In addition to its athletic accomplishments this past fall, Sauk Valley Community College’s cross-country team is being recognized for its performance in the classroom.
Skyhawk runners Brooke Smith and Abby Wheeler, both of Dixon; Breanne Hunter, Oregon; and Victoria Casteneda, Stephanie Hernandez, and Ryan McKanna, all of Rock Falls, were each named to the National Junior College Athletic Cross-country Coaches Association’s annual Academic All-American List for their individual grade point averages (GPA).
This list, compiled by NJCAA cross-country coaches from around the country, is different from the NJCAA’s Academic All-American List, which will be released later this spring.
The NJCAA Cross-country Coaches Association also recognized the Skyhawks’ team GPAs. The women’s cross-country team was ranked fifth in the nation with a team GPA of 3.762, and the men’s team was ranked 19th with a team GPA of 3.095.
Head Coach Mike Sullivan said that he and Assistant Coach Mark Johnson are pleased with the accomplishments of this team.
“Under Abby Wheeler’s and Kerstyn Richard’s leadership, the women’s team set goals and worked diligently week after week to achieve them,” said Sullivan. “They accomplished those goals as well as the ultimate goal of winning the regional and advancing to the nationals. We are delighted that, as a team, the ladies also received All-American Academic recognition. They are a deserving group that has “set the bar” for future Sauk athletes. We congratulate them and men’s team runner Ryan McKanna for their academic accomplishments.”
“When you have student athletes that not only balance their academic workload, give their all on the cross-country course, and have an exceptional year in both; this speaks volumes for these students, Mike Sullivan, our athletic program, and for our faculty,” said SVCC President Dr. George Mihel.
SVCC Athletic Director Russ Damhoff said that both men’s and women’s cross-country teams have been nominated for the NJCAA’s Academic Team of the Year Award and deservingly so. “Both teams were strong this year and did an outstanding job in the classroom and on the field,” he said.
The Skyhawk women’s team won the NJCAA regional meet in October. Castaneda (who finished first), Smith, Wheeler, and Kerstyn Richard received NJCAA All-Region honors. Men’s team runner Nick Belmonte of Rochelle was also named All-Region, and Sullivan was named NJCAA Region IV Coach of the Year.