May 25, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Five male and female Ohio State student-athletes have been selected as finalists for the 2004 Big Ten Medal of Honor. The male nominees are: Sjaan Gerth (Track and Field/Belgrave, Ontario), Ben Hartsock (Football/Chillicothe, Ohio), Jamey Houle (Gymnastics/Enfield, Conn.), Spencer Jones (Fencing/Ft. Leonardwood, Mo.) and Craig Krenzel (Football/Utica, Mich.). The female finalists are: Emma Laaksonen (Ice Hockey/Espoo, Finland) Natalie Legge (Rowing/Sydney, Australia), Jessica Marshall (Pistol/Columbus, Ohio), Katie Meyer (Synchronized Swimming/Cincinnati, Ohio) and Alexandra Shklar (Fencing/Jerusalem, Israel).

A male and female honoree will be awarded the 2004 Medal of Honor at the Ohio State Scholar-Athlete Banquet. In addition over 400 student-athletes will be recognized as Ohio State Scholar-Athletes at the banquet, which will be held at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday (May 26) in the Terrace Ballroom at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

The Big Ten Medal of Honor Award was established by the Big Ten Conference office in 1914 and is awarded at each member institution to a student-athlete in the graduating class. An additional award for the top female was instituted in 1982. The two winners are chosen according to both academic and athletic proficiency. This honor includes a postgraduate scholarship for the recipients who would like to pursue a graduate or professional program at Ohio State.

Sjaan Gerth
A biochemistry major from Belgrave, Ontario, Gerth has achieved a range of successes both on the athletic field and in the classroom that make him an exceptional scholar-athlete. A four-year varsity athlete in both cross country and track, he was co-captain of the cross country team in 2003 and co-captain of the distance squad in 2003-04. Gerth led the cross country team to a 15th-place finish at the 2003 NCAA Championships, as well as a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten championships and a third-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional during the same year. Individually, he placed third at the Big Ten championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase during the 2002 season and placed fourth in the same event in 2003, enabling him to qualify for the Division I Mideast Regional.

Gerth’s successes also have extended into the classroom. He has been an Academic All-Big Ten selection twice, was a District IV Academic All-American in 2003 and has been named an Ohio State Scholar-Athlete four times. His dedication and commitment to his team earned him the Cross Country Leadership Award in 2003. While at OSU, Gerth was involved in the Biochemistry Club and volunteered at the OSU Medical Center. He plans to attend medical school after graduation, which he hopes will enable him “to make a very real difference in the lives of real people.”

James (Jamey) Houle
As a student-athlete, Houle has excelled academically and in the gymnasium. Originally from Connecticut, he is a member of the men’s gymnastics team and has helped the team earn many athletic accolades, starting with the 2001 Big Ten and NCAA Team Championships. In 2002 he was All-American on floor exercise and contributed to the squad wining the Big Ten title. Houle was a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award given to the best male senior gymnast in the country this season.

Houle has achieved Academic All-America status and has been a 4.0 student in nine of the 11 quarters he has been at OSU. Houle has been on the dean’s list four times and is a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete award recipient. He majored in psychology and will be pursuing a master’s degree in athletic counseling at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Houle would eventually like to continue on to a doctorate in sports psychology and possibly practice and teach at OSU.

Spencer Jones
A native of Elizabethtown, Ky., Jones, a fencer, has had an outstanding college career. Athletically, he has persevered, beginning as a walk-on four years ago and finishing his career as an All-American in 2004 as the squad won the national championship, the first in program history. Jones’ journey to the top was progressive. In 2001, he was named the team’s rookie of the year and the following year his teammates voted him the 2002 Most Improved Fencer. He placed 16th and 15th at the NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003, respectively, before ending his career with a 10th-place finish at the 2004 NCAA Championships.

