Three UAA athletes who made the grade on the field of play while also making the grades in the classroom have been honored for their academic achievements.
Two of them posted 4.0 grade-point averages to earn first-team academic All-America honors — Olivier Mantha, the hockey team's record-setting goaltender, and Hailey Swirbul, the ski team's two-time podium finisher at the national championships.
The other, runner Caroline Kurgat, added two more honors to her growing list of postseason awards. The three-time national champion Thursday won both of the top honors bestowed by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference — she was named the GNAC female athlete of the year and was the co-winner of the GNAC female scholar-athlete of the year award.
Kurgat is a junior from Eldoret, Kenya, with a 3.52 GPA in nursing and medical laboratory science. She shared the GNAC academic award with Alisha Breen, a basketball player for Montana State-Billings.
No one shared the athlete of the year award with Kurgat, because no one in the GNAC did what she did during the 2017-18 school year. Kurgat won three national titles — the cross-country championship in November and two track championships last month — and earlier this week was named the athlete of the year for all of Division II.
"School always comes first," Kurgat said in a GNAC press release. "I have learned to work on my schedule early in the semester and communicate with my coaches and professors. I have had amazing support from both my coaches and professors. It is overwhelming sometimes but I have to keep my focus intact."
Mantha and Swirbul also did a masterful job of balancing school and athletics.
Mantha compiled a perfect GPA in mathematics while racking up impressive numbers on the ice to claim a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-America at-large team. He was one of 17 men, and the only hockey player, to garner Division I first-team honors.
Mantha, of La Tuque, Ontario, signed with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League after wrapping up his career at UAA.
He left as the school's all-time leader in saves (3,449), save percentage (.908) and minutes played (nearly 7,000). In 51 of his 122 games with the Seawolves, Mantha recorded 30 or more saves
Mantha spent much of his first partial season as a pro on loan to the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. In seven games with the Thunder, he was 4-2-0 with a .913 save percentage. In one game, he had one of ESPN's plays of the day.
Swirbul, of El Jebel, Colorado, posted her 4.0 GPA as a civil engineering major. During her sophomore season with the Seawolves, she finished with podium finishes in both cross-country ski races at the NCAA championships. She placed second in the classic race and third in the freestyle.
The winner of silver and bronze medals at the World Junior Championships last winter in Switzerland, Swirbul will train and race with the Alaska Pacific University Nordic program this winter.
UAA among DII’s top 50 schools
Based on the overall results of its sports teams, UAA finished 42nd among 305 Division II schools in the annual Learfield Directors Cup standings.
It's the 10th year in a row the Seawolves have placed in the top 50. They posted their highest ranking in 2015-16, when they finished eighth Cal Baptist was the top school with 905 points. UAA finished with 382.75 points.
The rankings are based on results at Division II national championship in up to 14 points — seven men's sports and seven women's sports. UAA offers 13 Division II sports.
The Seawolves had the second-highest finish among Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams. Simon Fraser led the way in 30th place with 421.5 points.