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Equestrian Commencement

COMMENCEMENT ROUNDUP: Chief of Staff Debbie Heida, center, presides over a special graduation ceremony for equestrian seniors Allie Robertson, left, and Sarah Cooper. The equestrian team was in Syracuse, N.Y., the weekend of spring commencement competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships.

Allie Robertson

Allie Robertson is all smiles after winning her second national championship as a member of Berry’s equestrian team. Photo courtesy of EQ Media.

Most students process into commencement to the strains of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, but it’s not usually played on an iPhone. Then again, graduation was anything but typical for Allie Robertson and Sarah Cooper.

As members of Berry’s varsity equestrian team, Robertson and Cooper found themselves in Syracuse, N.Y., the first weekend in May competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championships.

Robertson walked with her Berry classmates before flying to New York for two events the following day. She ultimately won an individual national championship in Novice Western Horsemanship, her second national title at Berry, to pace a sixth-place team finish.

“It was kind of a whirlwind weekend,” she said. “I didn’t really have time to process that I had just graduated college and was going to nationals.”

Cooper’s competition schedule prevented her from walking with Robertson and the rest of her class, so Chief of Staff Debbie Heida brought graduation to her, flying to Syracuse once Berry’s commencement concluded to preside over a miniature ceremony for both equestrian seniors.

“It’s a privilege to go and be part of their nationals experience,” Heida said, adding that it means a lot to her to be able to “celebrate with someone the end of a four-year academic career.”

At the ceremony, which was held in a conference room at the event center, the students processed into the room as they would at a typical graduation.

“We had caps and gowns on top and boots and spurs on the bottom half, which was so perfect for us,” Cooper said. “It really made up for the sadness of missing the real graduation. It was the perfect way to wrap up nationals and my Berry College career.”

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse

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SAA trophies won by Berry teams in 2017-18

Berry softball seniors

From left, softball seniors Kassie Howard, Brittany Tuttle, Kylie Aiken and Elisabeth Federici show off the eight SAA championship trophies (four regular season, four tournament) won in their four years at Berry.

Eight – that’s the number of conference championships won by Berry teams in 2017-18, a new high for the program in NCAA Division III. The number is even more impressive when you add the 10 individual titles won by student-athletes in women’s golf, swimming and diving, and track and field. It has been a spectacular year by any measure, with national qualifiers in 10 different sports: football, volleyball, cross country, men’s basketball, women’s swimming and diving, women’s track and field (indoor and outdoor), softball, women’s golf, and equestrian.

It would take a year’s worth of Alumni Accents to list all of the highlights produced by Berry student-athletes since our last issue, but we do want to give a virtual “high-five” to the softball team, which won its first NCAA regional championship en route to a sparkling 39-6 finish.

Kudos are also due women’s golf, which earned a top-10 finish in its NCAA national tournament debut, and equestrian, which posted five individual top-10 finishes at western nationals. In addition, Alainna Chretien (18C) capped a stellar track and field career by qualifying for NCAA outdoor nationals – a first for Berry – shattering the school record at 1,500 meters in the process.

Not to be forgotten is the SAA regular-season championship won by Berry’s baseball team, another first in the NCAA era. The Vikings came tantalizingly close to a national tournament bid of their own before closing the season with a 29-13 record.

Visit berryvikings.com for complete coverage of all Berry athletics, including the many individual accolades claimed by Berry student-athletes this spring.

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Men's Basketball Team Celebrates Championship

Above: Members of the Berry men’s basketball team celebrate at midcourt after winning the Southern Athletic Association tournament championship. The Vikings became the first No. 8 seed in SAA history to accomplish the feat.

Genesis Leggett Qualifies for Indoor Nationals

Sophomore Genesis Leggett made history in March as Berry’s first NCAA qualifier in track and field. She competed in the weight throw at indoor nationals.

Basketball, equestrian, swimming and diving, track and field, softball, and golf – regardless of the sport, Berry student-athletes can’t get enough of national competition this semester, and more is yet to come!

In the last week alone, Berry has locked up NCAA Division III national tournament invitations – and conference championships – in softball and women’s golf.  The baseball team can join them by winning this weekend’s SAA championship series in the friendly confines of Bowdoin Field. The men’s 4×100 relay team may also get a crack at nationals after blazing to victory at the SAA track and field championships.

