Athletes and female sports advocates were honored Feb. 5 at the 24th annual Girls and Women in Sports and Fitness awards banquet at the Nebraska Champions Club, 707 Stadium Drive, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Dr. JoAnne Owens-Nauslar, a GWSF Committee member, served as master of ceremonies.
Girls and women honored at this year’s event included:
- STAR CITY SPORTS YOUTH ATHLETES OF THE YEAR – Hanna Ray, a cross country and track star at Lincoln Northeast, and Abbie Squier, who excelled at softball and the shot put at Lincoln Southwest. Ray is one of the top distance runners in Nebraska, and also one of the state’s top academic varsity athletes with a cumulative grade-point average of 4.371. She holds all of the Rockets’ cross country course records and track records in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. She is a three-time cross country state medalist in Class A who earned Super State Athlete of the Year twice. At the state meet last fall, she placed fifth in a very talented Class A field. She has been a team captain in both cross country and track for two years.
- Squier, the other Youth Athlete of the Year, is a Super State/All Nebraska team member in softball and was named a Third Team All American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Squier shined at the state tournament last fall as the Silver Hawks ended Papillion La Vista’s 49-game winning streak. She hit a grand slam to overcome a 4-1 Papio lead in game one, then followed with a go-ahead three-run homer and a throw from center field to prevent a tying run in the championship game. She is committed to play softball at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Squier is also a state champion shot putter, played varsity basketball and was a peer member on the Southwest Unified Bowling Team. She has won two All-America Scholar Athlete awards from the NFCA with a 4.25 GPA.
- ANDREA KABOUREK COURAGE AWARD – Logan Gronewold. A senior volleyball standout for Lincoln Northeast, Gronewold battled through encephalitis, or inflammation in the brain, during her sophomore year. Fortunately, medical treatment helped her overcome the condition. Throughout the challenges, Gronewold maintained a 4.0-plus GPA. She was a four-year starter at middle hitter and finished her career with 775 kills, 162 blocks, 97 service aces and 654 digs. She has committed to attend Rockhurst University in Kansas City next fall on an academic and athletic scholarship.
- CARMEL SHEPPARD SPIRIT AWARD – Sharill Luedtke. A Lincoln High assistant swim coach and master swimmer, Luedtke also teaches science. Several of her current and former swimmers spoke about her at the banquet, highlighting her strengths and inspiration as a coach, community builder and athlete. Last August, Luedtke racked up four fourth-place finishes and a seventh-place finish in the women’s ages 55-59 division at the FINA World Masters Championships in South Korea. As a coach, swimmers cited Luedtke for “radiating positivity” and “creating stronger relationships.”
- AMBASSADOR AWARD – Julie Obear. She excelled at collegiate field hockey and softball at Boston College and is in the its hall of Fame. Obear has coached youth softball, organized tennis leagues, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the Triple Crown of long-distance trails in the U.S. and regularly hosts ping pong tournaments in her home for family and friends. Obear personally and professionally embodies the spirit of sports competition and lifelong wellness. As a physical therapist, she advocates for patients and co-workers to stay active and have fun while doing so. She encourages all in pursuit of their goals, whether they be rehabilitation of an injury, returning to work or completing a fitness challenge.
- BARBARA HIBNOR MENTOR AWARD – Leann Boerema. She was a two-time Iowa Class 3A state shot put champ and two-time state meet place-winner in the discus. Despite several injuries as a member of the UNL track and field team, she placed 14th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Today, Boerema is a behavioral specialist at Lincoln North Star, where she also coaches shot put and discus throwers and is the Unified Bowling coach. In addition, she guides and encourages LPS students with disabilities at the Food Bank of Lincoln and North Star. At the Food Bank, she teaches students about life and math while overseeing their work packing bags of food for LPS students in need.
- ANNE CAMPBELL PIONEER AWARD – Crystal Kjar. Now head athletic trainer at Lincoln Southwest, Kjar provided testimony before the Nebraska Legislature that helped lead to passage of the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Act in 2012. She has been an innovator in concussion testing for several years. “Crystal does a great job of leading our athletic training room in providing her expertise in the prevention, evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of athletic injuries," said Southwest Assistant Activities Director Kim Carson. Kjar played basketball at Butler County (Kansas) Community College from 1995-97. She holds an associate’s degree from Butler and a Bachelor of Education in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from UNL.
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