The Mercer Univerity Athletics Department announced its 2012-13 Outstanding Male and Female Student-Athletes of the Year at its third annual Big Bear Event held at Hawkins Arena on Saturday April 20.
Seniors Will Betts and Kacie Niemann picked up the honors after four impressive years at Mercer University filled with outstanding achievements both on and off the field. Betts will be graduating this May from the men’s soccer team and Niemann recently finished up her running career on the women’s cross country team.
“It was really unexpected,” said Betts. “I’m extremely honored and humbled to have the opportunity to bring recognition to the men’s soccer program and the strides that the team has made throughout my four years here.”
Both Betts and Niemann have had impressive careers in their respective sports.
Betts finished his Mercer career with 77 games played and tied for the fifth-most games started in A-Sun Conference history, with 74. The Brenham, Texas native had 33 career points on 12 goals and nine assists, including a stellar 2012 senior campaign where he amassed 11 points on four goals and three assists.
Niemann will go down as one of, if not the best, women’s cross country runners in Mercer history. She holds seven of the top times ever run by women’s runners in the Bears’ record book and is now a two-time Academic All-Conference selection. Niemann also picked up All-Conference honors for the third time in her career with a top 14 finish in the conference championship race this past fall. Niemann wrapped up her A-Sun career with a personal best of 17:47.3 and finished 8th overall in the conference championship.
Both Betts and Niemann have also had impressive careers as students at Mercer.
This isn’t the first major honor for Betts, who has a 3.98 cumulative GPA as a finance major. The Brenham, Texas native was named to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-American first team, the 2012 NSCAA Scholar All-South Region first team and was voted the Atlantic Sun Conference Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2011 and 2012. This past season Niemann was also twice named Atlantic Sun Runner of the Week for her performances in the Bears’ fall schedule.
Niemann carries a 3.97 overall GPA as a double major in Spanish and Pre-Physician’s Assistant.
“It came as quite a surprise,” explained Niemann. “We have so many talented athletes at Mercer, but I am honored by the recognition. Coach Bailey took a chance on adding me to the team because I had only been a mediocre high school runner, but with God’s grace I have been able to significantly improve over the last four years. I still have terrible running form, asthma and a predisposition to stress fracture, so I can really only attribute my running success to God because it does not biologically make sense for me to be able to run well.” Niemann said.
“I have to give credit to coach Bailey’s instruction, my wonderful team, and the tough love of my fiance and fellow captain Jacob Law for giving me the tenacity to endure the pain of 3.1 miles over and over in a Mercer uniform. I am proud to bring what honor I could to an already great university.” Neimann said.
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