WWU’s Connell, SPU’s Pixler Named Gold Award Finalists
Travis Connell (left) and Jessica (Pixler) Tebo are the GNAC's 50th Anniversary Gold Award finalists.
Travis Connell (left) and Jessica (Pixler) Tebo are the GNAC's 50th Anniversary Gold Award finalists.

Monday, November 13, 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. – Western Washington women’s soccer head coach Travis Connell and former national champion cross country and track and field student-athlete Jessica (Pixler) Tebo were named finalists for the 50th Anniversary Gold Award by the NCAA on Monday.

Connell and Tebo were the male and female nominees for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and were among 45 individuals across Division II selected as finalists for the award.

This award, which is part of the division's yearlong 50th anniversary celebration that launched Aug. 7 and will extend through the 2024 Division II Baseball Championship in June, will recognize two individuals (one individual who identifies as male and one who identifies as female) who have made a lasting and positive impact in Division II. 

Conference offices reviewed the initial pool of 231 nominated individuals and each selected two honorees (one who identifies as male and one who identifies as female). The NCAA Division II Management Council Identity Subcommittee will review these finalists and select the two overall winners, who will be recognized at the 2024 NCAA Convention in Phoenix.

The conference honorees include current and former student-athletes, coaches, faculty members, commissioners and administrators who have helped shape Division II over time.

As part of the anniversary celebration, Division II also will provide a commemorative scholarship opportunity for student-athletes from active member schools who exhibit the core values of Division II and have not yet exhausted their athletics eligibility. Two recipients from each conference and two representing the independent institutions will be announced in May during the 2024 NCAA Division II National Championships Festival in Orlando, Florida. Nomination procedures for the scholarship will be announced to the Division II membership in January.

Jessica Pixler Tebo, Seattle Pacific University

The success Jessica Pixler Tebo achieved while at Seattle Pacific from 2006-10 made her the most highly decorated student-athlete in school history. She won 12 NCAA Division II Championships: three in cross country, six in indoor track and three in outdoor track. She also won 19 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships: four in cross country, nine in indoor track and six in outdoor track. Pixler Tebo was named a four-time cross country All-American, in addition to receiving All-West Region and All-GNAC honors. She was also the national female track athlete of the year, four-time Seattle Pacific Athlete of the Year and a nominee for the prestigious Honda NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Her athletic abilities, combined with academic achievement, led to numerous honors. She received an NCAA Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship, was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year and an Academic All-American. In addition to her legendary success as a Division II student-athlete, she was a finalist in the 5,000 meters at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials. 

Travis Connell, Western Washington University

Women's soccer head coach Travis Connell, one of the most successful coaches in Great Northwest Athletic Conference history, has led Western Washington to two NCAA Division II national titles (2016 and 2022). His unprecedented success, which includes a national runner-up finish, was further evidenced by reaching the 400-win plateau in 2023, making him the winningest women's soccer coach in the conference's history. Over his 20-year tenure as head coach of the Vikings, Connell has led the program to a 297-80-37 (.762) record, with 12 appearances in the NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Championships (10 straight). The school has recorded 19 consecutive winning seasons during this stretch, dating back to 2004. Additionally, the program has competed in the NCAA Division II West Regional final in nine of the last 10 seasons and made five trips to the NCAA Division II National Championship Final Four. In 2019, the Vikings played for the national title, losing a 1-0 overtime contest to Grand Valley State (the team Western Washington beat in 2016 to win the title). In addition to his coaching prowess, Connell had similar success as a player at fellow conference member Seattle Pacific. Connell was a member of the 1993 national championship Falcons team, giving him three total NCAA titles throughout his career as both a player and coach.