The Gustavus Adolphus College Athletics Department is pleased to announce the winners of the 20th Annual Gustavus Athlete of the Year awards. The 2019-20 female recipient is cross country/track runner Tierney Winter (Sr., Waterville) and the male recipient is baseball/football standout Brice Panning (Sr., Hamburg).
Due to the pandemic that cut short both winter and spring sports, the decision was made to have only seniors eligible for the Gustavus Athlete of the Year Award with the voting criteria adjusted to account for career statistics and awards. Athletes are nominated and voted on by head coaches.
Winter capped her collegiate cross country career in impressive fashion by earning All-America honors with an 18th place finish at the NCAA Championships this past November. Prior to the national meet, Winter took second place at the MIAC Championships and sixth at the NCAA Central Region meet, earning All-Conference and All-Region accolades. Winter’s 6k times throughout the end of her senior season proved to be the fastest since Hailey Harren ’07 etched her name in the record books over 13 years ago.
Winter also excelled on the track as she is a six-time MIAC champion between the indoor and outdoor seasons. Her first conference title came during the 2018 indoor season where she won the distance medley relay, which she and her teammates defended at both the 2019 and 2020 MIAC Championships. Winter also won MIAC championships in the 2019 and 2020 indoor mile, and the 2019 outdoor 4×800 relay. She currently holds school records in the distance medley relay, 4×800 relay, and indoor mile.
Winter is the first cross country runner to earn Gustavus Athlete of the Year since Harren in 2006 and the first track athlete since Janey Helland in 2011.
“It’s been great being a part of Tierney’s journey and watching her grow over these past few years,” Head Cross Country Coach Brenden Huber said. “From fighting to earn a varsity spot early in her career to leaving as our top runner and one of the most decorated we’ve had in the recent years for both cross country and track and field. You love seeing an athlete being rewarded with so much success having watched how hard Tierney worked paired with her toughness and competitiveness. That being said, the most rewarding thing is seeing how much she has grown as a leader and a person at Gustavus. She cares immensely about her teammates and appreciated everything she has had around her during her Gustavus experience.”
Panning made his mark on both the gridiron and diamond, and will be regarded as one of the finest two-sport athletes Gustavus has produced since the turn of the century. As a wide receiver, Panning ranks third in program history with 27 career touchdowns, fifth with 2,517 receiving yards, and sixth with 145 receptions. He earned First Team All-Conference honors in both 2018 and 2019. This past fall, Panning tied a school record with 17 receiving touchdowns and was the only player in Division III with a touchdown in every game. He earned D3football.com All-West Region and CoSIDA Academic All-America.
“A humble spirit and a competitive drive are two key elements to Brice Pannning’s incredible career and growth over the last four years at Gustavus,” Head Football Coach Peter Haugen said. “Brice made the plays in the big moments and coupled his big play-making ability with a consistent and reliable approach to preparation. He was a great teammate. His work in the classroom was also exemplary being awarded CoSIDA Academic All-American. His ability to excel at the highest level in the classroom and on the field are a true testament to his work ethic and character. Brice was a pleasure to coach and his play makes him one of the best of all time to play wide receiver at Gustavus. This excellence in football is coupled with an incredible baseball career.”
On the baseball field, Panning regularly started in center field and batted at the top of the order. He hit .259 in his career with 86 hits. He also connected for nine doubles, one triple, one home run, 42 RBI, 42 runs, and was 20-for-30 on stolen attempts. As a pitcher, Panning tossed 60 innings with a 3.85 ERA. He held a 5-4 overall record with 38 strikeouts, the most memorable being the final out against St. Olaf in 2019 to secure Gustavus’s first MIAC championship since 1980.
“It’s too bad that his career was cut short because he is one of the most competitive, yet humble, kids to play baseball,” Head Baseball Coach Brad Baker said. “When he came to Gustavus he wasn’t even planning to play baseball and I just told him that he was too good not to play and that he shouldn’t have any regrets. I’m excited for Brice because he is deserving of this award. Actions speak louder than words and that is how Brice carries himself. He is all about helping his teammates and getting the results on the field. I wouldn’t want to compete against him.”
The top three finalists on this year’s Athlete of the Year ballot included Winter, Ashley Becker (soccer), and Kristen Cash (hockey/golf) for the women; and Panning, Ben Hauge (golf), and Michael O’Neil (tennis) for the men.
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Gustavus Athletes of the Year
2000-01: Andrea Kleven (first year, swimming, track & field), Eric Butorac (sophomore, tennis)
2001-02: Sarah Moe (senior, hockey), Ryan Hoag (junior, football, track & field)
2002-03: Molly Biehn (junior, softball), Luke Speltz (senior, track & field)
2003-04: Angie Peterson (senior, basketball), Luke Benoit (senior, golf)
2004-05: Tara Houlihan (junior, volleyball, tennis), Joe Hartwell (senior, soccer)
2005-06: Hailey Harren (junior, cross country), Bobby Kroog (senior, soccer)
2006-07: Andrea Peterson (senior, hockey), Tony Konicek (senior, baseball)
2007-08: Lisa Brown (junior, track & field), Andy Bryan (senior, tennis)
2008-09: Rachael Click (senior, softball), Matt Stewart (senior, swimming)
2009-10: Melissa Mackley (senior, hockey), David Martinson (senior, hockey)
2010-11: Janey Helland (senior, track & field), Whitaker Davis (senior, swimming)
2011-12: Alissa Tinklenberg (sophomore, swimming), Ross Ring-Jarvi (senior, hockey)
2012-13: Lindsey Hjelm (senior, hockey), Alex Kolquist (senior, golf)
2013-14: Alissa Tinklenberg (senior, swimming), Jeffrey Dubose (senior, football)
2014-15: Jenny Strom (senior, swimming), David Lilly (senior, soccer)
2015-16: Alex Kopp (senior, gymnastics), Matt Boyce (senior, football)
2016-17: Nora Holtan (sophomore, volleyball), Tanner Sonnek (sophomore, swimming)
2017-18: Nora Holtan (junior, volleyball), Mohanad Alhouni (senior, tennis)
2018-19: Nora Holtan (senior, volleyball), Michael Hensch (senior, track & field)
2019-20: Tierney Winter (senior, cross country/track & field), Brice Panning (senior, football/baseball)