The Medal of Excellence is a newly created award which will be presented annually to one male and one female student-athlete from the graduating class of each of the conference's 12 member institutions. This year's winners were recognized at the honors dinner ceremony at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel as part of the MAC Spring Meetings.
Bickel, who managed a 3.71 GPA, graduated this spring with a degree in sport administration. The third baseman from Munster, Ind., helped the Ball State softball team to a 33-19 overall record and its fifth MAC regular season championship in the past six seasons.
Bickel was an all-conference selection for the second year in a row, earning first-team honors with a .369 batting average, nine home runs and 48 RBI. She finished her career ranked among the top five on the Cardinals' all-time lists for homers (25) and RBI (149). Bickel has twice earned Academic All-MAC recognition and served on Ball State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Merkel, who managed a 3.87 GPA, graduated this spring with a degree in business administration. He competed in the NCAA Men's Golf Championships twice, earning a Regional berth as an individual in 2012 and helping Ball State to a spot in the Nationals as a team in 2013.
The Evansville, Ind., product was a three-time all-conference selection and twice a member of the league's first team. He won three tournaments in his career, and his 73.99 stroke average over his four years at Ball State ranks as the second-best in program history. Merkel has twice been named to the Academic All-MAC Team and was a Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar in 2013. He was also active with Athletes in Action and College Golf Fellowship.
To be honored with the Medal of Excellence Award, student-athletes must participate on the varsity level in a conference sponsored sport and show evidence of academic success with a minimum 3.50 cumulative grade-point average. They must exhibit athletics excellence, leadership and service. Selection of the recipients was made by each MAC institution.
2014 Medal of Excellence Award Winners
Akron: Reinaldo Brenes (men’s soccer); Ariane Beaumont-Courteau (women’s track & field)
Ball State: Tyler Merkel (men’s golf); Audrey Bickel (softball)
Bowling Green: Cody Apthorpe (baseball); Nicole Chiricosta (women’s tennis)
Buffalo: William Regan (men’s basketball); Kristen Sharkey (women’s basketball)
Central Michigan: Kyle Smith (men’s track & field/cross country; Simone Lazar (field hockey)
Eastern Michigan: Cy Maughmer (football); Stephanie Clarke (women’s soccer)
Kent State: Nathaniel Vance (football); Jessacca Gironda (women’s soccer/softball)
Miami: Mason Krysinski (football); Sarah Mueller (field hockey)
Northern Illinois: Richard Connors (football); Kimberly Gotlund (gymnastics)
Ohio: Travis Wilkins (men’s basketball); Juliane Accurso (women’s track & field/cross country)
Toledo: Zachary Kerin (football); Lauren Rafdal (volleyball)
Western Michigan: Oliver Mayer (men’s soccer); Michelle Watson (women’s soccer)
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State athletics, follow @bsuathletics on Twitter.