(Saturday; July 23; Sioux Center, Iowa) The 2022 Great Plains Athletic Conference nominees for NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) national awards have been announced and two Defenders have earned the honor to be considered at the national level.
Ashtyn Veerbeek is the nominee for the Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award. Veerbeek graduated in May of 2022 with a degree in business management and maintained a 3.89 grade point average during her college career. Veerbeek was the 2021-22 GPAC (Great Plains Athletic Conference) Player of the Year and earned GPAC First Team and NAIA All-American honors twice during her career. Veerbeek capped her playing career by leading the Defenders to a NAIA National Championship Runner-up finish.
“Ashtyn sets herself apart from the rest of the field in her humble, unselfish, loving nature and possesses one of the most Christ-serving souls I have ever encountered,” said Dordt women’s basketball coach Bill Harmsen. “She is self-sacrificing of her time and resources. She is the first to lend a hand, give a word of encouragement or a hug to a teammate.”
The Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award is presented annually to a NAIA Student-Athlete who embodies the NAIA Champions of Character initiative and the five core values of respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship.
“As an athlete I helped build a vision for our team, our desires and goals for the season and held teammates accountable and encouraged them to a high standard of excellence on and off the court,” said Veerbeek. “I always aimed to put the team first which empowered the team to perform at the highest level and on the biggest stage. I strived to listen, have empathy, awareness and foresight into the team and its pulse.”
Karly Gustafson is the GPAC’s female nominee for the NAIA Emil S. Liston Award. She’s a three-time all-conference honoree and earned the 2022 NAIA National Tournament Hustle Award. Gustafson is from Ethan, South Dakota and holds a grade point average of 3.7 while majoring in social work at Dordt.
“Karly is simply one of the most driven individuals I have been around. She has certainly felt the highs and lows of being part of a team. Her competitive fire is balanced with a sincere desire to lead her teammates with compassion,” said Harmsen.
The Liston Award is named in honor of the NAIA’s first executive secretary and the prime mover behind the NAIA Basketball National Tournament. The award has been presented annually since 1950 to one junior men’s and one junior women’s basketball student-athlete who has shown high athletic and scholastic achievement.
“Not only is Karly an incredibly gifted athlete, she also ranks among the highest performers in the classroom setting as she pursues a career in social work,” said Dr. Tara Boer, Instructor of Social Work at Dordt. “She has demonstrated reliability, empathy and cultural competence as she works towards helping others reach their fullest potential.”
The NAIA winners will be recognized as part of the NAIA National Awards Luncheon at the NAIA National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana from March 30-April 3, 2023.