A pair of standout student-athletes with perfect 4.00 grade-point averages earned the 2019-20 Great American Conference Scholar Athletes of the Year honors, the conference office announced.
East Central’s Abbie Winchester garnered Female Scholar Athlete while Harding’s Mills Bryant won Male Scholar Athlete.
The league’s sports information directors voted on the Male and Female Athlete of the Year awards; they could not vote for their own student-athletes.
2019-20 GAC FEMALE SCHOLAR
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
ABBIE WINCHESTER, EAST CENTRAL, CROSS COUNTRY/TRACK & FIELD
Winchester, a three-time GAC Elite Scholar Athlete recipient has carried her 4.00 undergraduate GPA in accounting into her Master’s work. She joins former ECU softball standouts - Emily Kennemer, Autumn Suydam and Mariah Ewy - as Tigers named the league’s Female Scholar Athlete of the Year. No school has produced as many different Athlete or Scholar Athlete of the Year recipients.
ECU recognized Winchester as a top-five finalist for the George Nigh award – issued to the university’s top graduating senior. She participated in ECU’s Business Scholar Leaders program, the Business Leaders Association – for which she served as secretary for one year - and the ECU Student Center for the Public Trust. She achieved membership into the Alpha Chi and Delta Mu Delta honor societies.
This past fall, she became only the 12th four-time All-GAC selection in cross country as she helped the Tigers take second at the GAC Championships. She earned a spot on the GAC All-Decade team. In track and field, she earned All-GAC honors in the high jump. She becomes the first female cross country and track student athlete named the Female Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Other nominees for the 2019-20 GAC Female Scholar Athlete of the Year award included Arkansas Tech junior Rilie Vote (Volleyball), Arkansas-Monticello senior Belle Tan (Golf), East Harding senior Peyton Padgett (Basketball), Henderson State sophomore Kaylie Wheeless (Cross Country), Northwestern Oklahoma State junior Kaitlyn Robison (Basketball), Oklahoma Baptist senior Michelle Carr (Golf), Ouachita senior Katharine Camp (Volleyball), Southeastern Oklahoma State senior Caitlin Cosby (Volleyball), Southern Arkansas junior Carley Hale (Cross Country/Track & Field), Southern Nazarene senior Rachel Hurtz (Cross Country/Track & Field) and Southwestern Oklahoma State senior Kaitlyn Dillon (Volleyball).
2019-20 GAC MALE SCHOLAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
MILLS BRYANT, HARDING, FOOTBALL
Bryant anchored the Bisons offensive line as the starting center for a unit that produced the top rushing attack across all NCAA Divisions, averaging 373.6 yards per game, a mark that also set the GAC single-season record and ranked as the fifth-best season average in Division II since 2000. The Bisons qualified for the NCAA DII Playoffs for the fourth-straight year.
With a 4.00 GPA for his master’s work in management and business ethics, he earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors. He became Harding's sixth offensive lineman to receive Academic All-District honors since 1996.
He has received multiple scholarships including Lucy Manette Booth Special Education Scholarship, the Jim Daniels Titans Scholarships and the Grand Lodge of Arkansas Masonic Scholarship. He earned membership to the Omicron Delta Kappa and Kappa Delta Pi honor societies.
He has given his time to Relay for Life, where he served as the Logistics Chair and as a leader of the Planning Committee. His involvement with Special Olympics dates back to 2010. He assisted in the organization of the yearly Polar Plunge events for White and Conway counties.
Other nominees for the 2019-20 GAC Male Scholar Athlete of the Year award included Arkansas Tech senior Tyler Dunlop (Football), Arkansas-Monticello senior KJ Lesure (Basketball), East Central senior Dilland Gardner (Football/Track & Field), Henderson State sophomore Greyson Stevens (Baseball), Northwestern Oklahoma State senior Daschal Johnson (Baseball), Oklahoma Baptist senior Hayden Ashley (Football/Track & Field), Ouachita senior Brandon Matros (Baseball), Southeastern Oklahoma State senior Danrich Kruger (Tennis), Southern Arkansas junior Stuart Rehfuss (Tennis), Southern Nazarene senior Ethan Johnson and Southwestern Oklahoma State senior Braden Sweet (Football).