June 26, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas - Junior Rebecca Esselstein and senior Josh Nielsen were named to the Capital One Academic All-America® Team for Track and Field and Cross Country, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) announced today (June 26). Both Falcons were honored with second-team Academic All-America distinction.
A third-team honoree in 2013, Esselstein becomes the program's first athlete since CoSIDA separated track and field/cross country into its own category in 2002, to earn multiple Academic All-America awards in a career. She is the third Falcon to accomplish that feat at any level, as Mary Manning (1984-85) and Chris Nelson (1991-92) received multiple honors when the sport was still part of the "at-large" division.
One of nine repeat honorees on the full women's Academic All-America team (47 total athletes, divided into three teams), Esselstein holds a 3.98 GPA in astronautical engineering. An all-MW honoree for the second straight year as a member of the distance medley relay, Esselstein ran on the squad that placed third at the conference championships and accounted for the fourth-fastest time in Academy history. Individually, the junior clocked the ninth-fastest 800-meter time in Air Force history (2:14.09), while competing in four cross country meets, including the conference and regional championship meets.
It is the second straight year that Air Force has placed multiple athletes on the Academic All-America list, as Nielsen garnered second-team status on the men's side (45 total athletes, three teams). Earning a double-major in computer science and pre-med (3.88 GPA), the senior earned all-conference honors as the leadoff leg for the 4x400-meter relay that finished third at the MW Indoor Championships. Nielsen led the team during in the 400-meter run during the outdoor season (49.08 at the Beach Invitational), while ranking second on the team during the indoor season (49.39 at the MW Championships).
The Falcons' track and field program has now claimed nine Academic All-Americans. The list now includes Mary Manning (1984 first-team, 1985 first-team), Chris Nelson (1991 second-team, 1992 second-team), Nick Wilson (2006 third-team), Kenny Grosselin (2008 first-team), Brittany Morreale (2010 second-team), Matt Bell (2013 third-team), Jeremy Drenckhahn (2013 first-team), Esselstein (2013 third-team, 2014 second-team) and Nielsen (2014 second-team).
To be eligible for Academic All-America consideration, a student-athlete must be a varsity starter or key reserve, maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.30 or higher on a scale of 4.00, have reached sophomore athletic and academic standing at his/her current institution, be nominated by his/her sports information director and earn first-team status at the district level.