Two of the University of Wisconsin's exceptional student-athletes have received the Big Ten Conference's highest distinction.
Senior multi-events athlete Zach Lorbeck of the men’s track and field team and senior backstroke specialist Beata Nelson of the women's swimming and diving team were named Wednesday as Wisconsin's recipients of the Big Ten Medal of Honor. The awards were presented as part of the 2020 Buckinghams, UW Athletics' annual awards show and student-athlete showcase. This year’s Buckinghams were presented online live via YouTube and social media.
The conference's most prestigious award, the Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work."
The conference's exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. Only one male and one female student-athlete now receive this award per Big Ten institution.
Nelson, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, is one of the best backstrokers in college swimming. She is a seven-time All-American, six-time honorable mention All-American, nine-time Big Ten champion and holds the collegiate, U.S. Open and American record in the 100-yard backstroke (49.18).
Nelson is the only woman to break 50 seconds in the 100 backstroke six times and holds the NCAA record in the 200-yard backstroke (1:47.24). She was named 2019 CSCAA Women's Swimmer of the Year after winning three individual national titles (100 back, 200 back, 200 IM).
Nelson is Wisconsin's school record-holder in the 100 back, 200 back, 100 fly and 200 IM, as well as holding Big Ten records in the 100 back (49.18), 200 back (1:47.24) and 200 IM (1:50.79). She was also the 2019 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, Big Ten Swimmer of the Championship and All-Big Ten First Team.
Academically, Nelson earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2018, 2019 and 2020, volunteers for Badgers Give Back and served as the Vice President of the 2019-20 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Nelson graduated last week with a degree in psychology and will be pursuing a career as a professional athlete and aiming for a spot on the U.S. national team.
Lorbeck, hailing from Green Bay, Wis., won the 2020 Big Ten Indoor title in the heptathlon, scoring a personal best 5,833 points. He also finished second in the open long jump.
A two-time All-American, Lorbeck qualified for the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships in the heptathlon with the seventh-best mark before the meet was canceled due to COVID19. He previously qualified for the 2018 and 2019 NCAA Indoor Championship in the heptathlon, finishing 15th (2018) and 11th (2019) overall.
A six-time Big Ten scorer in the multi-events, Lorbeck is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and three-time U. S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic selection. He graduated last week with a degree in kinesiology and will be attending physical therapy school at the UW beginning this summer.