Former UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball player Nicole Christianson, who competed from 2010-12, is this year’s recipient of the Sandy Schumacher Courage Award, which will be awarded at the 2014 Blugold Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday, October 4.
The award was established in the fall of 2012 to honor the long-time Blugold coach, teacher and pioneer. Schumacher was an advocate for young girls and women in athletics and had a part in starting numerous athletics programs for women on the UW-Eau Claire campus. She also conducted the first volleyball and basketball camps for girls.
Schumacher, who was inducted into the Blugold Hall of Fame in 1995, battled cancer for more than two decades but lost her battle in 2011. Even in the months prior to her death, Schumacher could be found on the Blugold sidelines, intently watching the action.
The Sandy Schumacher Courage Award is presented to a female Blugold student-athlete or alumnus who, when confronted with a life-altering situation, used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the event.
Originally from Chetek, Christianson grew up as a star basketball player in western Wisconsin. She earned a scholarship to Minnesota State and enjoyed a successful freshman season. In her sophomore year, when she found out she was expecting her baby girl Riley, she gave up her scholarship and moved back to Chetek. She took junior college credits for a semester while raising Riley and then transferred to UWEC for her junior and senior seasons. Blugold women’s coach Tonja Englund said that “Riley, Nicole’s family and Nicole were very special additions to the basketball family. Riley was a constant presence in the locker room with the team after games and she became a very special part of the program.”
According to Englund, Christianson was driven to catch up with academics, play basketball and be an outstanding parent for Riley, yet never complained about the different roles she was filling. Englund also said that she knows it was “really special for Riley to watch her mom play basketball and grow up with strong female role models in the program who reached out to her.”
Englund said that one of her coaching highlights was to witness senior night when Nicole was honored on the floor with her parents Doug and Sue and her daughter Riley.
With the assistance of her parents in helping to watch Riley, Nicole received All-Conference recognition as a senior and led the team to a conference championship and the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Christianson graduated last December with a degree in accounting. She is currently an Accounts Payable Specialist at Nels Gunderson Chevrolet & Osseo Ford.