CSUN Honors Matador Student-Athletes at Varsity ‘N Awards

Photo Gallery from 2014 Varsity 'N Awards

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications

Northridge, Calif. –
 For the past 49 years (1965 to the present), Dr. James E. Sefton has been a highly distinguished history professor at Cal State University Northridge.

“Dr. Sefton is brilliant,” remarked a former student. “… He expects nothing less than 110%, and because of that he makes you a better student.”

During his impressive academic career at CSUN, Dr. Sefton, from 1981-90, served as CSUN’s Faculty Athletic Representative. During that time, Dr. Sefton noticed the intense and successful contributions that student-athletes needed to excel not only on the playing field but also in the classroom.

Dr. Sefton, 74-years-old and the second senior professor at CSUN, wanted to acknowledge the exploits of those deserving student-athletes. It was Dr. Sefton who originally thought of the concept of honoring CSUN student-athletes. He called the event the Varsity ‘N Academic Athletics Honor Roll. This prestigious event started in 1982.

“I originally went to the President’s Club to ask for some money to help pay for the cost of dinner for these deserving students,” remembers Dr. Sefton, who still attends several athletic events at CSUN, particularly men’s volleyball matches. “Our first dinner took place in 1982 with ten (deserving) student-athletes at the University Club. We had these student-athletes sign the Honor Roll Scroll at the event in front of family and friends. This event encompassed all sports at CSUN. It’s important we have this tradition. I am pleased this event has prospered through the last 32 years.”

Fast forward to 2014 where on Wednesday afternoon (4/30/14) at the University home of Dr. Dianne Harrison (CSUN’s President), Dr. Sefton stood with more than 200 family, friends, faculty, coaches, and university and athletic department personnel to extend their congratulations to the 72 outstanding CSUN scholar-athletes who have completed a minimum of one season of varsity competition and have a minimum 3.2 grade point average for the 2012 spring and 2013 fall semester.

This group makes up this year’s Varsity ‘N Academic Athletics Honor Roll.

“I am a big supporter of Matador Athletics and very proud of the contributions of our student-athletes on the playing field and particularly in the classroom,” said Dr. Harrison. “They have brought great pride to our university. I challenge these outstanding student-athletes to be models to their teammates to also work hard work and excel in the classroom like all of you here today.”

Since its origin, 642 student-athletes have been honored for their outstanding achievements in the classroom.

Dr. Brandon Martin, CSUN’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletes since April (2013) told the crowd … “today we celebrate the commitment, focus, and pride that our student-athletes have demonstrated in their academic quest for excellence. The dynamic teaching, service and passion of our faculty have empowered our student-athletes to set high academic goals and excel in the classroom. I can proudly say that our faculty has been advocates and supporters of our pursuit towards comprehensive excellence. Our university is rising, and I’m pleased to report that the 72 student-athletes being honored today are making CSUN Shine.”     

The 72 student-athletes represent more than 33 academic disciplines, and 18 athletic teams.

The academic disciplines include Accounting, Bio-Chemistry, Biology, Business & Finance, Business Management, Child Development, Civil Engineering, Communications, Communications Studies, Economics, Education, English, Finance & Real Estate, Geography, Health Administration, Health Promotions, Journalism, Kinesiology, Liberal Studies, Marine Biology, Marketing, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Nutrition, Philosophy, Political Science, Pre-Nursing, Pre-Pharmacy, Psychology, Public Administration, Public Health, Recreation Tourism Management, and Sociology.

The CSUN women’s tennis team and the Matador men’s cross country team captured honors as the top academic teams in the CSUN Athletic Department. As a team, the tennis team chalked up a 3.358 GPA while the men’s cross country team compiled a 2.981 GPA.

Madalyne Handy, a sophomore softball player who has chalked up a perfect 4.0 GPA inKinesiology, was named the 2014 Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. In 2013, Handy was the winner of the Dr. Dianne Harrison Freshman Leadership Award.

Grant Weiss, a sophomore member of the track & field team, was honored as the 2014 recipient of the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Weiss has earned 3.895 GPA in Marketing.    

