2016 Cowgirl Way recipients

Highlands scholar athletes Kristen Montaño, left, and Madison Davis were tapped for Cowgirl Way scholarships Sept 14. Mike Melton, center, Southwest Capital Bank regional president, presented the scholarships, which the bank sponsors.

Las Vegas, N.M – Two Highlands University women athletes who excel in both the classroom and their sports were tapped for Cowgirl Way scholarships.

Kristen Montaño is an NCCA All-American in the 4 by 400 relay, RMAC champion in both the 4 by 400 and 4 by 200 relays, and All-RMAC in the 400-meter dash, among other track honors. She maintains a 3.4 GPA. Madison Davis, a transfer student, was a starting pitcher in her first season at Highlands in 2016. She maintains a 3.5 GPA.

Both athletes received $500 scholarships from Southwest Capital Bank. Montaño is a senior from Las Vegas, New Mexico, majoring in business with a concentration in marketing. Davis is a senior from West Jordon, Utah, and is majoring in human performance and sport.

“With this Cowgirl Way scholarship we wanted to highlight the hard work women athletes at Highlands put into their sports just the way the men do,” said Mike Melton, regional president of Southwest Capital Bank. “You’re disciplined, dedicated and hard-working, making sacrifices every day to succeed. Investing in you is also investing in the community because you inspire so many local youth.”

In 2010, Southwest Capital Bank embraced a partnership with the Highlands University Foundation for Cowgirl Way, endowing a $100,000 scholarship program for women athletes who exemplify high academic standards, grit, determination, courage and strong ethics.

Montaño and Davis were honored at the Highlands Foundation’s Cowgirl Way luncheon Sept. 14.

“Women athletes at Highlands, like the women of the Old West, have forged your own path in life and athletics,” said Highlands University President Sam Minner. “You continue to break barriers and live life on your own terms. Thank you for all you do at Highlands in the athletic arena and the classroom.”

Highlands coaches recommended a pool of athletes for the scholarship.

“Kristen graduated from Robertson High school where she was an All-State athlete in both soccer and track, but her plans did not include competing at the collegiate level,” said Bob DeVries, head track and field coach. “It was a great day when she told me she wanted to join the Cowgirl track team. Her daily work ethic, positive energy and ‘can do’ attitude paid off at the NCAA championships when she took the baton for our 4 by 400 relay squad and held off the two top teams in the nation on her leg.”

DeVries said Montaño overcame a tumultuous first year when through no fault of her own, the NCAA denied her freshman eligibility.

“Another athlete might have said ‘enough is enough,’ but not Kristen. She persevered and worked her butt off every day to be ready when her time came to compete. This year she will be a captain, a position she is well suited for and has earned in every sense of the word,” DeVries said.

Montaño has volunteered for community service like the Cowgirl track team’s Get on Track with Reading program at the Las Vegas City Schools Early Childhood Center. In 2015, she was successful in a business ethics competition in the School of Business.

Head women’s softball coach Karin Gadberry said Madison Davis anchored the Cowgirl pitching staff in 2016 and helped guide two freshman pitchers on the team.

“Maddie is selfless and wants to succeed not only for her own greatness, but for the softball program, her academic department and the university,” Gadberry said. “She graduated with her associate degree from Eastern Nebraska Community College, where she did an exceptional job on and off the softball field. She earned dean’s list honors and was named to the Region IX
All-Academic Team.”

Ron Thomson, strength and conditioning coach at Highlands, said Davis is superior in her work ethic, drive and leadership skills. She was selected as one of the softball team’s captains for the 2016 – 2017 year.

“Maddie shows top-level leadership in workouts with her teammates, giving help and encouragement to everyone on the team,” Thomson said.

Davis volunteers in softball initiatives like raising money for the homeless shelter and reading to local elementary school children to promote literacy. She served as a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Council in her first year at Highlands.

Margaret McKinney, University Relations staff writer since 2008, was named for the Cowgirl Way Spirit Award for her dedication and passion for writing news stories about the accomplishments of Highlands University and its students.

“When writing excellent stories to promote the university, Margaret works tirelessly with the highest integrity to get all the information and every detail correct, always pulling the best from the people she interviews. She really cares about each student and is a strong supporter of HU women athletics,” wrote the Cowgirl Way nomination committee