To have great teams, it helps to have great players. Sports fans can attest to the quality of the competitors at Mobile’s three colleges as honors continue to pour in for the athletes.
Here is a rundown of some of those who have received post-season accolades. The list will be updated as the awards continue to accumulate.
Cole Billingsley — The University of South Alabama baseball player was named the school’s representative on the Sun Belt Conference Leadership Team. This recognizes one individual who exemplifies the highest qualities of being a true student-athlete. Twice a first-team, all-conference player, the junior from Cropwell, Alabama, leads the SBC with 31 stolen bases while maintaining a .301 batting average.
Jonina Brinson — The University of Mobile sophomore put on quite a show at the NAIA National Track & Field Championships in Gulf Shores. Not only did she win the long jump title with an effort of 5.86 meters, four of her six jumps were better than the next closest competitor’s.
“It’s an amazing feeling, coming in with the meets so spaced out and being that I was battling injury,” said Brinson, who also won the NAIA indoor title this year. “To come out and place good was awesome.”
The sophomore from Swainsboro, Georgia, picked up All-American honors in the 100-meter dash by finishing eighth in 12.32 seconds and in the triple jump by taking eighth place with an effort of 11.63 meters. Brinson was named the Southern States Athletic Conference Women’s Track Athlete of the Year, NAIA Women’s Outdoor Field Athlete of the Week and the U.S. Track & Field and Cross County Coaches Association’s South Region Field Athlete of the Year.
Taylor Clinkenbeard — The UM softball player was named the 2016 Musco Lighting Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the Southern States Athletic Conference. The senior from Hueytown, Alabama, is the school’s first recipient of the award.
A two-time all-conference player, her career batting average of .401 is the fourth-highest in school history. Off the field, she had a 4.0 grade point average in accounting. She also mentored underclassman and delivered meals to the homeless.
“She is the kind of player that our youngsters want to be like, and our upperclassmen revere because of her character and servant’s attitude,” coach Terri McCormick said.
Sean Collins — The Mobile native had a tremendous debut with USA. Collins was named the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year after winning the pole vault on the final day of the league meet with a 5.51-meter mark — breaking the school, conference and meet records.
Although ranked eighth nationally, Collins injured himself on his final jump and will be unable to participate for the remainder of the outdoor season. He earned first-team, All-American honors after finishing second in the pole vault at the NCAA Indoor Championship with a 5.45-meter leap.
“It is a well-deserved honor,” USA track coach Paul Brueske said. “He is a fine young man who is smart and humble, but yet is confident. He has a lot of poise for a young guy. The bigger the meet, the better he does.”
Kevin Hill — The senior pitcher from USA has been named the Sun Belt Conference’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year. The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, native is the first Jaguar to receive the honor since David Kimani in 2000.
The right-hander previously became the first SBC Pitcher of the Year in back-to-back campaigns, and has been named to the Louisville Slugger Division I first-team, All-America squad. Entering the NCAA Regionals, Hill has an 8-1 record, 2.53 earned run average and 125 strikeouts in 117.1 innings. He was the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week in February after striking out 12 in a three-hit win over Georgia.
Last season he was named second-team, All-American by three groups after going 10-0 with a 1.73 ERA and 107 strikeouts. Having already earned his bachelor’s degree in May 2015, Hill has been a member of the SBC Academic Honor Roll. Joining him and Billingsley on the all-conference first-team is shortstop Drew LaBounty, who led the SBC in walks (52).
Tuki Jacobs — The USA junior was named the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Tennis Student-Athlete of the year. Jacobs has a 27-12 overall record and 13-7 mark in dual matches. He has been all-conference three times. A native of Windhoek, Namibia, he was previously featured in Lagniappe for having represented his nation in Davis Cup action. He was joined on the all-conference team by seniors Tim Srkala and Juan Troglia, who were on the second-team list.
Alyssa Mayer — After the USA soccer star earned a degree in exercise science with a 3.80 GPA, the Birmingham native received $3,000 from the Sun Belt Conference as a postgraduate scholarship. She plans to enter a physician assistant master’s program in the fall. Mayer had 19 starts as a senior as the Jaguars went 18-3-2 and claimed their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
Heather Nail — For the second straight year, the UM golfer has earned All-America honors. From Hartselle, Alabama, the junior was on the third-team list this season, after being selected second-team last year. Nail finished first in four tournaments this year and in the top five at two others. She has been all-conference each of the past three seasons.
Mariah Plauth — The UM tennis player earned first-team NAIA All-America honors. The freshman from Florianopolis, Brazil, was one of 16 on the squad. She went 16-2 at No. 1 singles, including 2-0 at the NAIA National Championship. Ranked No. 32 in the singles ratings, Plauth was also 12-5 in doubles. She was the SSAC Freshman of the Year and a first-team all-conference pick.
Alexandria Stiteler — She became the first USA women’s tennis player to claim the conference Student-Athlete of the Year award. The Bradenton, Florida, native was also Freshman of the Year after having a team-best 26-5 singles record and winning the UNLV Invitational. Joining her on the all-conference team were junior Laura Valkova (singles first-team), senior Michaela Meszarosova (singles and doubles second-team), junior Laura Matuskova (singles and doubles second-team) and senior Cinta Maria Papke (doubles first-team).