The Big Ten Conference announced the 2018-19 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award recipients, including Shay Nielsen of Detroit Lakes, on Tuesday with 94 University of Minnesota student-athletes garnering the accolades while representing 20 Maroon & Gold athletic programs.

Gopher Athletics led the Big Ten Conference in five different sports for the 2018-19 season -- women's cross country, men's gymnastics, men's hockey, women's hockey and softball. Additionally, cross country and track & field were counted as one program by the Big Ten for the first time this year after counting as separate programs in previous years. Despite this, the University of Minnesota's total of 94 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars ranks second in school history behind last year's 108 honorees.

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Additionally, 12 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award recipients from the University of Minnesota student-athletes maintained perfect 4.0 grade point averages during the academic year with Megan Hasz (women's cross country/track & field), Zetta Mason (women's cross country/track & field), Patty O'Brien (women's cross country/track & field), Meleah Biermaier (women's track & field), Shay Nielsen (women's track & field),  Paige Peschel (women's cross country/track & field), Colton Dee (men's gymnastics), Nicole Schammel (women's hockey), Lindsay Eliasen (women's rowing), Mariam Khamis (women's swimming & diving), Lindsey Kozelsky (women's swimming & diving) and Rachel Munson (women's swimming & diving) representing the Maroon & Gold.

Faculty Representatives from each Big Ten university established the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2008 to supplement the Academic All-Big Ten program. Recipients must receive All-Big Ten recognition during the previous academic year, be enrolled full time at the institution for the entire previous academic year (two semesters or three quarters), and earn a minimum of a 3.70 GPA, excluding summer classes. The Academic All-Big Ten threshold is a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for a student's academic career.