June 8, 2011
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PARK RIDGE, Ill. — The Big Ten Conference office announced Wednesday that Iowa football player Julian Vandervelde and sprinter and distance runner Bethany Praska have been named Iowa’s 2011 Big Ten Medal of Honor winners.
First awarded in 1914, the Big Ten endowed a Medal of Honor to be given annually to a student in the graduating class of each university that demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and athletics. In 1982, the Medal of Honor was expanded to include a senior female athlete from each institution.
Praska, who hails from Longmont, Colo., is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree who was previously named Iowa’s women’s track Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner. During the 2011 indoor season, she earned All-American status after placing seventh at the NCAA Championships in 800 meters (2:07.24). Praska set the school record for 800 meters at NCAA Prelims (2:05.01). She was the Big Ten champion in the 600 meters, running a team-leading and collegiate-best 1:28.14 in the finals, which ranks as the second fastest time in Iowa history. Praska also ran on the 1,600-meter relay team that posted the top four times in school history. In the current 2011 outdoor season, she was Big Ten champion in the 800 meters (2:06.63) and ran on the conference champion 4×400 relay team (3:36.51). In addition, Praska anchored the record setting sprint medley team that was crowned Drake Relays champion (3:48.63) and ran the lead leg on the 1,600-meter relay team that set the school record with a time of 3:35.93 at the Drake Relays. She will compete this weekend at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines.
Vandervelde, a native of Davenport, Iowa, was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and a three-time ESPN/CoSIDA District Seven Academic All-American. The 6-3, 300-pounder was named second team All-Big Ten by league coaches and media and was named third-team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele’s College Football in 2010 as a senior. In addition, the former Davenport Central High School standout was a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy and earned the Forest Evashevski Scholastic Achievement Award in 2010. Vandervelde started all 13 games at left guard as a senior and made 37 career starts. He was drafted by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.