Spring Hill College coaches Craig McVey (cross country) and Steve Kittrell (softball) pose with the women’s volleyball, wom- en’s cross country and softball SIAC championship trophies. The titles helped the Badgers earn the Commissioner’s Cup.
Back in May, the Spring Hill College athletic program wrapped up an incredible inaugural season as a full member on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Division II. The Badgers won five league titles, while the women’s beach volleyball team finished third in the nation.
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) has recognized this tremendous amount of success. The Badgers have received the Commissioner’s Cup for women’s athletics.
“Our entire athletic department is proud of this accomplishment,” said Chad LeBlanc, who served as interim athletic director during most of the 2018-2019 season. “The success of our women’s teams is a direct result of the hard work our student-athletes, coaches and staff put in not only this year, but the last few years as Spring Hill College went through the transition process to become members of the NCAA Division II.”
The original plan to move from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) began in 2013. It was meant to be a three-year journey, but Spring Hill was forced to overcome several obstacles along the way. The Badgers finally met all requirements and were able to compete for post-season honors this last season.
“It is on the backs and shoulders of the athletes and staff who were at Spring Hill College when we were not eligible for post-season play or award recognition, that has lifted us up to be able to shine,” LeBlanc said. “We have set the bar pretty high in our first year with the NCAA, and we look forward to the challenge of raising that bar every year.”
Based on a point system, the SIAC Commissioner’s Cup awards 10 points for conference titles, seven points for runner-up finishes and four points for third-place standings.
The Spring Hill women won the Commissioner’s Cup with 37 total points, winning SIAC championships in women’s cross country, women’s volleyball and softball. The Badgers’ runner-up finish at the women’s outdoor track and field championships earned the remaining seven points. Spring Hill also competed in the SIAC championships for women’s tennis (finishing fourth) and women’s basketball (falling in the second round).
The Badgers held a 16-point margin over Benedict College, which had won the previous three Commissioner’s Cups.
In the men’s standings, Spring Hill was fourth with 24 points. This included the SIAC baseball tournament championship, but not the men’s soccer title that was won in the Gulf South Conference. Albany State University and Miles College shared the men’s cup with 28 points each. Benedict College was third with 27 points.
“I would like to congratulate the coaches, student-athletes and [former athletic director] Jim Hall, along with Chad, on their success following a long transition period to NCAA Division II,” said Joe Niland, who took over as Spring Hill College’s athletic director in June. Hall was in charge of the Badgers’ sports programs when the NCAA application began through the final acceptance. He is now the athletic director at Carroll University in Wisconsin.
** University of South Alabama (USA) junior Emilie Berge scored 5,493 points to place 15th in the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships heptathlon. This allowed the native of Norway to pick up second-team all-America accolades once again.
Her highest finish was fifth place in the javelin throw. Her toss of 40.10 meters (131-06.5 feet) gained 669 points and was just short of her season-best.
She set the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) indoor pentathlon (4,203 points) and outdoor heptathlon (5,718 points) records this year. She earned second-team All-America honors with a 10th place finish for the pentathlon in this year’s NCAA Division I Indoor Championships.
** Jaguar teammate Sean Collins advanced to the pole vault finals for the third straight season after finishing sixth in the East Preliminary Round. The senior cleared 5.53 meters (18-01.75 feet) at the SBC Championship to break the conference record he set in 2016 and claim his fourth consecutive league title. He earned all-American honors after finishing eighth in 2017 and tying for 11th in the 2018 NCAA Championships.
Unfortunately, at this year’s NCAA finals, USA coach Paul Brueske said the McGill-Toolen Catholic High School graduate broke his wrist in training. He made one attempt at the meet but could not compete.
Brueske said he feels terrible for Collins. “He was jumping so well at conference,” the coach told Lagniappe. “I am confident he would have been first-team all-American.”
Collins and fellow senior Jobi Finau were named to the 2018-2019 Google Cloud Academic All-District Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country Team. Collins finished with a 3.65 GPA in his biology program and participated in USA’s May commencement ceremony. Finau graduated from USA’s exercise science program with a 3.67 GPA. He made his first NCAA East Region Preliminary Round appearance after recording a 51.13-meter (167-08.75 feet) discus toss at this year’s conference championship.
** USA junior Autavia Fluker has been voted SBC Women’s Most Outstanding Field Performer. Fluker collected 18 team points at the league’s Outdoor Championship with a victory in the shot put and a second-place finish in the hammer throw. She broke her own Jaguar shot put record with a 16.22-meter (53-02.75) throw at the Triton Invitational earlier this season. Her 60.56-meter (198-08.25) hammer throw at the Florida Relays was the second-longest in the conference this season and ranks third on the all-time USA performance list.
** The University of Mobile’s Chrislyn Whaley has been named the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Women’s Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She won first place at the SSAC Championship in the javelin with a mark of 36.17 meters. She was also part of the second-place 4×100-meter relay team (49.87 seconds) and had a season-best team (13.04 seconds) in the 100-meter dash. The junior earned SSAC All-Academic honors with a 3.72 grade point average while majoring in kinesiology.
** The University of Mobile’s Anfernee Jones has been named Field Athlete of the Year by the SSAC. The junior was named Championship Top Scorer at the 2019 SSAC Men’s Track & Field Championship with 28 points, with them all coming in field events. He won the discus (37.70 meters) and shot put (13.61 meters), while finishing as runner-up in the hammer throw (38.36 meters). He currently holds the school records for shot put (14.17 meters) and hammer throw (38.67 meters).
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