Ryan Stanley named MIAA Spring Student-Athlete of the Year

FHSU Sports Information
FHSU's Ryan Stanley, the NCAA Division II pole vault champion, was named MIAA Spring Sports Student-Athlete of the Year.

Ryan Stanley, junior track and field student-athlete at Fort Hays State University, is the 2021 MIAA Men's Spring Student-Athlete of the Year. Ashlan Burton, a junior track and field student-athlete from University of Central Missouri, is the 2021 MIAA Women's Spring Student-Athlete of the Year. The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association announced both honors on Tuesday (June 29), presented by Summit Pointe Financial Group.

This award temporarily replaces the annual Ken B. Jones Award, which normally recognizes the top female and top male student-athlete in the MIAA for all seasons. However, since fall sports did not have an opportunity to post accolades for the 2020-21 academic year, the MIAA COVID-19 Task Force implemented student-athlete of the year honors for both the winter and spring seasons with the nomination and selection process structured identically to the Ken B. Jones Award. Stanley and Burton received the most votes from a 13-member panel of conference administrators. They were among five men's and five women's finalists announced on June 23rd by the MIAA office.

The award is based on the athletic, academic, and campus/community service accomplishments of individuals. The voting committee reviews an individual's career academic accomplishments, along with their athletic accomplishments and campus/community service from the 2020-21 year. Individuals must be a junior or senior in athletic eligibility and have a GPA of at least 3.25.

Male finalists alongside Stanley were Kizan David of Lincoln (track and field), Blake Freeman of Northeastern State (baseball), Dusty Stroup of Central Missouri (baseball), and Levi Wyrick of Pittsburg State (track and field). Kizan David was the Winter Men's Student-Athlete of the Year, selected earlier this year.

Female finalists were Ashlan Burton of Central Missouri (track and field), Sydni Hawkins of Missouri Western (softball), Trace Mosby of Pittsburg State (track and field), Virgi Scardanzan of Washburn (track and field), and Gail Young of Northeastern State (softball).

Stanley is the first male from Fort Hays State University to receive an MIAA Student-Athlete of the Year or Ken B. Jones award. Fort Hays State now has three individuals with that distinction since joining the MIAA in 2006-07. Whitney Randall (women's basketball) was the Women's Winter Student-Athlete of the Year, named earlier this spring in April 2021, and Kate Lehman (women's basketball) was the women's Ken B. Jones Award recipient in 2015.

Fort Hays State had two of the four MIAA Student-Athletes of the Year announced in 2021, while Central Missouri and Lincoln each had one.

Stanley was the NCAA Division II National Champion during the 2021 outdoor track and field season in the pole vault. He cleared a new school record 17 feet, 2.75 inches to tie for first place. He then cleared the height again to win a jump off for the national title against Trivett Jones of Angelo State (Texas). In the process, Stanley produced his fourth All-America performance at FHSU and his second this year after finishing fourth nationally during the indoor season.

He is now a two-time All-America performer in the pole vault both indoor and outdoor. He is also a four-time USTFCCCA All-Region performer going back to 2019. Stanley set new FHSU records in the pole vault both outdoor and indoor (16 feet, 11.5 inches) in 2021. He is only the second individual in school history to clear 17 feet.

Stanley has been near perfect in the classroom in three years at FHSU, compiling a 3.97 GPA as a Management major. The Bennington, Kansas native is a three-time recipient of the USTFCCCA All-Academic Award and a three-time member of the MIAA Academic Honor Roll. Holding a perfect 4.0 GPA over his first two years at FHSU, he twice received the MIAA Academic Excellence Award.

He also earned MIAA Scholar-Athlete honors in 2021 for securing All-MIAA honors and holding at least a 3.5 GPA. Stanley is also a three-time recipient of the FHSU Athletics Academic Excellence Award and a six-time member of the Dean's Honor Roll at FHSU.

Stanley has also been very active on campus and in the community. He was the male recipient of the Cerv's FHSU Student-Athlete Distinguished Leadership Award in 2021. Stanley joined three other FHSU students to design "MeHe" a mobile phone app centered on maintaining positive mental health. The group won the 2020 Kansas Startup competition at FHSU with their presentation.

He has also served as a senator for the Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship for three years. During the 2021-22 academic year, Stanley will serve as the FHSU Student Body Vice President after being voted into office in 2020-21. On top of that, Stanley has been an active leadership team member of Christian Challenge at FHSU over three years, participating in multiple community service projects. He served the community and FHSU Alumni through work as a VIP Ambassador under the direction of FHSU President Dr. Tisa Mason for two years.

This summer, he is on staff with Project Apprentice, a discipleship program in Lawrence, Kansas focused on discipline, service, and community.

Burton, a junior from Urbandale, Iowa, picked up her fourth career NCAA Division II All-America award this past spring coming in fourth place in the national shot put (50-6.75). She also competed at nationals in the discus where she finished 14th (145-3) and earned a Second Team All-America nod. Burton was also an MIAA Champion in the shot put in both the indoor and outdoor seasons and scored for the Jennies by placing fourth in the discus. During the season, Burton competed in eight shot put competitions, winning five of them. She was one of only seven NCAA Division II throwers, and the only one in the MIAA to hit NCAA qualifying marks in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. The 2021 All-America outdoor award was the fourth for Burton in her career. She now has two indoor and two outdoor All-America honors in the shot put.

Burton has already graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. She is currently working on a Master's degree in Kinesiology and has a 4.0. In her time at UCM, Burton has made the MIAA Academic Honor Roll eight times between indoor and outdoor seasons, earned five MIAA Scholar-Athlete Awards and three MIAA Academic Excellence Awards. She's also been a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.

Burton is heavily involved with her church as a young-adult ministry director and volunteer youth group leader at Deerbrook Covenant. She is also the President of the UCM Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Around campus, Burton is a member of the UCM Literacy Team and Psychology Club. She is also a member of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).