Charlotte, NC - Hudson Valley's (NY) Jackson Wenstrom has been named the 2018-19 Lea Plarski Award winner, given annually to the NJCAA student-athlete who best exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence, and athletic ability.
A two-year member of Hudson Valley's baseball team, Wenstrom excelled on the field but it was his achievements and character in the classroom and in the community that set him apart from the rest. Wenstrom's inherent leadership ability, respect for others, and dedication embody the characteristics that Lea Plarski exhibited during her time serving the NJCAA.
"Receiving this award really means a lot to me," Wenstrom expressed. "It is very humbling to have been nominated, knowing the number of amazing people in the NJCAA community. My experience at Hudson Valley the past two years has been incredible. I have been given opportunities that will stay with me forever. Both years here I have played with amazing teams and made friends that will last a lifetime. I'd like to thank my family, teammates, coaches, athletic director, athletic department, professors, and HVCC as a whole. I will never forget my two years here and I will build off the things I have continued to learn."
A native of Mandan, ND, Wenstrom took a non-traditional route to arriving on Hudson Valley's campus in Troy, NY. Upon graduating high school, Wenstrom felt a call to serve his country and enlisted in the United States Army. After serving for three and a half years, it was Wenstrom's desire to continue his academic career at Hudson Valley and play a sport in the process. After weighing several options, Wenstrom joined the Viking baseball team in the fall of 2017.
Wenstrom's on-field accolades place him among the elite of Hudson Valley baseball players - NJCAA Baseball First Team All-America, ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award® winner, Hudson Valley career home run leader.
With dedication in the classroom matching his efforts on the baseball diamond, Wenstrom accumulated a 3.62 GPA at Hudson Valley while majoring in exercise science. He was honored with the prestigious SUNY Chancellor's Scholar Athlete Award in 2019 and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society.
"There is no greater sacrifice than serving our country, and to have done so, and to have the will and determination to succeed in the classroom, on the field, and as a campus community leader is what is most impressive," stated Justin Hoyt, Hudson Valley athletic director. "Jackson is the epitome of what you look for in a student-athlete and checks all the boxes. This is the first time our institution has ever won this award, and there is no one more deserving of this honor than Jackson."
Wenstrom's passion for serving others was clear at Hudson Valley as he immersed himself in school and community activities. Voted by his peers as President of Hudson Valley's Student-Athletes Leading Together (SALT) program, Wenstrom led the group of Viking student-athletes in a variety of service projects on campus and in the community. Wenstrom's high degree of character was evident as he worked with the SALT program to volunteer with the Ronald McDonald House and local youth athletics programs.
Joe Altieri served as Hudson Valley's head baseball coach for the 2018-19 season. Altieri expressed his excitement to Wenstrom receiving the Plarski Award. "Jackson is the model student-athlete any collegiate athletic program would want and need. He perfectly fits the profile for this prestigious honor. He spent two years demonstrating hard work, dedication, leadership, and truly defining being a good teammate while also achieving high academic standards and positively impacting the college's community. We are proud of him to be recognized as the Lea Plarski Award winner."
Wenstrom will continue his academic and athletic career at NCAA Division I Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL beginning in the fall 2019. He will compete as a member of the Owls' baseball team in Conference USA.
About the Lea Plarski Award
The NJCAA's Lea Plarski Award is handed out annually in the name of former NJCAA President Lea Plarski as recognition of her tremendous service to the NJCAA and two-year college athletics. The former director of athletics at St. Louis Community College/Florissant Valley, Plarski helped to establish the Women's Division of the NJCAA in 1975. She served as Vice-President for Women from 1975-1990 when she made NJCAA history as the first female ever elected to the office of President, a position she held from 1990-1996. In honor of her numerous accomplishments, as well as her undeniable dedication to the student-athlete, the NJCAA Lea Plarski Award was created. Since 1995, the award has been presented to an NJCAA student-athlete who exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence, athletic ability and achievements – qualities that were the cornerstones of the Plarski "era".