by Eva Dean Folkert
Hope College's top individual athletic honors for 2020 have been awarded to multi-sport student-athlete Mason Opple and soccer player Megan Bigelow.
The Otto van der Velde award has been presented since 1932 to a senior man for outstanding contribution to the college in athletics, scholarship, and participation in student activities. The award is named in memory of Dr. Otto van der Velde, a 1915 Hope College graduate who lettered in four sports and was later team physician for more than 40 years.
The John Schouten Award has been presented annually since 1983 to the outstanding female athlete in the senior class. The award is named in memory of John (Jack) Schouten, a long-time physical educator at Hope and the college's first athletic director.
Opple, from Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS), was a three-sport student-athlete for the Flying Dutchmen, playing football and baseball all four years and basketball during his senior year.
At the quarterback position, Opple was the 2020 MIAA Offensive MVP and a two-time All-MIAA First Team selection. He holds several single-season football records that include best pass completion percentage (125/195 for 64.1% in 2019), fewest interceptions (0 in 2019), most rushing touchdowns scored by a quarterback (18 in 2018), most yards rushed by a quarterback in a game (244 vs. Olivet in 2018), and longest touch pass reception (93 yards to Christian Bos in 2017). Opple was a semifinalist for the 2020 Gagliardi Award, given by Jostens to honor the top football player in NCAA Division III.
As a right fielder in the baseball, Opple was an All-MIAA First Team in 2019 and was named an All Region third-team outfielder in the Mideast Region by d3baseball.com. He is Hope's all-time leader in career runs batted in with 121 runs over 129 games.
Opple also played in 19 games for the men's basketball team during 2019-20, averaging 10.4 minutes per game off the bench. He contributed 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.
Bigelow of Flushing, Michigan (Flushing), was a three-starter for the Hope women's soccer team as a midfielder. She was named to the All-MIAA First Team in 2019 and earned All-Central Region Second Team honors from the United Soccer Coaches organization. Additionally, Bigelow claimed Scholar All-Region honors from the USC.
In 2019, Bigelow scored twice while contributing offensively and defensively in the midfield for the Flying Dutch, who finished runner-up in the MIAA standings.