UAM athletes are recognized by conference
Especially on the Division II and below, a student attends college and plays athletics, not the other way around—with very few exceptions. For that large group, the NCAA coined the term “student-athletes.”
The Great American Conference, of which the University of Arkansas at Monticello is a charter member, announced a record 451 student-athletes on its 2016-17 winter/spring All-Academic team last week. Added to the record 350 recognized in the fall, that gives the GAC a whopping 801 student-athletes so enshrined, an increase of greater than nine percent from the prior record.
Thirty-four of those named in to the winter/spring team wear the Kelly Green and White. While that may not be as impressive a number as some of the 12 league schools had, John Harvey (baseball), Alvy Early (softball), Kristin Ingram (men’s and women’s golf), Tanya Ray (women’s basketball) and Kyle Tolin (men’s basketball) all agreed it is why they coach.
For athletes to be recognized on Academic All-Conference, they must have reached sophomore athletic and academic standing (true freshmen and redshirt freshmen are not eligible) and must have completed at least one full academic year at the nominating institution.
In addition, their grade-point average must be a minimum of 3.30 based on the 4.0 system. The GPA is cumulative for the student-athlete’s entire collegiate career.
“I thought we had an outstanding year academically,” Early said. “All 19 players had over a 3.00 for the year. Eight made the Chancellor’s List, three more the Dean’s List and we had a cumulative 3.569 GPA. I’m proud of the 11 named to the All-GAC Academic Team. That represents almost 60 percent of the team, but does not include freshmen or transfers that did well.
“We’ll continue to promote and stress academic success as a viable part of the softball program. If they come to play at UAM, I want them to get a degree.”
Of the 34 total selections, the baseball team led with 16 honorees, followed by softball (11), women’s golf (three), men’s golf (two), women’s basketball (one) and men’s basketball (one).
UAM’s new Academic All-GAC student-athletes (listed alphabetically with sports following the names) are: Skyler Anderson, softball; Maylie Bain, softball; Grant Black, baseball; Kali Bolter, softball; Kendra Coleman, softball; Ashton Currey, softball; Nicholas Duthu, baseball; Alyson Finnigan, softball; Gentry Ford, baseball; Victor Gomez, baseball; Mia Hayes, women’s basketball; Lauren Johnson, women’s golf; Kody Kimbrough, baseball; Tayte Kitts, men’s basketball; Clay LaBeff, baseball; J.W. Ledbetter, baseball; Kinley Lee, men’s golf;
Jared Libke, baseball; Landon McFadden, baseball; Marshall McPherson, baseball; Mallory McWhorter, softball; Megan Moore, softball; Dawson Moser, baseball; Korie Parker, softball; Nick Piraino, baseball; Paisley Pratt, softball; Brian Ray, baseball; Kaleb Reeves, baseball; McKenzie Rice, softball; Frida Rydberg, women’s golf; Kelsey Schrimpf, women’s golf; Alex Smith, baseball; Noah Smith, men’s golf; and Sean Wagner, baseball.
While sports like softball, baseball and golf are getting used to having multiple team members named to the Academic All-GAC list, the inclusion of one from each basketball team shows the emphasis all UAM coaches are placing on academics. Those sports have been mainly absent in recent years.
“We are excited for Tayte making the GAC All-Academic team,” said reigning GAC Coach of the Year Kyle Tolin, who watched as his players turned around the men’s basketball program in 2016-17. “Our team had several guys excel in the classroom this academic year.”
Combined with nine honorees in the fall, UAM boasts more than 40 Academic All-GAC student-athletes for the first time in years. The baseball tournament champion Boll Weevils even led the conference in All-Academic selections. The Diamond Cotton Blossoms also were tops in the GAC.
Around the league, Harding University led with 54 student-athletes earning Academic All-GAC marks. The Bisons collected the most All-Academic selections in men’s track and field and tied for the most in men’s basketball. Harding’s All-Academic selections in women’s track and field and in men’s golf placed second in conference.
Oklahoma Baptist University ranked second with 53 selections. The Lady Bison track and field squad tallied 21 All-Academic selections, the highest single-sport total across the 10 sports. Southern Nazarene University finished third overall but produced the most selections in women’s basketball, women’s tennis and women’s golf.
Ouachita Baptist University led the GAC with the most All-Academic honorees in baseball and men’s tennis. The Tigers also tied for the most in men’s basketball. Southwestern Oklahoma State University led or tied for the lead in three sports—women’s golf, men’s golf and men’s basketball.
“Division II places the balance of academic and athletic pursuits in its highest regards,” GAC Commissioner Will Prewitt said. “The student-athletes within the GAC continue to raise our standards of excellence in the classroom as well as on the field of play.”
GAC softball student-athletes garnered the most All-Academic selections, 88, followed by 83 from baseball and 76 in women’s track and field. For the full 2016-17 academic year, the 801 student-athletes that earned All-Academic honors are 82 more than the previous high for the conference.