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June 11, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Standout Nittany Lion student-athletes Miguel Pineda (Galloway, Ohio) and Erin Thomas (Bangor, Maine) have been honored as Penn State's 2012 recipients of the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Both Pineda, a member of the men's gymnastics team, and Thomas, a swimmer, earned All-America honors during their distinguished Penn State careers.
The Big Ten Medal of Honor was established in 1914 when the conference endowed the award, which was to be presented annually to a student in the graduating class of each university that demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and athletics. In 1982, the Medal of Honor was expanded to include a senior female athlete from each institution.
Both an accomplished student and a premier athlete, Miguel Pineda embodies all the qualities which the Big Ten Medal of Honor represents.
Pineda possesses a 3.98 grade point average in biology, ranking in the top one-half percent of his class. He is a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Honors Scholar and CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America® Men's At-Large First Team honoree and a three-time CGA First Team All-American Scholar Athlete. The winner of the prestigious 2011 NCAA Elite 88 Award, Pineda was instrumental in the men's gymnastics squad earning back-to-back Varsity `S' Awards, an honor presented to the Penn State men's and women's teams with the highest team GPA.
Further testament to his achievements in the classroom and in the gym, Pineda was honored with the 2012 Wayne Duke Postgraduate Award and Penn State's Ernest B. McCoy Memorial Award. He also finished as first runner-up for the nationally prominent Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award. Pineda plans to attend medical school with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
A 2012 finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award, collegiate gymnastics' highest competitive honor, Pineda played an integral role in Penn State's success this season, captaining a Nittany Lion squad that placed third at the National Collegiate Championships and featured seven All-Americans. He served as a cornerstone of the nation's No. 1 still rings line-up, ending the season individually ranked No. 4 in the event with two title wins and seven top three finishes.
In 2011, at the National Collegiate Championships, Pineda set a career high in the rings to place first in the national qualifier and then followed it up by a second place finish in the individual event finals, earning his lone All-America honor. He also medaled in the still rings at the 2011 Big Ten Championships, placing third.
For his career, Pineda recorded 52 top three finishes, including 19 titles wins.
Thomas has helped set school records in the 200 freestyle relay (1:29:64) and the 400 freestyle (3:17:44). On the last day of the 2012 Big Ten Championships, Thomas' team broke the 400 freestyle relay record, posting a time of 3:16.12 to tie Wisconsin for first place.
In 2010-11, Thomas competed in nine events, earning All-America honors in the 400 freestyle relay. She also qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 100 and 200 freestyle and 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Thomas posted a season-best time of 23.25 in the 50 freestyle prelims at the Big Ten Championships.
Thomas, a meteorology major, was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2010 and 2011. She also received the 2012 Ernest B. McCoy Memorial Award, an honor presented annually to one senior male and female student-athlete who have combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.