CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BigSouthSports.com) - Charleston Southern softball senior Laina Holmgren was awarded the Big South's prestigious George A. Christenberry Award for Academic Excellence as announced by the conference office on Wednesday afternoon.
Holmgren is one of nine conference recipients of the award and is the third CSU athlete in the last two years to receive the recognition. She joins women's tennis alum Nicolin Luecke (2017) and softball alum Taylor Powell (2017) who received the recognition last May.
It is the Big South's sixth consecutive year with a record total, and the eighth straight year at least four student-athletes have been honored.
The award is given to the male and female student-athletes who attain the highest GPA during their undergraduate collegiate careers.
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 Augusta University) 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 Christenberry Award is the highest academic honor awarded to Big South student-athletes," said Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander. "It is incredible to think that a record nine individuals completed their undergraduate academic career with perfect GPAs, especially with the demands placed on them as student-athletes. We congratulate Gabrielle, Jessica, Graham, Laina, Aley Kate, Janie, Keaton, Emily and Jonathan for their accomplishments in the classroom and on the field of play. Their academic careers truly exemplify the highest ideals of the Big South Conference."
Holmgren (Eugene, Ore.) was a key contributor during her time on the Bucs' softball team primarily as a pinch-hitter. She appeared in 59 career games with 12 starts, and her career highlights include a trio of RBI doubles in key situations this season, including Charleston Southern's wins over Savannah State and Radford.
At the CSU Athletics Banquet, Holmgren was recognized with the Highest Academic GPA Female Athlete. A member of the 2018 Big South Softball All-Academic Team, she also tallied three doubles, seven RBI and 12 hits during her career.
Gardner-Webb women's track & field athlete Gabrielle Cortese (4.00 in exercise science), Gardner-Webb women's soccer player Jessica Ferguson (4.00 in chemistry/Spanish), Liberty men's track & field athlete Graham Hansel (4.00 in exercise science), High Point women's soccer player Aley Kate McKinley (4.00 in business), Presbyterian women's basketball player Janie Miles (4.00 in biology), Gardner-Webb men's track & field athlete Keaton Poole (4.00 in business administration), Winthrop women's cross country runner Emily Sparrow (4.00 in English) and Presbyterian men's soccer player Jonathan Turnley (4.00 in physics/chemistry) round out this year's recipients.
The conference will formally present the awards on Thursday, May 31 at The Marriott Resort in Hilton Head, S.C., as part of the league's annual Spring Meetings and Hall of Fame Dinner.
The nine overall selections bests the previous record of eight honorees established in 2016-17. Winthrop has its first recipient since 2013-14, while Presbyterian College has multiple honorees for the first time overall. High Point has a recipient for the second time in three years, while this is the fourth consecutive year Gardner-Webb has had a Christenberry Award winner. Charleston Southern has an honoree for the second-straight season, while Liberty's recipient gives the Flames a Big South-record 25 total honorees in the award's history.
Below are the 2017-18 Big South Conference Christenberry Award candidates, as nominated by their institutions. Each individual receives a personalized medallion for this achievement.
Campbell - Mackenzie Koeller (lacrosse), Ed Stryffeler (football)
Charleston Southern - Laina Holmgren (softball), Kyle Vesnesky (baseball)
Gardner-Webb - Gabrielle Cortese (track & field)/Jessica Ferguson (soccer), Keaton Poole (track & field)
High Point - Aley Kate McKinley (soccer), Jonathan Ware (soccer)
Liberty - Caroline Boone (soccer), Graham Hansel (track & field)
Longwood - Teresa Fruchterman (soccer), Lachlan Manser (tennis)
Presbyterian - Janie Miles (basketball), Jonathan Turnley (soccer)
Radford - Maddie Malueg (soccer), Fraser Colmer (soccer)
UNC Asheville - Kayli Nichols (track & field), Kevin Vannatta (basketball)
Winthrop - Emily Sparrow (cross country), Kenneth Perkinson (soccer)