(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Delene Colburn (softball) and Fabijan Krslovic (men’s basketball) have been named Montana’s top senior student-athletes. The announcement was made Wednesday evening at the 26th annual Grizzly Athletics Scholar-Athlete Honors Banquet, where Colburn and Krslovic were presented the Grizzly Cup award.
Highlighting many of Montana’s most-recognized student-athletes over nearly a century, the annual award is given to the top all-around senior student-athletes – given to one female and one male.
The honor was initially presented to three-sport athlete Larry Higbee, in 1921, and was awarded to Montana’s top male senior student-athlete nearly every year through 1987. It was reinstated in 2009 and over the past decade has been given to both the top male and female senior student-athletes.
The award was initiated by Dr. W.E. Schreiber, who served as the head of UM’s physical education department for several years.
Colburn, an elementary education major who will graduate this month, becomes the first Montana softball player to win the Grizzly Cup. As a member of the first class to make it through the four-year-old softball program, Colburn has inked her name all over early editions of the record book.
She has started all 214 games the Grizzlies have played and enters the final month of her career with a four-year batting average of .372, with 45 home runs and 197 RBIs.
She has two times been voted second-team All-Big Sky and as a junior was named third-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Pacific Region after leading Montana to the NCAA tournament.
“Delene exemplifies the true meaning of a student-athlete,” said coach Melanie Meuchel. “When you watch her on the field, she is contagious for people because she is all in. She plays with everything she has and has a lot of passion for it.”
Colburn, two times named Academic All-Big Sky and five times honored as the Big Sky Player of the Week, spent the spring semester student teaching.
“Delene has each semester shown she approaches her work in the classroom with the same passion she has for softball,” said Meuchel. “And this semester she has proved her commitment to being a true student-athlete by the hours she has had to put in.”
Krslovic becomes the fourth Griz hoops player to earn the award in the past six seasons. During his four-year basketball career, he led Montana to 83 victories, a pair of conference championships and a berth in the 2018 NCAA tournament.
On the court, Krslovic was the glue and anchor of the team, playing in a program-record 132 games (116 starts). Known for his hustle, his 126 career steals rank in the top 10 in school history, while as a captain in 2018, his .630 Big Sky shooting percentage ranked second in the league.
He is a two-time recipient of the Dennis T. Murphy Coaches’ Award and in 2018 earned both the Naseby Rhinehart Award (team’s most inspirational player) and Allan Nielsen Award (player who best represents Griz Basketball). Off the court, he is a three-time Academic All-Big Sky honoree and last summer earned NABC Honors Court accolades for his 4.0 grade-point average.
“Fab is about all the right things,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “He wants to win on the court and he wants to win in life. He embodies what we try to bring in when we go out recruiting, because he’s consistent and he’s the complete package. Every team needs a person like Fab.”
Krslovic will graduate this month with a degree in finance and a minor in math. He intends to move back to his native country to continue his professional basketball career.
With nearly 200 student-athletes carrying a 3.0 GPA or better, Grizzly Athletics celebrated yet another year of success on the field and in the classroom Wednesday at the 26th annual Scholar-Athlete Honors Banquet.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, 54 different scholarships were divided between 78 deserving recipients with three major awards recognizing the best of the best amongst UM’s 300-plus student-athlete body.
President Seth Bodnar presented the President’s Awards that go to the best male and female overall GPAs, with three first time recipients taking home the coveted academic prize. Junior football player Colin Bingham posted a 4.0 GPA over the past two semesters as he completes his degree in health and human performance to earn the male President’s Award. On the female side, there was a tie between golfer Teigan Avery (4.0, economics) and distance track runner Samantha Engebretsen (4.0, social work).
And last, but certainly not least, was the women’s cross country team who won the Athletic Director’s Award for best overall team GPA for a remarkable eighth-straight year and eleventh time overall with a combined 3.66 GPA in the spring and fall semesters of 2017.
Montana’s female harriers defended their position as the juggernaut of Athletic Director’s Award recipients, edging out the men’s tennis team by the slightest of margins with a 3.62 GPA – maybe the equivalent of someone getting a B on a test instead of an A.
It was an award that has slipped through Griz tennis’ fingers several times over the past two decades. On a team where every player has been named Academic All-Big Sky, this year they were as close as ever to taking home the hardware.
But like their continued success on the court, this year’s men’s tennis academic outcome is no flash in the pan. It’s the continued result of a culture that long-time tennis coach (now head golf coach) Kris Nord fostered over the years that has now been handed to interim head coach Jason Brown.
