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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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Kassie HowardA trio of Berry student-athletes found themselves ranked among the very best in NCAA Division III after dominating seasons in softball and men’s golf.

Sophomore pitcher Kassie Howard (pictured) won acclaim as Berry’s first softball All-American and was one of 10 finalists for National Player of the Year after leading her team to a program-best 39-8 record and a second straight trip to nationals.

Two Berry golfers – senior Tommy McCloskey and junior Ryan Elmore – were Jack Nicklaus Award semifinalists after helping their team qualify for nationals for the third consecutive year. McCloskey also earned All-America Scholar recognition with his 3.49 GPA. He graduated in May with a degree in finance.

Photo by student Russell Maddrey

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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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Stephen Gaylor

Stephen Gaylor (14C), bottom right, shakes hands with Braves scout Brian Bridges after signing a free-agent contract with the team. Also pictured are Berry head baseball coach David Beasley, top left, and assistant Shane West (99C). Photo by student Lauren Neumann.

As Collin McHugh (09c) continues his strong debut season with the Houston Astros, another Berry baseball alumnus is beginning a major-league quest of his own. Stephen Gaylor (14C) signed a free-agent contract with the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 11 and immediately joined the team’s Orlando-based affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. While at Berry, the speedy center fielder was a two-time All-Southern Athletic Association selection who ended his career as the Vikings’ all-time leader in stolen bases (89). He is the 32nd Berry baseball player to play professionally. Full list.

Alumni are also making news in golf and soccer this summer. Former Berry assistant and NAIA All-American Blake Smart (04C, 06G) has been named head men’s golf coach at the University of Memphis. He previously served as an assistant at the University of Oklahoma and as head coach at Kennesaw State University. Mark Bloom (10C), meanwhile, twice has been named to Major League Soccer’s Team of the Week as a defender for Toronto FC.

 

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Jim Owen (81C)Last summer, we were proud to report that Jim Owen (81C) had once again reached the top of his profession by leading Oglethorpe University to its second NCAA Division III men’s golf championship in four years. In December, Jim was honored for his accomplishments as the Division III recipient of the Dave Williams Award, presented annually to America’s top college golf coaches.

Jim, a standout on the basketball court while at Berry, has enjoyed tremendous success as Oglethorpe’s men’s golf coach, winning 12 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards and 10 SCAC championships in a span of 15 years. The Stormy Petrels have been equally successful at the national level, finishing in the top 12 every year since 2000. This spring, Jim’s Petrels – ranked No. 1 nationally at the end of the fall season – will join Berry in the race for golf supremacy in the newly formed Southern Athletic Association.

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Collin McHugh

Courtesy of WBNG-TV in Binghamton, N.Y.

Former Berry pitching standout Collin McHugh (09c) is one step from the majors after being promoted to the New York Mets’ Class AAA affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y. Collin, who pitched for Berry from 2006-08, earned his promotion after posting a 5-5 record with a 2.41 ERA at Class AA Binghamton, where he was Pitcher of the Year in 2011. In addition to his pitching prowess, Collin is also a social media sensation. His blog, A Day Older, A Day Wiser, has gained mainstream coverage from outlets such as ESPN New York, while his musings on Twitter have attracted more than 1,400 followers.

Also making news this spring is Jim Owen (81C), one of the many Berry alumni enjoying success as collegiate golf coaches. Jim recently reached the pinnacle of his profession – again – by leading Oglethorpe University to the 2012 NCAA Division III men’s golf championship. The title is the second in four years for Jim and the Stormy Petrels; Oglethorpe is only the sixth school to win multiple championships in the 37-year history of the event. Next season, Jim will find himself coaching against his alma mater as Oglethorpe and Berry begin play in the Southern Athletic Association.

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After three stellar seasons as the head women’s golf coach at Tulane University, former Berry All-American John Thomas Horton (99C) has accepted a new challenge as head coach of the first women’s golf team at Clemson University. J.T. (pictured) twice won Conference USA Coach of the Year honors at Tulane, where he resurrected a program that was halted after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. During his tenure with the Green Wave, J.T. led his team to two conference championships, three NCAA regionals and two national tournaments. In each of his three seasons, he coached the Conference USA Player of the Year.

J.T. is one of a growing fraternity of Berry alumni who have found success as college golf coaches. Others include Brian Farrer (02C, 04G), head men’s and women’s coach at Berry; Todd Lawton (92C), head men’s and women’s coach at the University of South Carolina Upstate; Larry Mays (97C), head men’s coach at Georgia Southern University; Jim Owen (81C), director of men’s and women’s golf at Oglethorpe University; John Maupin (07C), head men’s and women’s coach at Lee University; Blake Smart (04C, 06G), assistant men’s coach at the University of Oklahoma; Jason DeJiacomo (07C), assistant men’s and women’s coach at Berry; Jayne Curtis-Maupin (10C), assistant women’s coach at Lee University; Nicole Wildes (06C), assistant women’s coach at the College of Coastal Georgia; and Damon Stancil (99C), volunteer assistant women’s coach at North Georgia College and State University.

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