The University of Wisconsin athletic department has a long, proud and storied history filled with awards and championships but one that had eluded Wisconsin athletes recently was the B1G Athlete of the Year award. Earlier this week, running back Jonathan Taylor and middle blocker Dana Rettke had been named the Wisconsin Badgers Athletes of the Year and had been nominated for the conference award as well.
On Thursday, the winners of the B1G Athletes of the Year awards were announced and Rettke was named the B1G Female Athlete of the Year for the whole conference. It was the first time a Badger had won since running back Ron Dayne did so in 2000 and the first time a female athlete had won since 1997 when track and field/cross country star Kathy Butler did. Wisconsin has won the award seven times (six women, one man) with runner Suzy Favor winning three years in a row from 1988-1990.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR— Wisconsin Badgers (@UWBadgers) June 11, 2020
Congrats to @dana_rettke of @BadgerVB on earning Athlete of the Year honors from the Big Ten Conference!
Dana is Wisconsin's first female to win the prestigious honor since 1997 and UW's first honoree since 2000!https://t.co/t1Scs0LrHO
Standout defensive end Chase Young of Ohio State won the male award this year.
“It is such an honor to be named Big Ten Athlete of the Year,” Rettke said. “Having the opportunity to play in this conference every day is something I will never take for granted. The competition is top notch, and there are so many amazing players, coaches and staff that make me a better athlete and person every day. Thank you to my teammates and coaches at Wisconsin for everything they have done. I truly cannot do anything without them. On, Wisconsin!”
One of the country’s best middle blockers, Rettke, a junior, helped lead the Badgers to the 2019 NCAA National Championship match and earned her third-consecutive selection as a first-team All-American (2017, 2018, 2019). The 2019 Big Ten Player of the Year, Rettke was also selected to both the 2019 NCAA Championship All-Tournament team and 2019 NCAA Regional All-Tournament team.
“There are a lot of big-time athletes in this conference. For Dana to earn this honor is quite impressive, especially considering it’s been 20 years since the last Badger has achieved it,” head volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield said.
An All-Big Ten selection, Rettke played and started all 32 matches and played in 110 sets. She led the Big Ten with 1.45 blocks per set, in addition to leading the Badgers and ranking third in the Big Ten with a .390 hitting percentage. She also led UW and ranked fifth in the conference with 3.75 kills per set, setting a single-season school record. Rettke recorded double-figure kills in 26 matches.
Rettke competed with the U.S. National Team during the summer of 2019, winning the Volleyball Nations League and qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She was a finalist for both the 2020 AAU James E. Sullivan Award and a 2019 Honda Award.
Rettke is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection who is working towards her marketing degree and a certificate in education studies at Wisconsin.
“I’m thrilled for Dana. She was certainly a key figure in our volleyball program’s run to not only the Big Ten title, but to the NCAA Championship match,” said Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin director of athletics “She has been a great representative of our entire university, on the court and in the classroom. I am proud of her and very happy she’s being recognized as the conference’s athlete of the year.”