SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly men’s cross country and track and field standout Swarnjit Boyal, who advanced to the NCAA Championships in both sports this year, and Taylor Nelson, a volleyball star both indoors and on the beach, have been selected as Cal Poly’s male and female athletes of the year for the 2017-18 academic year.
The awards were presented at the annual Night of the Mustang presented by Block P, Cal Poly’s letterman’s club, on Wednesday night in Chumash Auditorium. Nelson also was Cal Poly's female athlete of the year two years ago.
In cross country, Boyal took 10th place at the NCAA West Region qualifier, earning USTFCCCA All-Regional status with a 10k performance of 29 minutes, 47.2 seconds in Seattle.
Prior to advancing to the national finals, where he placed 211th, the civil and environmental engineering major from Yuba City led the Mustangs to the Big West Conference championship, earning second place individually with an 8k time of 24:21.4 at UC Riverside.
The Yuba City, Calif., native and River Valley High School graduate’s cross country season also included helping the Mustangs to a dominant 17-44 dual win in the Blue-Green Rivalry Lagoon Open at UC Santa Barbara.
Then in track, Boyal became the Big West’s first back-to-back champion for the 10,000 meters since Utah State’s Toby Conley in 1995 and 1996. He moved to No. 5 in school history for the distance while coming in second place in the Elite Invitational section of the event at the Stanford Invitational, with a time of 29:05.54 which ranked No. 22 nationally.
Boyal (pictured above at left), who also qualified for the 5,000-meter NCAA semifinals in May, also won the conference championship in the shorter of the two distances, becoming the first student-athlete since former Mustang and Olympic Trials marathon qualifier Chris Frias in 2013 to win both titles the same year (as well as the conference’s 10th student-athlete to do so since 1970).
His season-best 5,000 time, 14:01.74, finished 17th among collegians in the Elite Invitational section at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 20, leading the conference for the duration of the 2018 season.
This calendar year between his two sports, Boyal was named Big West Athlete of the Week on Sept. 5, Oct. 3 and April 3, en route to being selected for the conference’s Men’s Track Athlete of the Year Award on May 16. Additionally, Boyal has earned six consecutive Big West All-Academic honors.
A graduate of Granite Bay High School, Nelson was named 2017 Big West Player of the Year during the indoor season as well as first-team All-Big West, AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and Pacific North AVCA All-Region First Team.
Nelson (pictured above at right) led the Big West and was fifth in the nation in assists per game with 11.81 last fall. In a match against Wichita State, she posted a career-high 74 assists to help lead Cal Poly to a 3-2 win after losing the first two sets. She also finished the season with double-doubles in eight matches and was second highest on the team in digs with 2.53 per set.
Nelson ended her indoor career second all-time in assists in program history with 4,277, one of only three Mustangs to ever reach 4,000 career assists. She was named to the All-Big West First Team three times and finished in the top five in assists per set in the Big West all four years.
On the beach this season, she was paired with Adlee Van Winden. The pair went 25-3, the highest win percentage on the team, and earned second-team all-conference accolades.
She ends her beach career second all-time in wins individually in program history with 60. She and Adlee Van Winden have the most career wins by a pair in program history with 55 and Nelson made the all-conference team three years in a row in her career.
Other male athletes nominated for the Athlete of the Year award were baseball junior center fielder Alex McKenna, basketball senior guard Victor Joseph, football senior fullback Jared Mohamed and wrestling senior 141-pounder Colton Schilling.
Female athletes nominated for the award were basketball senior forward Dynn Leaupepe, golf senior Desiree Gillaspy and softball senior third baseman Stephanie Heyward.
Cal Poly's Male Scholar-Athlete for the 2017-18 school year is men’s soccer junior goalkeeper Simon Boehme while the women’s award is shared by women’s basketball senior guard/forward Mary Kate Evans and Heyward.
Boehme, a Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration major with a concentration in sports management, finished 40th among NCAA Division I goalkeepers with 4.43 saves per match and led Big West goalkeepers in save percentage (.775) and fewest goals allowed (18) en route to Big West honorable mention praise.
Evans, a graduate of Atascadero High School and winner of the award for two consecutive years, is a biomedical engineering major who averaged 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season while Heyward, a McClatchy High School graduate from Sacramento who majors in business administration, hit .312 with seven doubles, three triples and 18 RBI this spring.
Men’s cross country and track and field distance runner Alex Merder and softball shortstop Chelsea Convissar were named Cal Poly’s Big West Conference Scholar-Athletes for the 2017-18 academic year in March. Merder, who has earned Commissioner’s Honor Roll with Highest Honors as well as placement on the Dean’s List, is a biological sciences major with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biology while Convissar is a kinesiology major with an emphasis in exercise science and has earned Dean’s List honors nine times.
Dan Cardiff, a child development major from Lafayette, Calif., who played tennis for the Mustangs for three seasons and ran the 400 meters on the track and field squad this year, has served as President of Block P, Cal Poly’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the past year.
During the Fall Quarter, women’s tennis posted the top grade-point average of 3.409 while the top men’s team was swimming and diving with a 2.991 GPA. During the Winter Quarter, top honors went to women’s basketball (3.253) and wrestling (2.919).
Cal Poly student-athletes are represented in 58 of the 65 majors offered on campus. During the Winter Quarter, 52 percent of Mustang student-athletes compiled GPAs above 3.0 and eight of the 21 teams earned GPAs of 3.0 or above.
The combined grade-point average for all Cal Poly student-athletes in the Winter Quarter was 2.839.
Cal Poly Athletes of the Year (Division I)
2018 Swarnjit Boyal Cross Country/Track and Field
2017 Clayton Hutchins Cross Country
2016 Chase Minter Soccer
2015 Peter Van Gansen Baseball
2014 Chris Eversley Basketball
2013 Andre Dome Tennis
2012 Boris Novachkov Wrestling
2011 Shawn Lewis Basketball
2010 Chase Pami Wrestling
2009 Ramses Barden Football
2008 Chad Mendes Wrestling
2007 Phillip Reid Cross Country
2006 Chris Gocong Football and Travis Bertoni Golf
2005 Jordan Beck Football
2004 David Richardson Football
2003 Varnie Dennis Basketball and Tyrone Ward Track and Field
2002 Cedric Haymon Wrestling
2001 Chris Bjorklund Basketball
2000 Kaaron Conwright Track and Field Craig Young Football
1999 David Wells Wrestling
1998 Kamil Loud Football
1997 Sean Brown Track and Field
1996 Alex Garwood Football
1995 Mike Fisher Football
2018 Taylor Nelson Volleyball
2017 Sierra Hyland Softball
2016 Taylor Nelson Volleyball
2015 Elise Krieghoff Soccer
2014 Sierra Hyland Softball
2013 Laura Hollander Cross Country/Track and Field
2012 Kristina Santiago Basketball
2011 Rachel Clancy Basketball
2010 Kristina Santiago Basketball
2009 Melissa Pura Softball
2008 Sharon Day Soccer/Track and Field
2007 Lisa Modglin Softball
2006 Sierra Simmons Soccer
2005 Sharon Day Soccer/Track and Field
2004 Kaylene Wagner Track and Field
2003 Stephanie Brown Track and Field
2002 Worthy Lein Volleyball
2001 Melanie Hathaway Volleyball
2000 Kari Desoto Volleyball
1999 Paula Serrano Track and Field
1998 Desarie Knipfer Softball
1997 Desarie Knipfer Softball
1996 Erica Ahmann Track and Field
1995 Erica Ahmann Track and Field