Natasha Hongsermeier is the 2016 recipient of the NAIA’s Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award.

Morningside’s Natasha Hongsermeier, a senior from Phillips, Neb., was named the recipient of the 2016 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award as part of Thursday’s NAIA National Awards Day.

The Walker Award is one of the most prestigious awards in the NAIA and was created in association with National Sports Foundation, a group of sports organizations that promote and recognize sportsmanship. Dr. Walker was a former president of the NAIA and president emeritus of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The award recognizes a current student-athlete with at least junior academic status who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, campus and community leadership embracing the five core character values of the NAIA Champions of Character initiative, athletic achievement, and future ambition.

Hongsermeier is a member of Morningside’s women’s tennis team. She was named a 2016 College Division At-Large First-Team Academic All-American by College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and is majoring in biology, chemistry and music. Hongsermeier has a perfect 4.00 cumulative grade point average (GPA) and is a two-time Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete. Hongsermeier has been active in a number of community service projects and founded the “Musicians for Healing” program which coordinates the time and talent of local musicians with music therapy needs of the Siouxland healthcare facilities. Since the program’s inception, over 350 hours of service has been donated by musicians. She also serves on the national board of Alpha Lambda Delta, a nonprofit freshman women’s honor society.

Hongsermeier earned first-team All-Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) honors in singles and honorable mention All-GPAC recognition in doubles during the 2015-16 season. She had a 16-2 record in singles while playing the majority of the season in the sixth flight. She had a 12-7 record in doubles competition. Hongsermeier helped lead the Mustangs to a 13-3 dual record and to GPAC regular season and post-season tournament championships en route to a berth in the NAIA Women’s Tennis National Championship tournament.

Hongsermeier is the third straight Morningside student-athlete chosen by the GPAC as its nominee for the annual Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award. Mustang football player Ethan Stofferan was the GPAC’s nominee in 2015 and Garret Ehlers from the Mustangs’ cross country and track & field teams was the conference’s nominee in 2014.

Tom Maxon, head coach of Morningside’s men’s and women’s soccer teams, was this year’s GPAC nominee for the NAIA Coach of Character Award and Mustang head wrestling coach Jake Stevenson was the league’s nominee in 2015.