Earlier this semester, senior Haley Brown earned honorable mention All-America recognition as one of four national qualifiers from the women’s swimming and diving team. Sophomore Genesis Leggett, meanwhile, became the first Berry track athlete, male or female, to compete nationally in the NCAA era, qualifying for indoor nationals in the weight throw. Not to be outdone, six members of the equestrian team have punched their tickets to nationals in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.

Fittingly, all of this success got started with a bit of madness – February Madness, in this case – courtesy of the men’s basketball team. After finishing eighth in the regular season, the Vikings made history with three wins in three days to claim Berry’s first conference championship in men’s basketball since 1992. Read more about their magical run in this oral history by student Noah Syverson.

Follow the action in all sports at www.berryvikings.com.

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Sydney Weaver (17C)

Sydney Weaver (17C)

Genesis Leggett throws the shot put

Freshman Genesis Leggett throws the shot put for Berry during the SAA championships at Valhalla.

Sydney Weaver (17C) made history this spring as the first Berry student-athlete to compete in the NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championships, finishing seventh overall. The first-team All-American has taken her last swing for Berry, but she’ll continue to serve the program as a graduate assistant.

Weaver’s success was one of many athletic highlights for Berry this spring. Others included a No. 5 national finish and All-America recognition for men’s golfer Ryan Elmore (17C); national equestrian crowns for sophomores Allie Robertson and Emily Lambert; Berry’s first All-American in men’s lacrosse; two conference championships for Southern Athletic Association Women’s Field Athlete of the Year Genesis Leggett; and numerous regional and national honors for Berry’s record-breaking softball team.

Berry facilities were also on display, with Valhalla hosting Georgia High School Association state championships and the SAA track and field championships, the newly-christened Kay Williams Field hosting an NCAA Division III softball regional, and the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College welcoming the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference championships.

Visit www.berryvikings.com for complete coverage of Berry athletics.

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Equestrian Champions

Berry riders (from left) AnnaLee Cooley, Emily Lambert, Elizabeth Poczobut, Sarah Cooper and Allie Robertson.

The Berry equestrian team is closing in on “dynasty” status after claiming its second national championship in a row – and third in five years – at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s Western Nationals. Berry also competed nationally in softball and men’s golf this spring, with the softball team finishing with the best record in its history, 39-8, and hosting an NCAA Division III regional for the first time.

This year’s equestrian title was shared with St. Andrews University after the two teams finished the four-day competition tied with 19 total points. Five other teams finished within four points of the leaders, including Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Oregon State University.

“Winning the national championship for the third time in five years is such an honor,” said Berry coach Margaret Knight. “I’m so proud of my team this year and how hard everyone worked to defend the title. We are truly blessed!”

Four riders scored points for Berry in the team competition: sophomore AnnaLee Cooley (first, Advanced Western Horsemanship), freshman Sarah Cooper (second, Novice Western Horsemanship), junior Elizabeth Poczobut (second, Open Western Horsemanship) and freshman Allie Robertson (fifth, Intermediate Western Horsemanship). Poczobut also competed in Open Reining, finishing eighth, while freshman Emily Lambert matched that placement in Beginner Western Horsemanship.

Individually, Poczobut claimed a No. 5 national finish in the High Point Western Rider competition, while Berry’s lone hunt-seat competitor – senior Mallory Hammer – was ninth in Open Equitation on the Flat.

Visit www.berryvikings.com for complete coverage of all Berry athletics.

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Berry Equestrian ChampionsBerry’s equestrian program is once again tops in the nation, winning the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s western nationals for the second time in five years with help from individual championships by Amanda Petersen (intermediate horsemanship) and Mariel Wrench (novice horsemanship). The team championship was the seventh overall for Berry student-athletes.

Other spring highlights included a No. 4 national finish in men’s golf and a first-ever NCAA Division III national tournament appearance in women’s softball. Both teams won Southern Athletic Association tournament championships, with women’s softball setting a new benchmark for wins with 34 after placing second in the NCAA’s Atlanta Regional.

Visit www.berryvikings.com for complete coverage of Berry athletics.

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Tommy McClosky at Nationals

Photo of Berry All-American Tommy McCloskey by John Bell of Touch A Life Photography.

Honorable mention All-American Tommy McCloskey paced a No. 8 national finish for men’s golf in Berry’s first appearance in the NCAA Division III Golf Championships. Women’s tennis also made history this spring – capping a sparkling 18-3 season with a first-round NCAA Division III national tournament victory over Methodist University – while the equestrian team closed out another successful campaign with a fourth-place finish at western nationals.

