The NCAA has selected South Dakota track and field student-athlete Alexa Duling and Winthrop soccer student-athlete Matt Horn as the 2013 Walter Byers Scholars. Duling and Horn each will receive a renewable $24,000 postgraduate scholarship.

The Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship is awarded annually to one male and one female student-athlete in recognition of outstanding academic achievement and potential for future success. To be eligible for consideration, a nominee must be a graduating senior or enrolled in graduate study at an NCAA member institution. Winners must have attained an undergraduate grade-point average of at least 3.5, competed on a varsity team at an NCAA member school, evidenced superior character and leadership, and demonstrated that participation in athletics and community service positively influenced the recipient’s personal and intellectual development.

The program is administered by a committee of representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences. The winners were selected through a competitive process that included in-person interviews with six finalists. Other finalists were: Audrey Coon, Western Washington, rowing; Elizabeth Phillips, Washington (Mo.), cross country and track and field; Joseph Burg, Hofstra, baseball; and Nabal Jefferson, Northern Illinois, football.

Duling

Alexa Duling

Duling is in her fifth year at South Dakota, where she majored in biology with a minor in economics and is finishing her MBA. She maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA and will attend the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix.

Duling, a member of South Dakota’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), competed in indoor and outdoor track and field and qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 400m hurdles. She placed 12th in the 400m hurdles at the NCAA championships and was an Academic All-American in 2012.

“Running at the University of South Dakota has been one of the best experiences of my life,” said Duling, a native of Gregory, S.D. “Not only have I been able to accomplish many of my goals on the track, but I have also learned that the qualities rooted in my sport -- discipline, preparation, confidence and teamwork -- are extremely important in everyday life. These qualities carry over to becoming a successful medical student and physician.”

In addition to her accomplishments on and off the field, Duling is a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run, hospice volunteer and lector at her local diocese. She also participates in various service activities through her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.

During her undergraduate career Duling shadowed several physicians. Observing a physician at the Indian Health Service hospital on the Rosebud Reservation ignited a passion for serving that community and Duling plans to return to the reservation to serve patients in need of skilled care.

“I have had some truly phenomenal experiences on the reservations in South Dakota,” she said. “Even though the reservations in South Dakota face the worst health effects of poverty, there is enduring hope and potential rooted in the Native American culture. This atmosphere of healing has completely captivated me.”

Horn

Matt Horn

Horn majored in biology and chemistry as an undergraduate, maintaining a 3.93 GPA. He is now in his first year of medical school at North Carolina, near his hometown of Mooresville.

Horn credits his Christian faith with giving him the perseverance to pursue this scholarship. “I’m really passionate about medical school and being a doctor in the future. I always thought the scholarship was a terrific opportunity,” he said.

Horn was the Eagles’ team captain for two years and was a 2010 Big South Conference All-American and Scholar Athlete of the Year. He was a 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS candidate and was selected as a Capital One Academic All-American that same year.

He served as a member of the Division I national SAAC and was a representative on several NCAA committees.

Horn said his experience as a student-athlete prepared him for the rigors of medical school. Although challenging, Horn said his first year of medical school has been “really excellent.” He hopes to specialize in either orthopedic surgery or family medicine and believes the strong academic and clinical foundation he is receiving at North Carolina will prepare him for this future.

He credits his experience as a student-athlete with teaching him how to focus on his own talents, through which Horn said he learned humility and the importance of not comparing himself to others.

“In school there’s always going to be someone that’s a little bit smarter than you and on the field there’s always going to be someone that’s a little bit better than you. I think not focusing on what other people are blessed with, but focusing on what your talents are and trying to maximize that, is what I’ve tried to focus on,” he said.

Horn said he also learned time management in his undergraduate career. Being a student-athlete means adhering to a demanding daily schedule that includes going to class, working out, practice and studying, he said.  “It’s a very tight regime, so it makes you focus on getting things done fast and doing a good job and not wasting your time. That’s really helped me out a lot here.”

Horn said he was very humbled by the other finalists and said the experience of interviewing for the Byers scholarship was extremely positive. It was gratifying for Horn to hear the other finalists’ dreams and share his own.

Horn calls the Byers scholarship the “most unbelievable award I’ve ever received” and says it’s made even more special because of the bonds he’s formed with the other finalists, members of NCAA committees and national office staff.

“The fact is,” he said, “receiving the Walter Byers Scholarship is most gratifying because it honors the incredible people who have selflessly supported me in my journey.”