Two Defenders Earn GPAC Nomination For NAIA Awards

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Two Defenders Earn GPAC Nomination For NAIA Awards

(Wednesday, August 11; Sioux Center, Iowa) The Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) is proud to announce those chosen as the 2021 nominees for the top honors in the NAIA and a pair of Dordt athletes have earned nominations at the conference level.  

Matthew Van Eps a 2021 graduate from Prinsburg, Minnesota, and Mika Kooistra, a senior to be from Emo, Ontario,have been nominated for the Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award and A.O. Duer Award respectively.  

“At the beginning of my senior year we had a team meeting and I said, ‘I need to be a leader this year’”, said Van Eps. “I have tried to show my teammates and others around me how to persevere and be conscientious about the choices they made and the effects their choices had.  I sought to be reliable and helpful and show responsibility as a Student-Athlete of the NAIA.” 

Van Eps graduated with an Electrical Engineering Major and a 3.752 GPA. He was a member of the Dordt Track and Field program and was an 11-time NAIA All-American and won five NAIA National Championships in his time as a Defender runner.  He was also a 22-time All-GPAC performer and was twice named a First-Team CoSIDA Academic All-American.  

“Matthew’s success is directly related to his humble nature, strong faith, and incredible will to run,” said Dordt Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track Coach Nate Wolf. “By his accountability and responsibility, he has earned the respect of his coaches and fellow teammates.” 

The Dr. LeRoy WAlker Champions of Character Award is presented annually to an NAIA Student-Athlete who embodies the NAIA Champions of Character initiative and the five core values of respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership, and sportsmanship. 

Kooistra is a five-time NAIA All-American and 11-time All-GPAC Performer for the Defenders and she is majoring in Biology/Environmental Science with a cumulative 3.922 grade point average. 

“Mika possesses a number of characteristics that have led to her success,” said Dordt Track and Field Coach Dr. Craig Heynen.  “She is a very focused athlete who is consistent in her training, but she is also a leader on campus and involved in a number of campus activities.” 

The A.O. Duer Scholarship Award is named in honor of the NAIA's former executive secretary who served the association for 26 years. This award has been annually presented since 1967 to a male and female student-athlete completing their junior season in any sport who has excelled in scholarship, character, and citizenship. 

"The GPAC had another outstanding group of nominees this year and I could not be more proud of the student-athletes of our conference," said GPAC Commissioner Corey Westra.  "I have no doubt that the GPAC nominees again will be strong candidates at the national level. Naming these nominees is one of most exciting things we do as a conference each year." 

The national winners will be named during the NAIA National Awards Day on September 15, 2021.  The NAIA winners will be recognized as part of the NAIA National Awards Luncheon at the NAIA National Convention next Spring in Kansas City, Missouri (April 8-12, 2022).