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UC Merced Student-athletes, AD Earn Top Cal Pac Honors

May 9, 2024
UC Merced athletes Alexandra Lopez and Brycen Miller, and athletics director David Dunham
Alexandra Lopez and Brycen Miller (left and right) were named Cal Pac Scholar-Athletes of the Year. David Dunham (center) was named Athletic Director of the Year.

UC Merced has earned a trio of top athletic year-end honors from the California Pacific Conference. Alexandra Lopez and Brycen Miller were named female and male Scholar-Athletes of the Year, respectively. David Dunham, the university's executive director of athletics and recreation, was named Athletic Director of the Year.

Cal Pac announced the honors Tuesday. The scholar-athlete awards are voted on by the conference Directors Council and given to those who best show character in competition, the classroom and the community.

Lopez, a graduating senior, has earned numerous athletic and academic awards over a four-year career that included three years of cross country and two years of outdoor track. She is a seven-time All-Cal Pac performer between the sports and a three-time NAIA National Championship Cross Country qualifier.

In April, Lopez earned silver medals at the Cal Pac Outdoor Track Championships with stellar performances in the 1,500-meter run and 3,000-meter steeplechase. Lopez set program records in both events as a senior. Her efforts were key in the Bobcats winning back-to-back Cal Pac Championships in the program's first two years as an intercollegiate varsity sport.

Alexandra has been a key leader in our conference Student Athlete Council the last two years.

Don Ott
Cal Pac commissioner

In the classroom, Lopez has 3.73 GPA as a political science major. She is a three-time Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete, a three-time Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar and a two-time Cal Pac All-Academic Team selection. She has also earned Chancellor's List honors and CSC Academic All-District recognition.

Lopez is currently finishing terms as the California Pacific Student Advisory Committee vice chair and the UC Merced Student Athlete Advisory Committee president. At the national level, she has been a committee member for the Association of Student Athletes and has served on the council for Student-Athletes & NAIA RISE (Respect, Inclusivity, Support, and Education). In April, Lopez was a panelist at the NAIA convention in Kansas City, Mo., for a discussion on student-athlete mental health and the day-off policy.

"Alexandra has been a key leader in our conference Student Athlete Council the last two years," Cal Pac Commissioner Don Ott said. "She represented all our students at the NAIA national convention, speaking with passion and persuasion on the floor. She's an amazing leader, a caring teammate and a first-class woman."

Miller, a native of Fresno, won two Cal Pac Tournament Championships and UC Merced played in eight NAIA National Tournament games in Miller's career. As a senior, Miller earned 2023 All-Cal Pac First Team honors and tallied a win over WVU Tech in the NAIA National Championship opening round.

Miller graduated from UC Merced with a degree in economics. He is a three-time Cal Pac All-Academic Team member and three-time Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete. He has been named to the CSC Academic All-District Team and Chancellor's List two times.

Brycen is not only an exceptional athlete but is an innovative leader on his campus with influence reaching beyond his sport.

Don Ott
Cal Pac commissioner

A longtime volunteer at elementary schools in the Merced area, Miller has been active in Read Across America at Chenowith Elementary School and participated in a pen pal program with Graceland Elementary School. Other community service projects include distributing food at local drives and volunteering at UC Merced youth soccer camps.

"Brycen is not only an exceptional athlete but is an innovative leader on his campus with influence reaching beyond his sport," Cal Pac Commissioner Don Ott said. "He and all the nominees represent the best of our institutions and our conference, and we're very proud to add their names to the impressive list of well-deserving honorees."

Miller is the second consecutive UC Merced male student-athlete to earn the award. Cross country runner Corbin Farias earned the honor a year ago.

The scholar-athlete awards are named for Dr. Jim Davies, who died 2015 after serving as the only Eligibility Chair since the conference's inception in 1995.

Dunham has earned the Athletic Director of the Year award four times, a Cal Pac record. A founding member of UC Merced's athletics program, Dunham has helped it grow from four sports with 48 student-athletes in 2011 to 12 sports and 215 student-athletes today.

UC Merced always has a top-tier graduation success under Dunham while also fielding competitive programs. The Bobcats claimed four Cal Pac Championships in April and won a UC Merced record five championships overall in 2023-24 – women's soccer, women's water polo, men's and women's outdoor track, and men's volleyball regular season. UC Merced was also one of just two athletic departments in the NAIA to win a national tournament game in both men's and women's soccer. The Bobcats were runners-up in the Cal Pac Commissioner's Cup.

In 2023-24, the athletic program achieved the highest department GPA in UC Merced history with a 3.192. Forty-two student-athletes were named Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes, and an NAIA-high 26 Bobcats were named Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars. Currently, 73 student-athletes hold a 3.5 cumulative GPA or above and 54% of the student-athletes have a 3.0 or above. Eight Bobcats boast a 4.0 GPA. 

This year, Dunham has spearheaded the department's efforts to gain NCAA Division II membership. He also oversaw facility upgrades this year, such as the indoor sports team locker rooms. Since 2018, Dunham has opened Bobcat Field, the Aquatic Center, the Recreation Field, and the Health and Athletic Center.

The Bobcats facilities and Dunham's leadership has made UC Merced a premier destination for California Pacific Conference Championship events. UC Merced hosted six championship events in 2023-24. Dunham also has been impactful in fundraising, evidenced by the fact that in the winter a UC Merced athletics program finished with the third highest amount of money raised out of 70 total designations across the university.

Later this month, Dunham will be presented with a 25-year UC Service Milestone.