Radford University’s Rinaldi and Wilkinson earn prestigious Christenberry Award

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Brittany Rinaldi of the Radford women’s lacrosse team and Jacob Wilkinson of the Radford men’s soccer team have been awarded the Big South Conference’s prestigious George A. Christenberry Award for Academic Excellence, the league office announced on Wednesday.
 The award is given to the male and female student-athlete who attain the highest GPA during their undergraduate collegiate careers. It is the eighth consecutive year with a record total, and the fourth-straight year at least eight student-athletes have been honored. The 12 overall selections bests the previous record of 10 honorees established in 2018-19.  
Big South member institutions nominate one male and one female undergraduate student-athlete for the annual Christenberry Award. The honor is named for George A. Christenberry, the former President of Augusta College (now Augusta University) and one of the founders of the Big South Conference. A member of the Big South Hall of Fame, Christenberry served as the league’s first President from 1983-86. 
“Congratulations to these 12 outstanding student-athletes as recipients of the Christenberry Award, the Big South Conference’s highest academic honor,” said Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander. “To think that they all completed their undergraduate academic career with perfect GPAs, especially with the demands placed on them as student-athletes, is truly incredible. To be winners both on the field of play and in their academic careers truly exemplify the highest ideals of the Big South Conference.”Rinaldi (Miller Place, N.Y.) was is the 2020 Big South Women’s Lacrosse Scholar-Athlete of the Year, becoming the first in program history. She started 36 of her 39 career games at Radford and tallied 19 goals, five assists, 24 points, 72 ground balls, 41 caused turnovers and 57 draw controls. She has been a Dean’s List member all four years, was a scholarship recipient from the National Science Foundation to attend NADEF in Wyoming to conduct field work, was the recipient of a NSF Graduate Fellowship to continue research and present at a national conference and publish research in a scientific journal. Rinaldi earned the Outstanding Student award for Geospatial Science department for the 2018-2019 academic year, and presented dendroecological research at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) in Washington, D.C. She is the first student-athlete to receive this honor in program history. 
“Brittany has been a trailblazer for academic excellence within our program,” said head coach Haley Hardy. “She is a role model for future generations of Radford lacrosse players, her achievements and awards give our underclassman more to strive for within the classroom. Her example has shown them that with dedication and a strong desire to learn, awards like this are possible for our student-athletes. Also, the resources and opportunities in academics provided by Radford Athletics helps to create an environment where students like Brittany can thrive.”Wilkinson (Frederick, Md.) played a career-high 987 minutes across 12 contests (11 starts) during the 2019 season as part of Radford’s back line – including the full 90 minutes or more in nine of his 12 appearances. He set career-highs across the board in appearances, starts, minutes and shots while helping lead the Highlanders to a 26th consecutive Big South Tournament appearances – the longest active streak in the conference. Wilkinson earned CoSIDA Second-Team Academic All-America honors during the fall, marking the 27th time a Radford student-athlete earned Academic All-America honors, the eighth Highlander men’s soccer player to earn the award and the first Radford men’s soccer player to earn Academic All-America since 2017.  He was also a member of the 2019 Big South Men’s Soccer All-Academic Team.
Rinaldi and Wilkinson increase Radford’s honoree total to 14 student-athletes to have earned this award. Past Highlander winners include Jessica Wollmann (2018-19), Stephen Hudgens (2014-15), Rachel Conway (2013-14), Megan Rhodes (2012-13), Jourdan McDaniel (2011-12), Alexandra Spector (2008-09), Cassandra Price (2007-08), Laura Terebey (2003-04), Corey Reed (1997-98), Dede Logemann (1995-96), Samantha Gilbert (1993-94) and Juliann Campbell (1991-92).
The 2019-20 Christenberry Award recipients are Winthrop’s Zak Butt (men’s golf, 4.0 in exercise science), Gardner Webb’s Allison Chandler (women’s golf, 4.0 in accounting), Jennifer Jackson (women’s swimmer, 4.0 biology), Brian Stepanek (men’s soccer, 4.0 in computer science, Charleston Southern’s Caroline Edmondson (women’s track & field, 4.0 in kinesiology), Longwood’s Dana Joss (women’s lacrosse, 4.0 in history/pre-law), USC Upstate’s Riley Popplewell (women’s basketball, 4.0 elementary education), Presbyterian’s Katie Thompson (women’s tennis, 4.0 in early childhood education), UNC Asheville’s Adee Weller (women’s swimmer, 4.0 in political science), in addition to Radford’s duo of Brittany Rinadli (women’s lacrosse, 4.0 geospatial science) and Jacob Wilkinson (men’s soccer, 4.0 in finance/accounting).

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