Dr. Martin also announced the recipient of a new post-graduate scholarship for a deserving CSUN student-athlete, the Dick Enberg Post-Graduate Scholarship for Academic Excellence.

The $5,000 post-graduate scholarship was awarded to Melissa Doll, a senior water polo player who has gained Academic All-American honors three times.  

“Dick Enberg (the Hall of Fame broadcaster) is one of the many Matador fans who values the strength of a quality education for our outstanding student-athletes,” said Dr. Martin. “Dick has shown a strong passion for CSUN, and his scholarship contributions will bear strong results for our student-athletes who will be able to pursue graduate studies. The University is proud of Dick Enberg (former Matador assistant baseball coach and professor) and his many accomplishments as both an educator and a sportscaster.”

During the 2013-14 school year, two CSUN teams (women’s volleyball and women’s basketball) captured Big West Conference championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

In 2013, CSUN’s women’s volleyball team captured top honors in the Big West Conference, participated in the NCAA Tournament, and captured 24 wins, the most victories in 22 years.

“When you have the connection between the two (an excellent athlete and an excellent student), you have something special,” said women’s volleyball head coach Jeff Stork, who was named Big West co-Coach of the Year. “There are several components to making a great athlete. You have to have talent and a desire to work hard. Those same requirements are required in the classroom. We are fortunate and proud that we have a lot of student-athletes who have excelled in the classroom. I actually take a greater pleasure in the strong student. We are a university. We are an institution of higher learning. Ultimately, it is the quality of the degree that counts than the victories on the court.”

Britney Graff, Casey Hinger and Stephanie Miller are the three members of the Matadors championship women’s volleyball team that have gained entrance to the Varsity ‘N Academic Athletics Honor Roll this year.

“All three student-athletes are very well-rounded,” said Stork. “They are good volleyball players. They are good people. They are very good in the classroom.”   

Jason Flowers captured Big West Coach of the Year honors in leading the Matador’s women’s basketball team to an 18-game winning season, the conference championship and a earned-well journey to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Three of the team’s players (Randi Friess, Camille Mahlknecht, Mikayla Thielges) join the other 69 student-athletes on the Varsity ‘N Academic Athletics Honor Roll.

“These academic honors speak to the person’s character, their wiliness to work hard, their willingness to be disciplined and their willingness to make sacrifices,” said Flowers. “These three student-athletes have made a choice to be an example for the rest of the team and for other student-athletes in the athletic department. To be a good student-athlete, it is a 24-7 endeavor.”

Student-athletes were encouraged to invite a CSUN faculty member that has promoted a positive impact on their academic career, according to Dr. Tina Kiesler, CSUN's Faculty Athletic Representative and a member of the school's Business Department faculty.

"The Varsity 'N is a celebration of excellence," said Dr. Kiesler, who has been involved with the Varsity 'N for the past four years. "These dedicated young men and women are true scholar-athletes. It is a great honor to acknowledge their many accomplishments and to share the day with them. This is one of my favorite events of the year."

