HILTON HEAD, S.C. - Charleston Southern softball player Taylor Powell and women's tennis player Nicolin Luecke received the Big South's prestigious George A. Christenberry Award for Academic Excellence on Thursday evening at The Marriott Resort on Hilton Head Island as a part of the league's annual Spring Meetings and Hall of Fame Dinner.
Powell and Luecke were among the conference's eight recipients and were Charleston Southern's first Christenberry recipients since football alum Adam DeGraffenreid was honored in 2005-06. It was the Big South Conference's fifth consecutive year with a record total, and the seventh straight year at least four student-athletes have been honored.
Powell (Summerville, S.C.) graduated in three years with a 4.00 GPA as a Mathematics major while minoring in Applied Physics. She received the Hunter Cup, Charleston Southern's most prestigious academic award for student-athletes, at CSU's commencement ceremony in early May.
Powell recognized the significance as she received the award from Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander on stage during the evening program.
"It feels really great the Big South recognizes achievements over the board, I know it's a privilege to get this award."
A member of the dean's list at Charleston Southern as well as the Big South Presidential Honor Roll, Powell roamed the Bucs' outfield for two of her three seasons on the roster (she redshirted in 2016). She has played in 95 career games with 44 starts, lining up at both corner outfield positions, as well as serving as a pinch-runner for the Bucs in key situations.
Among the people she credited with the drive and desire to succeed both on and off the classroom were her parents and coaches.
"I definitely want to thank my parents for sure," she commented. "They raised me to work hard no matter what or where you are in life and to push forward with every step. I also wanted to thank my coaches from the very beginning. From when I start to play up to Coach Winkler here at CSU, they've really instilled a lot of blessings and pushed me to work hard along the way."
Luecke (Herne, Germany) is a two-time Big South Women's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year after earning honors for the second consecutive season in 2017 -- the conference's first repeat winner of the award since 2010-11. She graduated with a 4.00 GPA as a Psychology major. Luecke lined up on the top courts for both singles and doubles play for the Bucs, earning All-Conference honors in both positions this season, and concluded her career as a three-time All-Conference player in doubles and two-time honoree in singles.
Although she was unable to attend the Thursday evening festivities, Luecke also recognized the significance of the achievement.
"Receiving this award is an incredible honor for me," Luecke said. My goal has always been to give my best in everything I'm doing; this includes tennis and school. It wasn't always easy but I'm excited that the hard work paid off and I take something with me that will forever remind me of this accomplishment."
She helped lead CSU to three shared/outright regular-season titles in her four years with the Bucs, including the program's second-most wins with 17 in 2017. Luecke finished with a 43-27 career record in singles play as well as 58-17 mark in doubles action.
Luecke also gave credit and showed her appreciation for both her parents and her coaches for pushing her to achieve more.
"Without my parents who raised me to achieve excellence, my coach who motivated me to strive for the best, and my teammates and friends who always believed in me and supported me when I needed it most, I would've not made it where I am today," she said. "There are many other people who helped me getting here, such as professors, advisors, and other CSU staff. I want to thank every single one of these wonderful people, because they were always there for me and helped me become who I am today."
Liberty field hockey player Serena Barr (4.00 in public health), Gardner-Webb men's swimmer Connor Bos (4.00 in economics/finance), Liberty women's track & field athlete Jessie Proehl (4.00 in zoology), Liberty women's track & field athlete Audrey Rabe (4.00 in global studies), Campbell women's cross country/track & field athlete Kelsey Rea (4.00 in biology) and Liberty football player Hunter Winstead (4.00 in politics & policy) round out this year's recipients.
Big South member institutions nominate one male and one female undergraduate student-athlete for the annual Christenberry Award. The honor is named for George A. Christenberry, the former President of Augusta College (now Georgia Regents University-Augusta) and one of the founders of the Big South Conference. A member of the Big South Hall of Fame, Christenberry served as the league's first President from 1983-86. The award is given to the male and female student-athlete who attains the highest GPA during their undergraduate collegiate careers.