A member of the Golden Key National Honor Society as well as the Bucket and Dipper Junior Class Honorary, Jones has been on the dean’s list seven quarters and is a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete. He was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team and most recently received the 2004 College of Arts and Sciences Certificate for Excellence in Outstanding Scholarship Award. Majoring in both international studies and political science, he describes his education as “beyond the classroom.” While at OSU, Jones has been afforded the opportunity to study in Russia and the Czech Republic. Soon, he will be traveling to China and Washington D.C., to complete his studying abroad. When his fencing and academic schedules allowed, Jones also found time to serve at the Jericho Road Breakfast and work with Habitat for Humanity. Following graduation from Ohio State, Jones plans to attend graduate school while seeking employment with the military. He eventually hopes to combine his education and experience with his interest in diplomacy and national security to pursue a career in the Foreign Service, CIA or non-governmental organization.

Ben Hartsock
Originally from Chillicothe, Ohio, Hartsock contributed to and created many great things both for himself and the university. A member of the 2002 national championship football team, Hartsock has been recognized as a four-time Offensive Lineman of the Week and a two-time Offensive Player of the Week. In 2003 he was presented with the Paul Warfield Best Receiver Award and most recently he was selected to play in the East/West Shrine College All-Star Football Game as well as the Hula Bowl All-Star Classic.

Hartsock’s achievements off the field are admirable as well. Named to the OSU Dean’s List eight times, he is a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. Between football and the classroom, Hartsock was active in various public speaking engagements at schools and hospitals in the community. In addition, he used his leadership abilities as a representative on SAAB (Student-Athlete Advisory Board) and as a member of Campus Crusade for Christ and Athletes in Action Christian group for student-athletes. A biology major, Hartsock recently was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2004 NFL Draft. His professional goals also include completing medical school and opening his own family practice.

Craig Krenzel
Originally from Sterling Heights, Mich., Krenzel has been a Buckeye football player for the past five years. As the quarterback for the last two seasons, Krenzel led the Buckeyes to a 25-2 record and the national championship in 2002. He was a 2002 Second Team All-Big Ten and 2003 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection. In 2003 and 2004, he received the Most Valuable Player Award for the Fiesta Bowl.

Krenzel has been impressive academically as well. He is a 2002 Second Team Verizon Academic All-American, a 2003 First Team Verizon Academic All-American and the 2003 Verizon Academic All-American of the Year. He is a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, a 2002 Socrates Award winner and won the 2003 National Football Foundation Vincent DePaul Draddy Award, known as the “Academic Heisman Trophy.” Krenzel majored in molecular genetics and graduated magna cum laude in Winter 2004. His immediate future will be with the Chicago Bears as a fifth-round draft pick and he eventually would like to pursue a career in medicine.

Emma Laaksonen
“The past four years of my life have been flying by,” Laaksonen said. Given the success of the Espoo, Finland, native, it is no wonder her time at OSU has flown. Laaksonen “hit the ice skating” as soon as she became a Buckeye. A two-time WCHA Rookie of the Week, she was named the 2001 OSU Rookie of the Year as well as to the All-WCHA Second Team. The following year she earned Second Team All-America honors and also was a finalist for the 2002 Patty Kazmeier Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate women’s hockey player. Throughout the rest of her career, she served as team captain both her junior and senior years and was selected twice by teammates and coaches as Most Valuable Defensive Player. A four-time WCHA Player of the Week, Laaksonen also was the only OSU student-athlete to participate in the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she was named a co-captain for Team Finland.

Off the ice, Laaksonen also has been committed to her academic excellence. A four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete, the business finance major has been named to the WCHA All-Academic Team three times. She also is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and was a 2003 Academic All-District selection. Most recently, Laaksonen was honored as the 2004 WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year. Laaksonen has served as a representative on SAAB and participated in numerous volunteer activities within the community, including speaking engagements at local elementary schools. She plans to pursue an MBA and eventually work within international management and/or government banking.

