Untouchable on field, an easy touch off it

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senior two-time All-American Stacey Nelson of top-ranked Florida was presented the 2009 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award Tuesday night at a party welcoming the eight teams competing in this year’s Women’s College World Series that begins Thursday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Nelson is the first Florida player to receive the CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) Award that honors student-athletes who not only excel in the classroom and on the field but also use their platform to make a positive impact in their communities. To be eligible for the award, the student-athlete needed to be an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achivements in four areas – classroom, character, community and competition.

“I am extremely honored to be the 2009 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award recipient,” said Nelson, who is 39-3 with a nation’s best 0.41 ERA and 321 strikeouts for No. 1 Florida which takes on Arizona in its opening game in the double-elimination tournament at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“Just to be considered was an honor and to come out on top is something I never dreamed of,” Nelson continued. “I want to thank all the people who have been here for me in my collegiate career. I want to thank the University of Florida for the opportunity and tools to allow me to excel in the classroom and reach out in the community. I want to thank the Florida softball program for giving me the opportunity to play softball and to the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award committee for giving me the chance to be a part of this great award.”

Nelson, who is from Los Alamitos, Calif., has won 134 games during her career in Gainesville, which is the seventh best all-time in NCAA history. She also owns 24 records at Florida.

In the classroom, the philosophy major has been a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll every year of her career. She earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America first-team honors in 2008, becoming the first Florida softball player to be named to the first team and the first to earn athletic and academic All-America first-team status. Her ambition is to attend law school where she would like to study humanitarian law and work for the International Criminal Court.

Nelson’s list of extra-curricular activities and community service rivals her list of athletic achievements. A representative for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), she was a co-chairman of Climb for Cancer, which gives children with cancer a chance to play sports with Florida student-athletes. She also has spent time at various elementary schools in the Gainesville area, reading to children and being a mentor.

As a member of the softball team, Nelson helped build a home for a local family through Habitat for Humanity and has spent the last four holiday seasons delivering sneakers to children through the UAA’s Gator Tracks program. She was also the main attraction at the first annual Swing for Cancer event, in which fans came to see other Gator student-athletes and coaches try their luck against her. The money raised went to Shands Cancer Research Hospital.

She also recorded a television commercial for Smoken Free Florida, visited local schools as part of the Red Ribbon campaign to teach children the dangers of drugs, handed out white hats at football games in support of “Whiting Out Cancer” and also collected canned goods for the Gainesville community as part of SAACChallenge for Kids. Nelson also helped with an oral history of the participants of the Freedom Summer of 1964. She questioned residents of Indianola, Miss., about their struggles to gain the right to vote and their first voting experience.