It's the sort of honor that gives a fitting exclamation point to a standout career.
On Saturday, Colorado senior Ben Saarel was honored as the men's Pac-12 Conference track and field Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The conference announced this at the start of the Pac-12 track and field championships. The award is given to a standout athlete and scholar in each conference sport.
To be eligible for this award, student-athletes must be a senior in athletics eligibility, on track to receive a degree, participate in at least 50 percent of the scheduled competitions in their sport, have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and have a minimum of one year residence at the institution.
Salt Lake City native Saarel has been a standout distance runner for the Buffs. Saarel is an engineering physics major and computer science minor with a 3.97 GPA. He is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American and also the recipient of the 2016 Pac-12 cross country Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor.
Saarel holds the Colorado record for the 1,500-meter run with a time of 3:38.40. He also earned NCAA All-America honors in 2014 and 2017 in that event.
"Ben's in a killer major. Good thing his sport is easy. I try to be careful what I say around him. Who needs him correcting me in front of the team?" head coach Mark Wetmore joked. "Other than having class conflicts with practice every semester, he has been a pleasure to have around. I wish I had 10 of him. Just in some other major."
Saarel will finish his time at Colorado with nine total All-America finishes, five in track and field and four in cross country. He is also two-time Pac-12 first team All-Academic and USTFCCCA All-Academic in track & field. He has overcome some significant challenges with his health, battling ulcerative colitis throughout his college career.
Wetmore went on to say, "Levity aside, Ben is everything we want at CU: smart, hard-working, humble."
Saarel will compete this weekend in the Pac-12 championships at Stanford in the men's 5,000-meter run.
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