Natalie Legge
Coming to Columbus from Grays Point, Australia, Legge is a member of the women’s rowing team. During her four years at Ohio State, she was a consistent leader and contributor to her team’s outstanding accomplishments. As a three-year member of the first varsity eight squad, her boat placed as high as fourth in the NCAA championships during the 2002 season. She was a member of the 2002 Big Ten Championship team and the 2003 Central Regional Championship team. A four-year varsity letter winner, Legge was named Second Team All-Big Ten and Second Team All-Region for the 2003 season.

Buckeye head coach Andy Teitelbaum said Legge is “a mature, quiet leader that has the respect of every athlete and coach in our program. Her academic and athletic successes are indications of how her character yields positive results in her life’s endeavors.” Legge was an OSU Scholar-Athlete four times, was an Academic All-Big Ten selection for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons and was a 2002-03 National Scholar Athlete. After graduating from OSU with a major in exercise science and a minor in psychology, she hopes to attend graduate school in the field of physical therapy with a concentration in sports-related injuries.

Jessica Marshall
A Columbus native and member of the pistol team, Marshall accumulated six individual national titles (women’s sport pistol, air pistol and gun aggregate), received 12 All-America awards and was recognized as the top female collegiate shooter in the nation. The championships were an integral part of the team’s 2001-02 free pistol championship and 2003-04 women’s air pistol championship. A four-time varsity letterwinner, Marshall was named to the 2003 Olympic Development Team and recently participated in the World Cup competition.

In addition to her athletic achievements, the psychology and criminology double major has been a four-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten Team honoree. Between her shooting and studying, Jessica has also found time to represent her team on SAAB as well as maintain the same part-time job for five years. Upon graduating, she hopes to return to OSU and begin working on her master’s degree in human resources while continuing training to prepare and qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Katherine (Katie) Meyer
“Katie has always shown an innate ability to pull people together to work toward the common good … a task she does with so much ease and confidence,” said Buckeye coach Holly Vargo-Brown. As the team captain and lone senior for Ohio State’s synchronized swimming team, Meyer’s leadership guided her teammates to their fifth consecutive Collegiate National Championship during the 2004 season. In addition, her team won the North Regional Championships all four years of her tenure. A native of Cincinnati, Meyer qualified for the Olympic trials and was a four-time qualifier for the U.S. National Team trials. She is a four-year varsity letter winner.

Majoring in sociology and minoring in business, Meyer has excelled in the classroom as well. She is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and a four-time Academic All-American. Meyer also was named an OSU Scholar-Athlete during all four of her years at Ohio State and was chosen for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Active in the university community, she has volunteered time at Windsor Academy, has done numerous motivational speeches and is active in the Athletes-to-Entrepreneurs group on campus. Following her graduation, Meyer plans to use the appreciation for “positive relationships, spirit and pride and excellence” gained while on her team to guide her aspirations in the field of business.

Alexandra Shklar
A native of Jerusalem, Israel, Shklar has been an outstanding scholar and athlete at The Ohio State University. Her contributions to the fencing team make her “irreplaceable,” said her coach. Shklar is a 2003 NCAA First Team All-American and a 2001, 2002 and 2004 Second Team All-American. As a team, the fencers brought home the 2004 NCAA National Championship, and the 2003 and 2004 Midwest Conference Championships. Shklar is a three-time Midwest Fencing Conference bronze-medalist, a 2002 NCAA Regional Champion, the 2001 OSU Fencer of the Year and a two-time team captain.

Shklar has achieved great success academically as well. She is a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete award recipient and has been on the dean’s list 12 of the 13 quarters she has been enrolled at OSU. She received the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award and was a two-time Best Overall Academics Award (fencing) recipient. Shklar is an Academic All-Big Ten and Verizon Academic All-Region At-Large Second Team recipient. An international relations major, Shklar plans to pursue a master’s in public policy administration from OSU and eventually complete a doctorate in the field. Her ultimate goal is to have a leadership position in international services.