Their spring seasons at the University of Wisconsin were cut short, but Heather Rudnicki and Carissa Witthuhn wrapped up the 2019-20 academic year on a high note.

The 2016 Verona Area High School graduates were two of 106 Wisconsin student-athletes to be named Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholar.

Big Ten faculty representatives established the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2008 to supplement the Academic All-Big Ten program. The recipients must be letterwinners in at least their second academic year at their institution and have a minimum grade-point average of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year, excluding summer school.

The Big Ten recognized 1,517 student-athletes in 38 different sports as Distinguished Scholars, including more than 250 who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA during the previous academic term.

In May, Rudnicki was selected to receive a postgraduate scholarship from the Big Ten.

To be selected for a Big Ten postgraduate scholarship, students must have maintained at least a 3.2 GPA, demonstrated leadership qualities, served as an excellent role model and intend to continue their academic work at a graduate degree program. Two students from each Big Ten institution are annually awarded the $7,500 scholarships.

Rudnicki was named to the 2020 Scholar Athlete honor roll and a 2020 Athletic Board Scholar for earning the highest GPA on her team. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, she will complete a summer internship with Deloitte in Chicago before pursuing her Masters of Accountancy at Wisconsin.

Rudnicki was also an Academic All-Big Ten honoree as a sophomore, junior and senior. She played in 144 games (20 starts) primarily as a pinch runner and outfielder for the Badgers, hitting .149 (7-for-47) with 22 stolen bases, 35 putouts and a .975 fielding percentage.

Witthuhn rowed bow seat on the Badgers’ women’s rowing team that finished fourth at the 2019 Big Ten Championships and 13th at the 2019 NCAA Championships. She graduated from Wisconsin with a Bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders and is planning to take a year off before beginning a master’s program in audiology at UW, Minnesota or Saint Louis in the fall of 2021.