May 13, 2014
CLEVELAND - Northern Illinois University student-athletes Kim Gotlund (women's gymnastics) and Ricky Connors (football) have been named the NIU recipients of the first Mid-American Conference Medals of Excellence, which will be presented Tuesday night at the annual MAC Honors Dinner in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Medal of Excellence is a new award that will be presented annually to one male and one female student-athlete from each league school. The recipients, who are nominated by the school, represent NIU and the athletic department at the highest levels in terms of academics, athletics and community service involvement.
Gotlund, who graduated from NIU last weekend in pre-physical therapy with a 3.8 grade point average, will enter the physical therapy program at the University of Minnesota this fall. She was a two-time first-team All Mid-American Conference gymnast and twice was selected to compete as an individual at the NCAA Regionals as an all-arounder. The Wadsworth, Illinois (Warren Township High School) product competed in every meet as an all-arounder for the Huskies over the last three seasons and performed 147 routines in four seasons for NIU. She served as team captain for the Huskie gymnastics team for the last three years.
Connors earned his bachelor's degrees in both political science and sociology from NIU in just three-and-a-half years, graduating in December 2013 with a 3.73 GPA. A native of Powder Springs, Ga. (Harrison High School), Connors completed his first semester as a graduate student in political science at NIU last week and will return to the Huskie football team for his senior season in 2014. He earned Academic All-MAC honors as a junior fullback for one of the top offenses in the country, and in league history, in 2013. Used primarily as a blocker in the NIU backfield, he caught an 11-yard touchdown pass versus Eastern Michigan.
NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier, who will attend Tuesday night's MAC Honors Dinner along with President Doug Baker and administrators from every league school, congratulated Gotlund and Connors on receiving the MAC Medal of Excellence.
"Kim and Ricky are fantastic representatives of NIU and NIU Athletics and we're very proud of their accomplishments," Frazier said. "Congratulations to them as well as to their families, professors and coaches, who all played a role in their success. I'm happy to see the league provide this recognition to individuals who excel academically, athletically and socially."
In addition to the presentation of the Medals of Excellence, the newest members of the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame will be inducted during the MAC Honors Dinner, including legendary NIU football coach Joe Novak, the first NIU-nominated individual to be named to the league Hall of Fame. (Read the Novak MAC Hall of Fame release here.) Although Coach Novak is unable to attend the event due to a previously planned overseas trip, former Huskie administrator and coach Robert Collins will accept the award on behalf of Novak.
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