Bengal Pole Vaulter Ekhardt Van Der Watt Named Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award Winner
ORLANDO, Florida – Idaho State pole vaulter Ekhardt Van Der Watt has been named a recipient of a 2023 Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award announced by the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals (N4A) this week at the national convention in Orlando, Florida.
The N4A Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award honors student-athletes who have overcome great personal, academic, and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. These individuals have persevered and made significant personal strides toward success.
"N4A is honored to recognize five outstanding student-athletes with our annual Wilma Rudolph Award. These student-athletes have overcome many obstacles in their lives, and each has demonstrated grit, resilience, determination, and strength" said Jackie Nicholson, N4A President and Executive Director of Athletics, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). "On behalf of the N4A Board of Directors and our membership, I would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2023 N4A Wilma Rudolph Award. We are proud of their accomplishments and excited to honor them."
Ekhardt was one of only five student athletes in the nation to receive this award.
Ekhardt van der Watt grew up in South Africa before arriving in the states to pursue a collegiate career in Track and Field as a pole vaulter.
Idaho State University (ISU) is the third institution that Ekhardt has attended due to a coaching change and an institution dropping his sporting event. Within his first semester at ISU, he experienced concussions due to two car accidents, death in his family, contracted COVID, was ineligible to compete, and the institution discontinued his current major.
Throughout these trials, Ekhardt struggled to navigate the academic requirements of a student-athlete and his mental health. He was diagnosed with acute major depressive disorder with suicidal ideation and began medication to treat his symptoms. It seemed like the punches kept rolling and it would have been easy for him to take a step back from being a student-athlete and return back home to South Africa. Instead of becoming frustrated or discouraged with his circumstances, he served to be a light to all those around him.
This season he has placed himself in the ISU record books as 9th all-time in pole vault, he competed in the Big Sky Championships and won the Men's Pole Vault, and he will be graduating next spring with two certificates and a Bachelor of Business Administration in management and marketing.