New Inductees (45)
Nicholas Alegrado - Men’s Volleyball (Biology)
Natalie Averell - Women’s Water Polo (Public Health)
Leslie Chang - Women’s Tennis (Communications)
Haley Chee – Women’s Soccer (Business & Finance)
Jutta Collet – Women’s Tennis (Communications)
Gabriel Corniel – Baseball (Undeclared)
Taylor Cudequest – Men’s Track & Field (Education)
Jakayla Daniels – Women’s Track & Field (Biology)
Tabatha Dickson – Women’s Soccer (Kinesiology)
Monique Griffiths – Women’s Track & Field (Health Promotions)
Elisabeth Haavardsholm – Women’s Golf (Economics)
Tre Hale-Edmerson – Men’s Basketball (Undeclared)
Madalyne Handy – Softball (Kinesiology)
Taitum Herrington – Women’s Water Polo (Communications & Marketing)
Stephanie Hicks – Women’s Track & Field (Communications)
Sydney House – Softball (Recreation Tourism Management)
Olympia Jewett – Women’s Track & Field (Bio-Chemistry)
Megan Kittlitz – Women’s Track & Field (Communications)
James Knowles – Men’s Track & Field (Biology)
Alexa Limon – Softball (Kinesiology)
Dawaun Lucas – Men’s Track & Field (Marketing)
Tiffini Lucero – Softball (Geography)
Camille Mahlknecht – Women’s Basketball (Business Management)
Stephen Maxwell – Men’s Basketball (Business Management)
Emma Millard – Women’s Track & Field (Psychology)
Stephanie Miller – Women’s Volleyball (Undeclared)
Jealinda Mills – Women’s Track & Field (Communications)
Maylynn Mitchell – Softball (Public Health Promotion)
Alexis Pichardo – Women’s Cross Country/Track &Field (Journalism)
Marcelo Rosales – Men’s Cross Country/Track & Field (Kinesiology)
Marissa Rossi – Women’s Track & Field (Accounting)
Jory Rucker – Men’s Track & Field (Psychology)
Oscar Sachs – Men’s Golf (Communications Studies)
Bradley Sakaida – Men’s Volleyball (Kinesiology)
Drew Staker – Men’s Volleyball (Kinesiology)
Shane Steffes – Men’s Soccer (Undeclared)
Jordan Taylor – Men’s Track & Field (Economics)
Nicole Thompson – Women’s Soccer (Civil Engineering)
Brianna Tucker – Women’s Track & Field (Philosophy)
Jennifer Tyler – Softball (Public Administration)
Jenna Vincej – Women’s Track & Field (Pre-Nursing)
Tucker Weathers – Men’s Track & Field (Kinesiology)
Grant Weiss – Men’s Track & Field (Marketing)
Katrina Wilbanks – Women’s Track & Field (Kinesiology)
Jenna Yowell – Women’s Track & Field (Psyhology)

Repeat Honorees (27 - Previous induction years are noted next to each sport)
Fany Alvarado – Cross Country (2011, Kinesiology)
Yarden Azulay – Men’s Soccer (2012, Marketing)
Lorraine Cheung – Women’s Tennis (2011, 2012, Business Marketing)
Mariah Counts – Women’s Track & Field (2012, Kinesiology)
Melissa Doll – Women’s Water Polo (2011, 2012, Mathematics)
Lindsy Duncan – Women’s Water Polo (2011, 2012, Kinesiology)
Miranda Friess – Women’s Basketball (2012, Pre-Pharmacy)
Britney Graff – Women’s Volleyball (2011, Kinesiology)
Ryan Green – Men’s Golf (2011, 2012, Business)
Molly Henehan – Women’s Water Polo (2011, 2012, Sociology)
Casey Hinger – Women’s Volleyball (2012, Child Development)
Sydney Hubbard – Men’s Track & Field (2011, Journalism)
Marisa Miller – Women’s Soccer (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, Child Development)
Tyler Milton – Men’s Track & Field (2011, 2012, Biology)
Steven Molumby – Men’s Golf (2012, Mechanical Engineering)
Julio Mora – Men’s Cross Country (2010, 2011, Health Administration)
Brittanie Sakajian – Women’s Soccer (2011, Finance & Real Estate)
Cornine Schnyder – Women’s Tennis (2012, Marketing)
Sharon Shin – Women’s Golf (2012, Journalism)
Nicolette Smith – Women’s Soccer (2011, 2012, Liberal Studies)
Cynthia Tafoya – Women’s Soccer (2012, English)
Mikayla Thielges – Softball/Basketball (2011, 2012, Kinesiology)
Le’Shell Vines – Women’s Track & Field (2012, Undeclared)
Wendy Warner – Women’s Soccer (2011, 2012, Nutrition)
Rachel Webb – Women’s Soccer (2012, Political Science)
Tiana Webberly – Women’s Track & Field (2010, 2011, 2012, Kinesiology)
Marisa Young – Women’s Water Polo (2012, Marine Biology)


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