Two N’West Iowa collegians and one coach have been named candidates for NAIA national awards that deal with more than just their impact in competition for their respective teams.

Northwestern College senior cross country athlete Bre Harthoorn is the Great Plains Athletic Conference nominee for the A.O Duer Award. The award is named in honor of the NAIA’s former executive secretary and has been presented since 1967. It goes to one male and one female athlete nationally that has excelled in scholarship, character and citizenship.

Harthoorn is from Norfolk, NE. She has a 3.90 grade-point average and is majoring in elementary education.

“She loves children and is eager to impact as many lives as she possibly can,” said Tonya Moore-Huss, an education professor at Northwestern, in a news release issued by the GPAC to announce its nominees. “Growing up in Africa with her family as missionaries, she has a fabulous understanding of how diverse the world is, and she is ready to take on whatever challenge comes her way.”

Harthoorn has qualified for the NAIA national meet in each of the last two years. She is a two-time all-conference runner, placing fifth at the GPAC championship in 2017 and eighth in 2018. She has nine career top 10 finishes and was an NAIA Scholar-Athlete last season.

“Breanna is a natural leader, she is the first to practice and gives 100 percent during every workout,” said Northwestern cross country coach Scott Bahrke. “Her peers have voted her team captain the last three years; they follow her example and seek her out for advice.”

The GPAC nominee for the Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award is former Dordt College volleyball player Ema Altena.

The award is presented annually to an NAIA Student-Athlete who embodies the NAIA Champions of Character initiative and its five core values of respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship.

Altena graduated in May with degrees in exercise science and psychology with a 3.73 GPA.

She is a Sioux Center native who attended Western Christian High School in Hull. During her time at Dordt she was active with Bridge of Hope Church on its youth leadership team, worked with Royal Family Kids Camp of Northwest Iowa as a camp guide and has been active with various youth volleyball camps.

“She is an excellent role model, not only to campers, but to all of our female volunteers,” said Jennifer Bullock, director of Royal Family Kids Camp. “She possesses wisdom and maturity and stands out as a natural leader, both by word and example.”

On the volleyball court she was a four-time all-conference first-team selection. Twice she was a first-team NAIA All-American. She was a member of two NAIA national runner-up teams and an elite eight team while at Dordt.

“Ema has lived a life that is deep and meaningful, reflecting the five core values of the NAIA,” said Dordt volleyball coach Chad Hanson. “She lives a life where she is consistent in showing all of the character values even if no one is watching.”

Northwestern wrestling coach Rik Dahl is the GPAC nominee for the NAIA Coach of Character Award. The award recognizes a head coach who is dedicated to deliberately reaching character through sport.

Dahl is a past president of the NAIA Wrestling Coaches Association. His 2009 and 2011 teams won the Character Award at the NAIA national championship meet. Dahl, along with Northwestern men’s basketball coach Kris Korver, helped form “Monday Morning for Men” at the college. That group meets for 30 minutes every Monday for conversations about what it takes to be a quality husband and father. Each week anywhere 60-120 men attend.

“He is someone who is trusted by everyone he comes into contact with,” said Northwestern baseball coach Brian Wede. “Development of his athletes is very important to him and he does this through showing high integrity and character.”

The national award winners will be announced on Sept. 15.

Softball showcase

Just before Gehlen Catholic played in the big show that is the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union state tournament, another group of familiar names won a state title at the Iowa Games in the 14-and-under fast-pitch softball tournament in Ames.

The Tri-State Titans won four straight games to take the title.

The team was coached by Tim Gesink and Brian Schmalbeck of Sioux Center.

Team members included Madi De Jong of West Lyon, Tatum Schmalbeck, Taya Gesink, Jailey Roghair, Makenna Walhof and Reagan Jansen of Sioux Center, Jenny Luevano of Boyden-Hull, Mia Danielson of West Sioux and Claire Johnson of Sheldon. Players from Sergeant Bluff-Luton and River Valley also were a part of the team.

Host a Defender

The Dordt University football program is looking for families to serve the incoming freshman class as part of the host-a-player program.

Host families provide support to student-athletes through meals, church invitations, support at games, birthday well-wishes, care packages or any other way they feel led to host.

Host families are invited to a luncheon to kick off the program where the families and students have an opportunity to meet and get to know one another.

To participate in the program please contact Ben Dixon at or Joel Penner at