“Back in the 90s we had a few teams that weren’t great in the classroom and weren’t working hard on the road – and we travel a lot. So, we started addressing it then, and it started getting better. I focused on what kind of academic kid I was recruiting. I always did, but I put more focus on it around the turn of the century,” said Nord.
“At our first meeting of the year, we’d talk about our goals of getting the degree, doing well in the Big Sky for tennis, but most importantly, doing well academically as a team and individually, and trying to shoot for those awards.”
Having just returned from their record 28th-straight appearance at the Big Sky tourney, men’s tennis proved once again to be one of the league’s best. And getting edged out for the Athletic Director’s Award by the slimmest of margins proves that, as a group, they are once again among the best in the classroom too.
“They work hard. They don’t let their academics suffer due to tennis. They’ve got the right priority, and I think that’s one reason we’ve had better results too,” said Nord of his former team.
“Tennis is already stressful enough. You don’t need to be worrying about grades and eligibility. You want to be thriving in the classroom which helps you thrive on the court.”
There is only so much a coach can do when it comes to motivating his or her players to succeed in class. That’s where the culture Nord built comes in. Now, the expectation he set for his team self-perpetuates from year to year.
“I give Kris a ton of credit. He put a great structure in place and recruited great leaders,” said Brown.
“It’s a leadership thing. Someone mentored them, and they turn it on and mentor when they are an upperclassman. They pick the right classes, find the right teachers, do the right things, and know what to say in the right interviews. Academics are a huge part of what they do, and they do a good job of keeping each other dialed in.”
“We learn right away how important classes are for us,” said senior Yannick Schmidl, who re-wrote history books on the court while maintaining a 3.58 GPA and will undertake an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers in San Francisco this summer.
“Every year, the seniors who graduate all have plans, they know where they’re going, and they have internships and jobs lined up. Because of those guys, I decided to double major, and Victor (Casadevall) decided to double major too. So, when the culture is built-in, it’s easier to pass it on.”
With spring weather in Montana as unpredictable as anything, the Griz spend a lot of time on the road chasing the sun, which results in time away from class and study hall. But that doesn’t slow them down.
“When we’re on trips, everyone goes down and studies in the lobby. It’s easier if you’re not doing it alone while everyone else is in the hot tub,” said Schmidl with a laugh. “Everyone does their work together. It’s just how it is. We’re getting our work done, and it’s fun.”
Being on the road so often is just one challenge men’s tennis has to overcome to make the grade.
Like most teams in the Big Sky, the Griz are largely built of international students who are powering through classes taught to them in their second, or sometimes third language. Then there are practice times, often pushed late into the night due to court availability.
In a department full of competitive people, perhaps what developed the culture most is Nord’s drive to win and his willingness to do whatever it takes to help his players succeed.
“I proctored a lot of exams on the road and they always did well. With the hurdles they have in scheduling and practice schedules, what they are able to do in the classroom is even more impressive,” said Nord.
“I’d call them out on not doing a good job, not grinding it out and turning that C into a B. Just like we talk about grinding out days where tennis isn’t going well and finding a way to win. You have to do the same in the classroom. It’s a life lesson.”
2018 Grizzly Athletics Scholar-Athlete Honors Banquet scholarship recipients
Grizzly Cup – Best overall student-athletes
Delene Colburn (Softball)
Fabijan Krslovic (Men’s Basketball)
Athletic Director’s Award – Best team GPA
Women’s Cross Country
President’s Awards – Best individual GPA
Colin Bingham (Football) – 4.0, Health and Human Performance
Tie: Teigan Avery (Golf) – 4.0, Economics
