Pixler, Law among NCAA’s Byers Scholarship finalists

Courtesy: NCAA

April 8, 2011   

The NCAA has announced the six finalists for its annual Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarships. A male and a female recipient for the $24,000 renewable scholarship will be selected later this month.

The finalists for the 2011 awards are:

  • David Gatz, Ohio Wesleyan, swimming and diving
  • Darius Law, Charlotte, track and field
  • Daniel Mazzaferro, Auburn, swimming and diving
  • Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific, track and cross country
  • Jessica Tsao, Portland, soccer
  • Kelsey Ward, Drury, swimming and diving

The Byers Scholarships were established in 1988 and recognize the contributions of former NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. Recipients must have a 3.5 grade-point average, demonstrate evidence of superior character and leadership, and show that participation in athletics has been a positive influence on their personal on their personal and intellectual development.

Following are summaries of the finalists’ achievements.

David Gatz

Ohio Wesleyan, swimming and diving
3.91 GPA
Biochemistry, pre-professional zoology, pre-medicine

Resume: Rhodes Scholarship finalist; member of Phi Beta Kappa; recipient of an NCAA postgraduate scholarship; five-time College Swim Coaches Association of America All-American and three-time CSCAA Academic All-American; CoSIDA Academic All-American, 2008, 2009 and 2010; first-team ESPN Academic All-American, 2009 and 2010 (second team 2008); captain of the men’s swim team; participated in three NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

In his words: “Following my athletics and academic interests allowed me to develop into a scholar-athlete, such that in college I participated as a member of the varsity swimming program, while triple-majoring in biochemistry, zoology and pre-medicine. This lifestyle forced me to develop strong time-management skills and the ability to prioritize.”

Darius Law

Charlotte, track and field
4.0 GPA

Resume: 2010 Arthur Ashe Jr. Male Sports Scholar-Athlete of the Year; first-team ESPN Academic All-American, 2010 (second team 2009); 2009 and 2010 Atlantic 10 Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Student-Athlete of the Year; 2009 and 2010 Atlantic 10 Men’s Indoor Track and Field Student-Athlete of the Year; 19-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion; 2010 NCAA Indoor Track and Field All-American (400 meters); participated in the 2010 NCAA Division I Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

In his words: “It is important to understand that my journey as a track and field student-athlete has involved more than winning races, Atlantic 10 Championships and other awards. It has been a journey that has involved intellectual and personal development, as well.”

Daniel Mazzaferro

Auburn, swimming and diving
3.92 GPA

Resume: Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention; Phi Kappa Phi National Graduate Fellowship recipient; President’s Medal for College of Science and Mathematics recipient; United States Olympic diving finalist; represented United States at the World University Games; captain of men’s swimming and diving team; seven-time NCAA All-American; Co-SEC Male Diver of the Year; two-time individual SEC champion; member of 2007 and 2009 NCAA championship team.

In his words: “After medical school, I plan to specialize in orthopedic medicine and ultimately become a surgeon with a continued interest in working with organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. I truly believe that each of us should be using our skills both locally and abroad to help those who otherwise would go without.”

Jessica Pixler

Seattle Pacific (now grad student at Colorado), track & field and cross country

3.93 GPA


Resume: NCAA Today’s Top VIII selection; NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient; NCAA Woman of the Year nominee; three-time USTFCCCA Academic All-American; three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American; CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year; Junior Pan American Games 1,500-meter champion; four-time NCAA cross country champion; four-time NCAA indoor track champion in the mile; NCAA indoor track 5,000-meters champion; NCAA indoor track distance medley relay champion; three-time NCAA outdoor track 1,500-meters champion.

In her words: “I would like to continue my running career by coaching young women to develop the skills necessary to live confident and successful lives. Gender equality should be pursued in academics and athletics, and I see myself as blessed with the experience and education to help this become a reality.”

Jessica Tsao

Portland, soccer
3.95 GPA

Resume: Rhodes Scholarship finalist; first-team ESPN Academic All-American; Alpha Lambda Delta honors society member; Lowe’s Senior Class Award finalist; West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year; first-team all-WCC; member of the USA Under-23 Women’s National Soccer Team.

In her words: “I have been accepted into the graduate program at Cambridge University, where I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical neuroscience. After receiving my Ph.D., I plan to return to the United States and conduct research on concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”

Kelsey Ward

Drury, swimming and diving
3.974 GPA
Biology and chemistry

Resume: NCAA Elite 88 nominee; three-time College Swim Coaches Association of America Academic All-American; two-time NCAA national champion (2009 and 2010); member of three winning relay teams in the 2008 NCAA championships, three in 2009 and two in 2010; member of the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

In her words: “The chance to be a member of Drury’s swimming team was a gift that I will never take for granted. I was rewarded with irreplaceable friends, mentors and memories, the fondest being our three-peat national championships in my sophomore, junior and senior years. The thought of leaving my team upon graduation is daunting, but my future dreams are even larger than any national championship.”