INDIANOLA — There’s more to the life of a student-athlete than the glory on the field.
If you’re a serious student like Simpson College senior Jenna Taylor of Creston, that includes a lot of bus rides home from games with the overhead light on, catching up on studies. Or, nights closing down the library as classwork piles up during a busy basketball season.
Taylor was recently recognized for her efforts with the books as well as on the court, earning the highest acclaim possible for academic and athletic excellence. Taylor was recently named the CoSIDA Division III Academic All-America of the Year.
The award, presented by the College Sports Information Directors Association to one player in each sport nationwide, was announced May 26.
Taylor is only the second student-athlete in Simpson College history to earn this honor, joining Garrett Pochop, who received the men’s soccer honor in 2017.
Taylor, daughter of Joni and the late Bill Taylor of Creston, has received Academic All-America status twice in her career, making first team this year after landing on the second team after the 2018-19 season.
“It was humbling for sure,” said Taylor, whose video interview with CoSIDA officials was posted on their social media sites on the award release date. “I was not expecting an honor like that!”
Taylor posted a perfect 4.00 GPA as a double major (accounting/economics and finance). She graduated in May. However, she will continue studies at Simpson in a data analytics continuing education program while working part-time in her field at Ernst and Young, a Des Moines public accounting firm. (She has been offered full-time employment next year, after gaining another year of eligibility with all NCAA athletes related to the shortened 2020-21 seasons for COVID-19 precautions.)
Taylor, a 6-foot forward, led the Storm to a 12-0 record and the 13th conference title in program history during an abbreviated 2020-21 season. She received recognition on the D3hoops.com and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America teams, and has earned American Rivers Conference and D3hoops.com All-West Region Player of the Year distinction.
Taylor averaged 20.1 points a game, ranking 14th in the nation. Her 48.3% shooting from 3-point range was 11th best in the country in NCAA Division III women’s basketball. She ended the campaign with a conference-leading 9.0 rebounds per game and had five double-doubles (points and rebounds) in the 12-game season.
Although the Storm defeated Coe for the conference tournament championship, they were unable to advance in postseason play because there was no NCAA Division III national tournament this year related to COVID-19 protocols. (It was the only NCAA division that did not hold a championship this season.)
Having another chance to seek that national tournament berth with a team that’s basically intact from last season was too tempting for Taylor and three other Simpson seniors to pass up, including fellow starter Cameron Kincaid.
“One part of me said with being conference champs, being conference MVP, why not just cut it right there?” Taylor said. “But, a bigger part of me wanted a full season and a chance for a national title with my teammates. We wanted to see what we could do on a national stage. It should be more of a normal season next year.”
Taylor said time management and discipline allowed her to be involved in athletics throughout high school and college without ever getting lower than an “A” grade in a class.
“My parents set that example for me and Colby pretty early, to try to be the best at everything we do,” Taylor said, referring to her brother Colby, who became Central College’s all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball.
“It’s just a matter of staying organized and knowing I had to buckle down and get both my studies and workouts done,” Taylor added.
“I’m so happy for Jenna for all the awards that she has received this year, but this award really embodies who she is,” said Simpson women’s basketball coach Brian Niemuth. “She is such a hard worker in the gym and in the classroom. Jenna is the top student-athlete for NCAA Division II women’s basketball this year! We all congratulate her.”