Eastern Mennonite University's Tyler Denlinger (Perkasie, Pa./Dock Mennonite Academy) has won the Harry G. "Doc" Jopson Award, giving the Royals a top scholar-athlete award from the Old Dominion Athletic Conference for the second straight year.
The ODAC's Board of Directors announced the honor today from a pool of the conference's seniors in all sports, considering athletic, academic and extracurricular achievement.
For Denlinger, the Jopson Award is the highest recognition from a storybook career. A 12-time All-ODAC performer, Denlinger won his first individual ODAC Championship this spring at the ODAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships while also winning the President's Award as EMU's top male student-athlete.
He said it is a tremendous honor to be the recipient of the Jopson Award.
"Because I know of the incredible caliber of the student-athletes found in Track and Field, I am aware of how high an honor this is as it extends across all sports," explained Denlinger. "I am extremely grateful for the ways in which EMU and the ODAC have set me up to succeed and consider it a blessing to have spent my time there."
EMU's Hannah Chappell-Dick won the Majorie Berkley Award last year, becoming the sixth Royal to be named the ODAC's top female scholar-athlete. Denlinger is the fifth male from Eastern Mennonite to win the Jopson Award since it was created in 1981.
Eastern Mennonite Director of Athletics Dave King nominated the senior runner for the award.
"It has been a joy to watch Tyler develop as an athlete and a person," said King. "He is a great example of what can be achieved through a four-year commitment to excellence in your sport, the classroom and all your involvements. As he developed as a runner, he narrowed his focus on particular distances and employed the training regimen required to have his best performances at the end of his career. Everything he did was building toward the end of his running career. It is that type of commitment to reaching a goal that Tyler will take with him from athletics and apply it to other aspects of his life, making him successful in whatever he pursues."
Denlinger was a four-year member of EMU's cross country and track & field teams. He made his biggest athletic mark on the track, winning the first of his 12 All-ODAC honors as a sophomore. A multiple All-Region performer for finishing with a top-five time in the South/Southeast Region, Denlinger won ODAC gold medals with the indoor 4x400m relay team and then individually in the outdoor 800m. He broke five EMU records: indoor 1000m and mile, outdoor 800m and 1500m, and a team mark in the 4x400m relay.
"Throughout my years of competing with EMU, I have come to love the ODAC," Denlinger explained. "The level of competition is high, the schools are gracious and hospitable, and I have come to befriend many of the athletes I have competed against. Athletically, the ODAC provided an optimal environment for me to grow and succeed in. It has been a delight to duke it out with some of the best middle distance runners in ODAC history."
Director of Cross Country/Track & Field Isaac Bryan said Denlinger set himself apart with his work ethic, both on the track and in his classwork.
"One of the best parts of coaching Tyler was getting to hear about how he was growing in his academics," Bryan commented. "Quite often we would have conversations about his research projects and his lab work. Tyler seeks learning in all aspects of life. It's only fitting that he should win this award."
Denlinger, who graduated this spring with a 3.94 GPA as a pre-med biology major, has plans to go to medical school before running a family practice. His received just as much recognition for his academic work at EMU as he did for his running.
He is a five-time ODAC/Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete, winning his first of those as a sophomore in 2015. Denlinger has earned spots twice on the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District Team as well as the VaSID Academic All-State Team, and has been on the EMU Dean's List every semester.
The Perkasie, Pa., native said he was glad he chose Eastern Mennonite University and its broad based liberal arts education.
"Academically, my time spent at EMU has been energizing," said Denlinger. "I enjoyed getting my feet wet in a variety of science classes including Sustainable Agriculture, Organic Chemistry and Human Physiology, but also gained satisfaction outside of my major in Men's Choir and Cognitive Psychology."
Over his four years, Denlinger was involved in EMU's Student Government Association and was a community advisor for Residence Life. He worked with the local community by providing cadaver dissection demonstrations, and will keep his graduating class connected as the Senior Class President.
Looking back at his four years as a collegiate student-athlete, Denlinger cited a quip from inventor Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Denlinger said that mantra sums up his own determination to learn and grow, not only on the track, but also in his classwork and now in his life after college.
King was impressed by Denlinger's ability to keep his accomplishments in perspective.
"While 'All-American' seems to be everyone's dream ending, and Tyler certainly gave his best effort to achieve that level, his balanced outlook on life is demonstrated by the joy he found in claiming his first-ever individual ODAC gold medal in his final ODAC race, an experience he says was a storybook ending," explained King.
The Jopson Award is the first for EMU since Adam Shank won it in 2006. Other previous winners for Eastern Mennonite are Kurt Sauder (1989), Vaughn Troyer (1993) and Aaron Kauffman (2001). Along with Chappell-Dick's Berkley Award last year, the Royals had the first five winners of the ODAC's top female scholar-athlete: Becky Derstine (1984), Cheryl Ann Bergey (1985), Linda Burkhardt (1986), Noel King (1987) and Ann Wenger (1988).
Washington and Lee University tennis player Brooke Donnelly won this year's Berkley Award.
Berkley and Jopson Award History
Inaugurated in 1984 and 1981, respectively, the Marjorie Berkley and Harry G. "Doc" Jopson Scholar-Athlete Awards are given each spring to member institution seniors and conference sport participants who exhibit the highest athletic, academic, and extracurricular achievements. Ms. Berkley began her collegiate teaching career at Lynchburg College. Several years later, she moved to Hollins University where she coached tennis, field hockey, and soccer, and served as the athletic director for 30 years. The Jopson Award is named in honor of the Bridgewater College professor and coach who retired in 1981 following 45 years at BC. Dr. Jopson, who initiated and directed the Eagles' cross country and track programs, led his teams to ODAC indoor track titles in 1979, 1980 and 1981, and outdoor crowns in 1978 through 1981.