Former UMD student-athlete Heather Hamilton has raked up accolades on the track and in the classroom.
All-American student, athlete (and volunteer)
By Rick Moore
From M, fall 2005
Heather Hamilton is one of those student-athletes who come around once in great while. Like about every two decades.
At least that's the take of Bob Nygaard, the sports information director at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD). When asked for his impressions of Hamilton, who finished her Bulldogs track career this past year and is finishing her master's in social work this year, Nygaard searches the top shelf of superlatives. "In my 22 years with UMD athletics, I have never seen a more complete and well-rounded student-athlete," he says. "She's truly a remarkable young woman."
The stats back up that assessment. Hamilton finished her undergraduate years with a double major in women's studies and psychology, a minor in coaching, and a 4.0 grade-point average. She made the dean's list every semester and was an Academic All-American in 2003 and 2004.
Hamilton is also the most decorated athlete in UMD history. She qualified for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships in the 400-meter hurdles as both a junior and a senior. In her senior year, she finished eighth at nationals, good enough for All-American status on the track as well as in the classroom. And in March, she tacked on All-American honors for indoor track in the 800-meter run.
In her spare time, Hamilton has been volunteering at the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) in St. Louis County. Four times a year, she's on call for a full week for PAVSA's crisis line, and she says she deals with a range of people, from those in great stress at a hospital to people dealing with issues resurfacing from 20 years ago.
"It's really rewarding," Hamilton says. "Each person I work with is a completely different experience, and I like that variety," Her volunteer work goes hand in hand with her decision to pursue the graduate degree in social work, and she hopes to eventually work for a small nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women or children. "I have a belief that there's a lot of need out there," she says. "And I want to be true to what I believe and work toward those causes."
Hamilton also sees running as part of her lifestyle and would like to keep one foot on the track, so to speak. Already, she's had internships with the UMD cross country and outdoor track teams.
In the meantime, the accolades that followed Hamilton as an undergraduate continue to trail her like a finish-line tape still stuck to her waist. On August 24, she was honored as the female NCAA Division II Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and a week later she was named Woman of the Year for Minnesota-an honor given to one athlete in the state across all divisions and sports. The award is based on athletics, academics, and contributions to the community.
"She should be a strong candidate to be the national [NCAA Woman of the Year] award winner, as well," adds Nygaard. "I can say this with all sincerity: I can live to be 200 and will never see another student-athlete as remarkable as Heather."