DeZiel and Welk were awarded the honor at a special red carpet recognition event at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Sunday evening. They were also named Nebraska's respective male and female Student-Athletes of the Year.
The Big Ten, the nation's oldest collegiate conference, commemorates the 101st anniversary of a very unique tradition - the Big Ten Medal of Honor. The conference's most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." Big Ten schools currently feature almost 9,500 student-athletes, but only 28 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In the 100 years of the Medal of Honor, almost 1,400 student-athletes have earned this distinction.
DeZiel, a senior from Rogers, Minn., is a seven-time All-American entering this week's NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships. A 2015 AAI Award nominee, DeZiel is also a three-time NCAA Regional Vault champion. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection as a nutrition and health sciences major, DeZiel became the sixth Husker women's gymnast to win Nebraska's Female Student-Athlete of the Year award. She joins Nicole Duval (1995), Shelly Bartlett (1997), Richelle Simpson (2005), Stephanie Carter (2007) and Emily Wong (2014) among the elite women's gymnasts in the history of Coach Dan Kendig's program to win the highest honor presented by Nebraska to its student-athletes. DeZiel becomes the second women's gymnast to win Nebraska's Big Ten Medal of Honor after Wong claimed the award in 2014.
Welk, a two-time All-American as part of Nebraska's 4x100 meter relay team for Coach Gary Pepin's men's track and field squad, is also a two-time NCAA Elite 89 award winner. The senior nutrition science major from Bismarck, N.D., held the top grade point average of any male student-athlete at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in both 2013 and 2014. Welk is also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and is the fifth consecutive Nebraska Male Student-Athlete of the Year from the Husker track and field squad, following Nicholas Gordon (2011), Tyler Hitchler (2012), Bjorn Barrefors (2013) and Seth Wiedel (2014). Overall the men's track and field program has claimed six Male Student-Athlete of the Year awards, including Aaron Plas (2006), since the award's inception at Nebraska in 1991. Seven Nebraska women's track and field student-athletes also have captured the award, giving Coach Pepin's program 13 of the 50 all-time awards. Welk becomes Nebraska's fourth straight men's track and field Big Ten Medal of Honor winner.