Monday night, four Wisconsin student-athletes added to their seemingly never-ending lists of accolades earning the highest honors one can receive as a Badger athlete at the Buckinghams.
Senior hockey player Ann-Renée Desbiens and junior track and field athlete Morgan McDonald were crowned the female and male Student-Athlete of the Year, which is an award celebrating outstanding achievement in academics, athletics and character.
Desbiens finished out her decorated career as a Badger as the NCAA career shutouts leader, regardless of gender or division, led her team to the National Championship game and won the Patty Kazmaier award—given to the nation’s top female hockey player.
An accounting major who will attend graduate school at UW after finishing her bachelor’s degree in May, Desbiens was surprised that she won the award given the impressive list of nominees.
“There are so many great athletes here at Wisconsin in a lot of different sports,” Desbiens said. “I don’t think you can come in knowing you’re going to win, and it’s definitely nice bringing home that award.”
McDonald won three individual Big Ten Championships this season in indoor track and cross country, and posted a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships while leading his team to a top-8 national finish.
The native of Sydney, Australia, was just as shocked as Desbiens when he heard his name.
“There were so many great candidates out there,” McDonald said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, to be honest.”
McDonald is in the midst of his outdoor track season and is gearing up to lead his team to more top finishes down the road.
“The most exciting part [of the season] is right now, we’re still in our outdoor season. I injured myself during indoor, and it’s been a bit of a road coming back, but I’m about to get back for my first race next week, do the best I can the rest of the season, keep racing, maybe qualify for World Champs this summer,” McDonald said.
Two seniors, volleyball player Lauren Carlini and wrestler Connor Medbery, were awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor, an award bestowed by the conference upon a male and female senior student-athlete from each school who demonstrates both academic and athletic excellence.
Carlini finished out an outstanding Badger career this fall as a four-time All-American, leading her team to the Elite Eight in four straight NCAA tournaments. She was also a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and earned Academic All-America honors as a senior. Capping off her list of achievements, she was named the recipient of the AAU Sullivan Award last week, the highest honor in amateur athletics.
Medbery finished out his final season as a Badger with a 29-2 record, with 10 of those wins coming over ranked opponents. Both of his losses on the year, in the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Championship, came to Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder of Ohio State. Medbery ended his career as an NCAA runner-up, All-American and four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
“It was a great surprise [getting the Medal of Honor],” Medbery said. “It’s a very prestigious honor, so I’m happy to get it.”
Medbery, Carlini and Desbiens all said they have been fortunate to be part of a senior class that will leave Madison as one of the most successful in school history.
“Within the sports realm, [this senior class] is very accomplished, but also in the academic realm,” Medbery said. “That speaks volumes to the university and the kind of kids that they’re recruiting, and also how they’re developing them, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to go to this great school to be developed and prepared for life after sports.”