TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A star on the long jump runway and in the classroom since he arrived at Florida State more than five years ago, Stefan Brits finally has the hardware to acknowledge his status as one of the truly elite scholar-athletes in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Brits has been selected the ACC Men’s Outdoor Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, capping his final year of eligibility with the Seminoles. It is the first such league honor for the Cape Town, South Africa native, who just completed his first year in FSU’s doctoral chemistry program with a 4.00 GPA.
Brits is one of 11 Seminoles – highlighted by eight honorees from the conference championship women’s team – selected to the All-ACC Academic team, announced Wednesday by commissioner John Swofford.
Established in September of 2007 and presented annually to the top junior or senior student-athlete in each sport sponsored by the conference, the Scholar-Athlete award has eluded Brits throughout his career despite an impeccable resume.
“He’s been this phenomenal student,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “It’s great for him to finally step to the top of the podium. It’s not like he was losing to slouches. People like [NC State’s] Jonathan Addison are pretty darned special and in the same event, which is kind of unique and different. They are guys competing head-to-head who are super bright and super successful that the tie-breaker is whoever out-jumps the other guy on that given day. It’s great to see him climb to that top rung and get that ACC honor.”
Brits, who completed his undergraduate degree in chemical science with a 3.938 GPA last spring, claimed the honor after posting the top long jump mark (8.22 meters/26-11.75) in NCAA Division I competition during the 2016 season. That mark came on his first attempt at the ACC Outdoor Championships and broke the conference championship meet record he had held since 2013. At the time it was the sixth-best mark in the world and helped him secure a spot on South Africa’s 2016 Olympic team.
In addition to winning the ACC title, Brits qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships with the fourth-best mark at the NCAA East Preliminary (7.68m), though an injury prevented him from competing at the championship meet. He also earned ACC Field Performer of the Week accolades during the regular season with his 7.94-meter winning performance at the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersey Invitational.
The first student-athlete to represent FSU while pursuing a doctoral degree, Brits is a four-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selected and a three-time CoSIDA Division I NCAA Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country Academic All-American (pending this year’s selections). A six-time FSU Elite 90 nominee, Brits is a three-time Golden Torch recipient and has won a pair of Golden Nole Awards.
Winning Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors is an honor Brits covets because of what it represents and the respect he has for student-athletes who excel in both arenas, like Addison, who won the honor indoors this past year.
“He’s one of my best friends when we compete,” Brits said of Addison. “He’s probably one of the only people who will talk about other stuff when we’re competing. We won’t only talk about track while we’re competing. We’ll have a conversation about something else that’s happening. That’s pretty special to have two very intelligent people competing for five seconds and talking about five minutes about something else.”
Joining Brits on the All-ACC Academic team were fellow Seminoles and repeat honorees Otniel Teixeira and Cristobal Hurtado-Arteaga, both of whom completed their athletic eligibility this past spring.
With eight All-ACC Academic selections, the Florida State women shared top honors among conference schools with the Duke women.
“Historically we’ve been – in combined men’s and women’s squads – one of the best; one or two most years in the number of honorees,” Braman said. “For us to continue that tradition, particularly on the women’s side speaks to our whole, entire program. How academic support services and how important our coaching staff places on academics. We don’t look the other way. The thing that’s really rewarding is that they are our best kids. These are people that came here because they’re elite athletes, became elite ACC athletes and continue to knock it out of the park academically. They take it as a competitive challenge to be at that level.
“You’re not going to find a better Power Five academic conference than the ACC. We take a lot of pride in that and I think it’s important. It’s great when you can do both.”
To that end, three of FSU’s individual event ACC champions – redshirt-junior Kellion Knibb (discus), junior Melissa-Maree Farrington (heptathlon) and freshman Shauna Helps (100) – were among the eight Seminoles honored.
They were joined by sophomore Chelsea Jarvis, graduate students Meme Jean and Jande Pierce, junior Nicole Setterington and freshman Peta-Gay Williams.
Minimum academic requirements for selection to the All-ACC Academic Team are a 3.0 grade point average for the previous semester and a 3.0 cumulative average during one’s academic career. Athletic achievements during the most recent season are also considered in selecting the All-ACC Academic Team.