  She captured the Big West Conference championship in the 5000m in 2015 and was a key member of back-to-back cross country championship squads.  She has also earned All Conference distinction in the 10,000 meters.  She has earned Highest Honors designation on the Commissioner’s Honor Roll and has been named an Academic All American by the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.  A Business major with a concentration in finance, Molly has interned with Adobe Systems as a Financial Analyst.  She plans to work in Real Estate Investments.  She is currently studying to take her California Real Estate Exam while also studying to become a certified personal trainer. 

Martina 
Edberg,
 Cal
 State
 Fullerton 
(Glumslov,
 Sweden)

A senior member of the women’s golf team, Martina is finishing up the most decorated career in Titans history.  She currently has seven career victories and she is the only Cal State Fullerton women’s golfer to ever participate in the NCAA Regionals, a feat she has accomplished twice.  She has earned All Big West Conference first team honors and has been named Big West Conference golfer of the month three times.  Martina has been a member of the Swedish National Team since 2013 and was a member of the team that finished first in the European Team Championship.  She works with youth golfers in her native Sweeden and has been involved in fundraiser for the Rhyov Hospital Children’s Cancer Center.  A Business Administration Finance major, Martina will graduate this Spring with honors Cum Laude.  She plans to pursue a professional golf career before owning a golf company. 

Nicole 
Thompson,
 CSUN 
(Granada
 Hills, 
Calif.)

Nicole completed her soccer career with the Matadors in Fall 2016 by leading the team to the Big West Conference Championship.  She was named the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year and earned All West Region first team honors.  She was also named second team Academic All American.  Nicole has already graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and she is currently working towards her Masters in Structural Engineering.  She is ranked #1 in graduate class.  She has competed in American Society of Civil Engineering regional competitions and has interned with Nabih Youssef Associate Structural Engineers.  She is currently employed by M6 Consulting Incorporated, a Civil Engineering Company.  Her ultimate goal is to work for a structural engineering company designing bridges and other global infrastructure. 

Fatima
 Vergara,
 Long
 Beach 
State
 (Corona,
 Calif.)

Fatima finished her career at Long Beach State last Spring, serving as team captain for the 49ers’ track and field squad.  A two-time Big West Conference champion in the hammer throw, Fatima participated in the NCAA West Regional twice and qualified for the NCAA Championship in 2016.  She owns the Long Beach State record in both the outdoor and the indoor hammer throw.  She also holds top 10 all-time marks in shot put and discus.  She was named Long Beach State’s NCAA Woman of the Year nominee.  She has interned with the YMCA and worked with their Diabetes Prevention Program.  She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education and is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Gerontology. 


Danielle 
Nafekh,
 UC
 Davis 
(Oakville, 
Ontario,
 Canada)


A junior point guard for the Aggies women’s basketball team, Dani is currently leading UC Davis to one of its strongest seasons ever in Division I history.  She earned Big West Conference All Freshman team honors in 2015 and is making her mark on the UC Davis records books in single season assists, career assists and three point accuracy.  She is ranked in the top 3% in her class in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and owns the top overall cumulative GPA for all UC Davis female student-athletes.  Dani volunteers at local elementary schools assisting in math lessons and physical education courses.  She has also volunteered with Special Olympics and with a local youth club organization to teach basketball skills.  A Managerial Economics major, Dani hopes to play professionally in Europe once her career at UC Davis comes to close.  She is considering a career in accounting or attending law school to specialize in sports law to one day become an agent. 

Arden 
Davis,
 UC 
Irvine
 (Glendora,
 Calif.)


A senior libero, Arden closed out her UCI career this last Fall as the captain of the women’s volleyball team.  She earned All Big West Conference Honorable Mention honors and was named Big West Conference defensive player of the week.  She completed her career ranked sixth all time in career digs, and owns the seventh best single season digs mark as well.  She is a member of the National Honors Society, having posted a perfect 4.0 GPA in six of her terms at UCI.  She is the Nitori USA Scholarship recipient and has served as a student speaker for the UCI Campus Climate Council Initiative.  She is a member of Delta Gamma and served as the Director of Financial Obligations while also being named the Greek Outstanding Sophomore of the Year.  She has volunteered her time with the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, the Blind Children’s Learning Center and with the Feed the Homeless project at Mariners Church.  She has served as a UCI Campus Brand Ambassador, a Talent Acquisition Associate and as a Corporate Finance Associate with the Irvine Company.  A Business Administration major, Arden plans to continue her role with the Irvine Company while applying to IBM’s Full Time Summit Program for Client Relationship Representative Positions.  She hopes to earn her MBA from either Harvard or UCLA. 

Haley 
Wian,
 UC 
Riverside
 (Huntington 
Beach,
 Calif.)

A senior member of the Highlanders women’s golf team, Haley is a three-time Big West Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year honoree.  Haley was a 2016 All Big West Conference Honorable Mention honoree and helped lead UCR to their first ever Big West Conference women’s golf championship crown.   She was recognized at the 2015 UCR Honors Convocation with the presentation of a Dean’s Academic Distinction pin and has also been awarded the UCR Harper Scholarship for academic excellence.  She has volunteered with the Special Olympics, the United Way and Operation Safe House.  She serves a tutor for UCR in math, economics, business, writing and Spanish.  As a high school student, she traveled through Europe visiting London and Paris.  A Business Administration major, Haley hopes to earn her tour card at Q school.  After her competitive career, she plans to combine her love of golf and her business degree by working in the golf industry. 

Kristen
 Clark, 
UC 
Santa 
Barbara 
(Danville, 
Calif.)

A senior outfielder on the UCSB softball team, Kristen recently broke the all-time Gauchos record for career hits.  She is a two-time first team All Big West Conference honoree and was also named Big West Conference Freshman of the Year.  A microbiology major, Kristen has served as a General Chemistry lab learning assistant, a Biomentor for students in plant and animal physiology courses and as a Research Assistant for graduate students in the physical chemistry lab.  After graduation in June, she plans to spend a year working as a medical scribe while applying to medical school.  She hopes to study to become either a pathologist or a radiologist. 

Katie
 Spieler, 
Hawai‘i 
(Santa 
Barbara,
 Calif.)

Katie completed her beach volleyball career with the Rainbow Wahine in 2016, leading the team to the first ever NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship after capturing the first ever Big West Conference beach volleyball championship.  She was honored with the NCAA Elite 91 award in beach volleyball, an award that is given to the student-athlete with the highest GPA in the sports’ championship field.  She was also named NCAA Woman of the Year Top 30 Finalist out of 517 women nominated from all three divisions.  The Woman of the Year program honors women who demonstrate excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.  Katie graduated with her degree in Accounting in three years and earned her Masters in Accounting in only two semesters.   She was honored as the Shidler College of Business Distinguished Student in Accounting.  She also was honored with the University of Hawai’i Professor’s Award of Achievement.  She is currently pursuing her professional beach volleyball career, placing 7th at an AVP event this Fall.  She also plans to become a teacher and a coach.