Proving equally impressive in the classroom, 98 Berry student-athletes made the Southern Athletic Association’s spring honor roll. In addition, women’s lacrosse player Kristan Dziurzynski (14C) was honored as a third-team Capital One Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

 

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“It’s Collin McHugh’s world, we’re just along for the ride,” declared a tweet from Major League baseball after the former Berry pitcher electrified fans with a second consecutive dominating performance for the Houston Astros. McHugh, who was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 2008 after his junior season at Berry, notched his first major-league win in his Astros’ debut, striking out 12 to beat the Seattle Mariners. His second outing – a near shutout of the Oakland A’s – earned McHugh not one but two on-field showers from teammates (see video).

Also riding high this spring is Meghan Nolan Boenig (99C), a former member of Berry’s equestrian team who recently won her sixth national championship as the first and only head coach in the history of the University of Georgia’s highly successful equestrian program.

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Berry Softball

A second consecutive Southern Athletic Association regular-season championship in women’s softball and David Beasley’s 500th win in 17 seasons as Berry baseball coach highlighted the spring sports season. The women’s softball team surpassed its single-season record for wins with 31 and advanced to the finals of the SAA postseason tournament before falling to Birmingham-Southern College. The baseball team set a record of its own with 29 wins, a new high for NCAA Division III. Other notable achievements included a 17-2 finish in women’s tennis and a trip to western nationals for the equestrian team.

Two Berry student-athletes have been invited to compete abroad this summer. Senior volleyball standout and honorable mention All-American Stephanie Quinn will tour Brazil as part of the USA DIII Women’s Volleyball Team, while senior Andrea Cole will take her softball talents to Australia for six games sponsored by USA Athletes International.

Spring also brought news that NCAA competition will come to Berry this fall in the form of the Nov. 15 Division III South/Southeast Regional cross country meet.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Jellum.

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Berry Women's Volleyball Team

A successful fall semester for Berry’s student-athletes culminated with a second consecutive Southern Athletic Association championship in women’s volleyball and the college’s first-ever NCAA Division III national tournament appearance. With honorable-mention All-Americans Stephanie Quinn and Emily Stromberg leading the charge, Mika Robinson’s Vikings posted a 26-8 record highlighted by a sparkling 16-1 mark against SAA competition and a first-round victory over Washington & Lee in the national tournament.

Also qualifying for nationals this fall was senior running standout Ryan James, a top-five finisher at the conference and regional levels who placed 56th overall among 275 competitors in the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

Other notable achievements included a 16-4 finish in women’s soccer (a 12-win improvement over 2012), senior men’s soccer player Josh Hughes’ selection as Berry’s first NCAA Division III Academic All-American, and an undefeated fall for the hunt seat and western equestrian teams.

Visit www.berryvikings.com for ongoing coverage of Berry’s winter sports and more athletic news from fall, including numerous individual accolades and the women’s softball team’s participation in the local Challenger Sports Program for children and adults with special needs.

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Jeff RogersA busy spring for Berry’s student-athletes ended with two individual conference championships in men’s track, regular-season titles in men’s lacrosse and women’s softball, and a sixth-place national finish in hunt seat equestrian competition. Also making headlines was men’s basketball, which welcomed a new coach in Jeff Rogers (pictured), who comes to Berry after posting a four-year record of 77-34 at Kentucky’s Thomas More College.

Standouts for Berry included junior Ryan James, who raced to victory in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the Southern Athletic Association track and field championships. Also excelling were student-athletes competing in men’s lacrosse and women’s softball; both teams set new benchmarks for wins, men’s lacrosse with 13 and women’s softball with 29. The 13-5 finish in men’s lacrosse represented the third-best one-year improvement among 208 teams competing in NCAA Division III in 2013. Women’s tennis and men’s golf added a pair of second-place finishes in SAA tournament play. Success by the various teams resulted in numerous individual awards. Click the link for each sport to read more.

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Berry magazine once described Meaghan Nolan Boenig (99C) as a “25-year-old dynamo” and “bona fide pioneer” while detailing her role as the first equestrian coach at the University of Georgia. Ten years and five national championships later, the former Berry rider continues to blaze new trails as head coach of the red and black, leading columnist Dick Yarbrough to lift his voice in praise by proclaiming that the program she has built at UGA is “a model for what all intercollegiate athletics should be, but, alas, are not.” Read more.

(Photo courtesy of of the University of Georgia)

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