The NAU Athletics Department held its 36th annual Golden Eagle Awards Tuesday at the High Country Conference Center to recognize its student-athletes for their stellar work in the classroom. Golden Eagle Distributors, Inc., honored 199 Lumberjack student-athletes for their scholastic and athletic accomplishments.
The award recognizes student-athletes who maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average.
Max Jacobsen of the men’s basketball team and Stirling Smith of the swimming and diving team were the top two honorees. Jacobsen was named the Male Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year while Smith was presented with the Female Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor.
Jacobsen, from Lake Oswego, Ore., will graduate in May with a degree in mechanical engineering and has aspirations to continue his basketball career overseas. Sporting a 3.52 GPA, Jacobsen is a three-time Big Sky Winter All-Academic team honoree, A.D. Honor Roll recipient and Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete. He is also active in the community as he has volunteered with Red Ribbon Week, Welcome Back Jacks, Blues and Brews and Fan Fest this season. He was also recognized by the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences at the ASNAU State of the Student Recognition Awards for making a significant contribution to the NAU community.
On the court, Jacobsen was an effective player in the paint as he led the Lumberjacks to a second-place finish in the Big Sky this season. He earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades this season after starting 30 of 32 games this season. Jacobsen averaged 12.3 points per game, second on the team, and led the team in scoring on 10 occasions during his senior campaign. He ranked amongst the best in the nation in field goal percentage all season and finished his three-year NAU career with the seventh-best career field goal percentage in school history at 58.1 percent.
"I’m very honored to be receiving this award," Jacobsen said. "Balancing sports and academics is no easy task. I think every student-athlete realizes the time commitment it takes in order to be successful in their sport and school. That is why I’m accepting the award not just on my behalf but on behalf of all student-athletes who are able to accomplish being a student and an athlete. I would like to thank my family especially for always letting me know that school comes first and that’s more to life than sports."
Smith also will graduate at the end of the semester with a degree in biomedical science with minors in chemistry and psychology. Smith, from Stoughton, Wis., has been an active contributor outside the pool during her four years at NAU while carrying a 3.96 GPA. Over the last three years, she has served on as a member of the NAU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in addition to serving as a student-athlete representative on the Gender Equity and Student-Athlete Well-Being Committee for two years. A four-time WAC All-Academic selection, Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete and A.D. Honor Roll recipient, Smith currently volunteers at the Flagstaff Medical Center in Special Care Nursery. On Tuesday night, she will also receive NAU’s prestigious Gold Axe Award, a tribute to outstanding academic performance, leadership and service to the community.
Smith enjoyed her finest season in competition as a senior, earning her first career medal at the WAC Championships in the 200 breaststroke following a third-place finish with a lifetime-best time of 2:16.39. She played a large role in propelling the Lumberjacks to their first WAC title in school history as she also scored points in the 100 breaststroke (fourth-place overall) and 200 individual medley (12th overall) while posting career-best times in both events. She will leave NAU with the second-fastest time in program history in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.07) and fourth-fastest time in the 200 breaststroke (2:16.39) as well as the Wall Aquatic Center pool record in the 200 breaststroke.
"This is validation for all the hard work I’ve put in over the last four years," Smith said. "It’s coming at the pinnacle of my career both academically and athletically. I’m so honored to end my career at NAU this way on a happy note."
All 15 of NAU’s athletic programs were represented on Tuesday with the football team leading the way with 48 honorees. The women’s cross country and track & field program garnered 34 scholar-athlete awards with the soccer and swimming & diving teams’ honorees at 33 and 27 respectively.
The Golden Eagle Awards were first presented in the spring of 1979 to honor athletes who maintained high levels of scholastic achievement while performing with distinction in NAU’s athletic programs. Since the first awards banquet, more than 2,000 Golden Eagle Awards have been presented. Former Golden Eagle Award winners have since gone on to distinguish themselves in all walks of life, carrying on the fine personal tradition of excellence embodied in these coveted awards.