Pittsburg State distance runner Piper Misse and Emporia State linebacker Jace McDown were named the MIAA Fall Student-Athlete of the Year Award winners on Thursday afternoon.

The awards were given this year in place of the Ken B. Jones Award, which was given to the male and female student-athlete of the year. Because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the spring sports seasons, the conference decided to present awards for the fall and winter seasons.

The winners were determined by a 15-member committee — one administrator from each MIAA school plus a representative from the league office — based on athletic achievement in the current school year, career academic achievements and community/campus service.


Misse, a senior, captured her second individual MIAA cross country championship in 2019 and helped Pittsburg State to its third straight conference title. She was a four-time all-conference performer in cross country, placing 18th as a freshman, first as a sophomore and sixth as a junior.

Misse also won the 3,000 and 5,000 meters in the 2020 MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships as the Gorillas earned their fourth consecutive team crown.

In the classroom, Misse has a 4.0 grade point average in nursing. She was a 2018-19 Google Cloud Academic All-America selection and is under consideration for the accolade again this season. She was an MIAA Academic Excellence Award recipient, MIAA Scholar-Athlete, and MIAA Academic Honor Roll recipient all four years of her career. Misse also was PSU's 2020 Outstanding Senior Award and will graduate Summa Cum Laude.

Misse engaged in numerous projects as a volunteer, including the Honors College Association, activities with community members with special needs, and visiting residents at a local nursing home. She is an active member of the Kansas Association of Nursing Students and serves as a faculty-peer liaison for the PSU School of Nursing.


McDown, a junior and a graduate of Columbus High School, was named first team all-conference and honorable mention All-American. He led the MIAA with 58 solo tackles — 28th nationally — and was tied for second with 95 total stops, and he was voted best teammate and most outstanding player by his Hornets teammates.

He carried a 3.98 GPA as a health and human performance major and was named a second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America selection and a D2 Athletic Director's Association (D2 ADA) Academic Achievement Award winner.

McDown, also named ESU's outstanding male athlete for the 2019-2020 school year, logged volunteer time with the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, the National Strength & Conditioning Association Conference and at powerlifting meets at local high schools. He was active in ESU’s HornetFest, which was in conjunction with NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Love2Play Initiative, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes as the chapter’s vice president.

The league will announce its winter sports winners today.

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