Samantha Engebretsen (Women’s Track & Field) – 4.0, Social Work
Naseby Rhinehart Endowment
Lidia Dukic (Women’s Tennis)
Josh Egbo (Football)
Kyle Kredo (Men’s Track & Field)
Callum Macnab (Men’s Track & Field)
William (Biff) Hall Scholarship
Cy Sirmon (Football)
Bruce E. Blattner Memorial Scholarship
Colleen Driscoll (Softball)
Lawrence A. (Bugs) Dwyer Memorial Scholarship
Abigail Dodge (Women’s Track & Field)
Erik Ogren Memorial Scholarship
Taryn Miller (Soccer)
William (Robi) Robertson Memorial Scholarship
Dante Olson (Football)
Bill Ruegamer Scholarship
Teigan Avery (Golf)
Brian and Karen Sippy Scholarship
Brittany Gay (Volleyball)
Ken Staninger Memorial Scholarship
Matt Rensvold (Football)
B. Tim Stark Memorial Track & Field Scholarship
Jane Booth (Women’s Track & Field)
Larry and Kristin Stayner Family Athletic Scholarship
Gabby Martinez (Softball)
Stockman Bank Scholarship
Jesse Sims (Football)
Max and Betty Swanson Memorial Scholarship
Alex Wardlow (Softball)
Kole Swartz Legacy Scholarship
Evan Epperly (Football)
John Van Heuvelen Memorial Athletic Scholarship
Mckenzie Warren (Soccer)
Clark Wilson Memorial Scholarship
Cassie Laramee (Volleyball)
Ernest L. & Ruth A. Kradolfer Scholarship
Kaitlin Crowell (Soccer)
Douglas LeBrun Track and Field Scholarship
Charlie Bush (Men’s Track & Field)
Katherine Markette-John Schuler Scholarship
Gabi Harrington (Women’s Basketball)
Markovich Family Athletic Scholarship
Allison Lucas (Soccer)
Yannick Schmidl (Men’s Tennis)
Colleen Marks Athletic Scholarship
Mitch Roberts (Football)
Frank W. Milburn Memorial
Julia Ronney (Women’s Tennis)
The Chawky & Helen Miller Memorial Scholarship
Sayeed Pridgett (Men’s Basketball)
Moose Miller Football Scholarship
Reggie Tilleman (Football)
Lefty Monson Family Men’s Basketball Scholarship
Michael Oguine (Men’s Basketball)
Kaitlin Crowell (Soccer)
Frank Nugent Memorial Scholarship
Max Korkh (Men’s Tennis)
Bob & Adeline O’Conner Memorial Scholarship
Claire Howard (Soccer)
John L. Olson Family Scholarship
Michael McGinnis (Football)
Mike and Sandy Persha Athletic Scholarship
Allison Lucas (Soccer)
Jim Powell Memorial Scholarship-Men’s Basketball
Jamar Akoh (Men’s Basketball)
Ekegren Education Scholarship
Kari Opatz (Golf)
Dean Erhard Athletic Award in Cross Country and Track
Carly Smiedala (Women’s Track & Field)
Fifth Year Lady Griz Basketball Scholarship
Alycia Harris (Women’s Basketball)
Mike & Cathie Frellick Lady Griz Basketball Scholarship
Emma Stockholm (Women’s Basketball)
Julie Deming Memorial Scholarship
Madi Schoening (Women’s Basketball)
Mike & Cathie Frellick Softball Scholarship
Anne Mari Petrino (Softball)
GSA License Plate Scholarship
Alexa Coyle (Soccer)
Josh Sandry (Football)
Janet and Michelle Hainline Scholarship
Emily Pittis (Women’s Track & Field)
Harrington Family Athletic Scholarship
Alexander Canellopoulos (Men’s Tennis)
Anne and Warren Hill Athletic Scholarship
Victor Casadevall Gras (Men’s Tennis)
Carol Huggins Lady Griz Scholarship
Sophia Stiles (Women’s Basketball)
Sylvia Jensen Athletic Scholarship
Ashlyn Lyons (Softball)
Michael R. Jorgensen Endowment
Eric Williams (Football)
Tanner Wilson (Football)
John Kolendich Memorial Scholarship
Colin Bingham (Football)
Natalie Hein (Soccer)
Ignacio Tejerina (Men’s Tennis)
54 Griz Football Scholarship
Braydon Deming (Football)
Harry F. Adams Scholarship
Alex Mustard (Men’s Track & Field)
Col. Thomas M. Alison, USAF (Ret.) Memorial Scholarship
Bryson Deming (Football)
Harriet Anderson Memorial Athletic Scholarship
Jaree Mane (Women’s Track & Field)
Ronald and Julia Blake Memorial Scholarship
Tristin Achenbach (Softball)
Juniper Eastwood (Men’s Track & Field)
Hana Feilzer (Women’s Track & Field)
Morgan Johnson (Softball)
Carla Nicosia (Women’s Track & Field)
Sterling Reneau (Men’s Track & Field)
Blaine and Ellen Bloomgren Family Scholarship
Josh Horner (Football)
David Reese (Football)
Bill and Phyllis Bouchee Family Football Scholarship
Jed Nagler (Football)
Erika Camp Memorial Athletic Scholarship
Taylor Goligoski (Women’s Basketball)
Melinda and Herb Depp Athletic Scholarship
Madison Carr (Women’s Track & Field)
Leah Gaogao (Volleyball)
Taylor Hansen (Soccer)
Kylie Hayton (Softball)
Kayla Holmes (Women’s Track & Field)
Melissa Huddleston (Volleyball)
Hannah Kearns (Women’s Track & Field)
Alexis Knauss (Softball)
Danielle Morris (Soccer)
Ellie Otteson (Soccer)
Jansen Ziola (Women’s Track & Field)