News & Events
CROSS COUNTRY EXCELS IN CLASS AND IN COMPETITION
From daylight to dinner, Kit Powell is busy with classes, practices, meetings and other responsibilities in his various roles as student; runner on the Mars Hill College cross country and track teams; percussionist in the MHC Percussion Ensemble and the Mountain Lion Marching Band; Challenger; president of the local chapter of Alpha Chi Honor Society; parliamentarian of the Student Government Association; Student Success Mentor; and teaching assistant intern in the Music Education Department.
At 6 pm, he allows himself an hour of “downtime,” for relaxing and hanging out with friends before hitting the practice room to further hone his skills as a percussionist and prepare for an upcoming recital. After a five-to-six hour practice, it is normally after midnight before he gets back to his dorm room to begin studying. Kit’s typical bedtime is 2 or 3 am.
With a schedule like that, some students might allow themselves the luxury of letting their grades slip. And yet, Kit was one of four members of the MHC men’s cross country team to win individual all-academic honors in the region recently from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
In addition to the four individual awards on the men’s side, the women’s cross country team earned team academic honors for the 14th year in a row.
“If you win academic honors, and especially the individual academic honors, you’re really earned it, both as a student and an athlete,” said coach Mike Owens. “They have to be pretty special kids.”
Runners who qualify for the individual award have to maintain at least a 3.25 cumulative GPA, and finish in the top 30 (in a field of 250 to 300 runners) at the NCAA Division II Region Championships. To win team academic honors, the team must have competed and compiled a team score at an NCAA Regional Meet. The team must also have a minimum 3.0 team cumulative grade point average.
Owens believes that academic honors are especially noteworthy for cross country athletes, who compete in a three-season sport. “When you’re in-season, it is totally consuming, physically, emotionally and mentally. Other athletes can take their harder classes during the off-season, but there is not really an off-season for cross country,” Owens said. “So, if cross country athletes are going to excel academically at all, they have to do it while they are also giving an enormous amount of energy to the sport.”
Aaron Thomas, a junior from Seminole, FL, has maintained a 3.84 GPA while pursuing his double major of business administration/entrepreneurship and political science. Aaron works to keep a high GPA because he hopes to attend law school after graduation from Mars Hill and study contract law with a focus on sports contracts. His eventual goal is to be an athletic director for a college or university sports program.
Aaron said the hardest thing about maintaining his grades is keeping up his energy level. “After a long practice, you’re just drained. I really want to go back to my room and crash, but that’s when the studying begins. It makes for some pretty long nights,” he said.
Justin Gragg is a sophomore from Lenoir, NC. Justin has a cumulative GPA of 3.43 in his major of business/accounting. He plans to pursue a master’s, or possibly a doctorate in accounting. He would eventually like to teach and possibly coach at the college or university level.
Although Justin acknowledges the difficulty of maintaining his grades, he believes that running actually enhances the character development necessary to succeed. “It takes a lot of discipline and dedication to run cross country, and that carries over to other aspects of my life.”
Freshman Eric Blackburn agrees that running increases his drive to succeed, both in class and on the course.
“Athletics teaches discipline, plus, if I don’t do well in my classes, I am not able to be on the team, so that is extra incentive to work hard,” he said. Eric is from State Road, N.C. and has achieved a 3.91 GPA while pursuing his major of biology/pre-med.
Kit, who is from Antigo, WI, is double-majoring in music performance/percussion and mathematics. He would eventually like to conduct a symphony orchestra or teach percussion studies at the college or university level.
Although Kit’s schedule is difficult, he finds support from his teammates. “It helps to have other people on your team who care about school as much as you do,” he said. “It helps to know that when we finish practice, they are just as tired as I am, but we push each other because we want to uphold our program, and our sport, and each other.”