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Dear Bobcat Nation –

There comes a time when you reflect on the past year and think about the great successes and achievements made/achieved by our student-athletes, coaches, staff and department. For me it is when the school year has ended, graduation is but a memory and the dust has settled on another academic year.

The women’s soccer team punched the program’s first-ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament this past fall.

And while doing reports for different groups on campus, I am still quite proud of the fact we had our five fall sports teams make the NCAA Tournament, our basketball teams both made the Conference Carolinas Tournament and the rebuilding efforts of our spring sports.

But, something even better stands out to me and I must share it with you and shout it from the mountaintop.

We had 162 student-athletes make the Conference Carolinas Presidential Honor Roll! To make this list one must have a grade point average of at least 3.20. To place this into a proper perspective, over 60% of our student-athletes had over a 3.2 GPA.

I will give you more numbers to give you an idea of the great and rewarding success this is. We had 10 teams with over a 3.0 GPA in the spring semester, our busiest. We also had 10 teams who have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.

For the fall we had a 2.95 GPA; then a 3.01 in the spring to give us a cumulative grade point average of 2.98!!!

Taking into account that these teams are practicing, competing and traveling 20 hours a week, this is a tribute to hard work and dedication. I would be foolish not to mention the great work of our Challenging Athletes to Success (CATS) program and how it has helped with time management, writing, math and general study skills.

So as you think about this special place in the mountains of western North Carolina, realize this: we put more emphasis on the classroom success than we do the great athletic accomplishments as we prepare young people for a prosperous life after their days in Banner Elk.

Have a great summer.

Best wishes

Craig

Dear Bobcat Nation –

Alexander Hayes (center) soaks in the moment after receiving his diploma.

We have concluded another academic year with the 2012 Commencement Saturday. For me, this was my 13th Lees-McRae College Commencement, and they have each been very special. It is wonderful to see the looks in the graduates’ eyes, the pride in their parents’ smiles and tremendous sense of family that surrounds the Williams Physical Education Center on this day.

As I stood in the hallway, watching the graduates march through the throng of faculty and staff to start the event, I was reduced to chills and tears wondering what it must have felt like for those young people. It is and was a magical moment as the culmination of a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifices were soon to be rewarded with a certificate of degree stating they are college graduates.

I wondered as I sat through the ceremony, how many of these young people are first generation college graduates? Does graduate school await for some? What about the military? Will some join? How many have jobs already? Will some get a chance to catch their breath from the hustle of the past several years? What exactly will they do?

I thought of those who were on our cycling team and were participating in the USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships in Ogden, Utah. What they were missing, but also what they were doing. Their last chance to put on a LMC kit and ride for their/our college!

In watching everyone walk across the stage and seeing their families stand up when they were announced, I marveled at just how many people we can fit into our gymnasium. It was filled to capacity, and then some.

And how many of them had been in the gym, either competing, practicing or cheering on their fellow classmates and friends. Of the 27 graduates of the Division of Business Administration, 20 of them were student-athletes. For the Division of Sport and Wellness Studies of the 21 graduates, only one was not a student-athlete.

So, in watching the families from Australia, the Netherlands, and England come to Banner Elk to watch their sons graduate, it left me with a sense of awe of the commitment made to support a college education. I watched a family from North Carolina bring at least 20 individuals to watch their daughter graduate, and the cheers from those who graduated from our off campus programs were sensational as they valued the opportunity for this moment.

The entire day was truly one many will remember as it signified a major accomplishment in so many people’s lives, and for this I am grateful to have been a small part of it.

Until next time,

Best wishes

Craig

Senior Pride

2012 Men's Lacrosse seniors (from left to right): Danny Ives, Bryan Bosley, Shaun Strodel, Derin Vacca, and Brett Yusiewicz

What is Senior Day for a student-athlete? What emotions surface – happiness, joy, sadness, relief? Is it a signification of the end of one journey and the beginning of another? A proud ceremony for friends, and family who have supported, encouraged and endured through a lifetime of athletic events, is that what it is?

For me it is a very special moment, as I shake the hands of the student-athletes, congratulate their parents and take part in a very unique time in their lives. It is the end of a collegiate athletic career, and for some, this is bittersweet as it signifies the end of being a student-athlete and the future of adulthood, real world and great responsibilities.

Over the past two weeks, I have seen a lot of Senior Days and all have been so gratifying. Watching proud parents make one more trip up the mountain to cheer on their son or daughter, see classmates come out and support their friends, and watch coaching staffs honor the efforts of those young people.

And Banner Elk has not disappointed as we have had cloudless skies, moderately warm temperatures and great crowds both of the student body, faculty and staff, and also the community.

2012 Softball seniors (from left to right): Amanda Leonard, Lindsey Huntsinger, Kim Coley, and Laurel Gregg.

For me, watching these young people grow up and mature in front of my own eyes is what gets me. I remember shaking their hands on their recruiting visits, telling their parents this was a great place for them to spend their college careers, and letting them know the coaches would be watching over their special treasures for the next four years.

While it will indeed be sad to see our seniors graduate and depart, the impact they have made will not be forgotten. They have experienced some of the greatest success of any Bobcat athletic teams ever, and for this, I am hoping they will reflect on this experience with a great deal of pride.

I know I will.

Thank you for letting me share what the last two weeks have been for me as we prepare for another group of seniors to rise in the position soon.

Until next time,

Best wishes,

Craig

Women's soccer cleans up around their practice field

Folks, yesterday was Lees-McRae College’s Mountain Day of Service and what a major success it was.

Often times numbers don’t lie. As a former cross country/track coach, I lived by numbers and few did I dispute.

So, when I look at the report from our Dean of Students, Allison Norris, member of our Bobcat Athletics Hall of Fame, it was astounding to see the volume of workers, projects completed and hours served.

402 participants

30 projects

2814 hours of service

From my side of campus, our athletic teams did a phenomenal job on getting several key projects completed.

The men's volleyball team loads up for a trip to the dump

Men’s volleyball took apart old wooden lockers that we had stored between the indoor tennis courts and the indoor pool. I think they took about 7 pick-up loads to the dump.

Men’s and women’s basketball stained all of the wooden fences in front of and around Williams Physical Education Center.

Women’s soccer painted picnic tables and worked on painting the press box.

Track and Field did a major clean up for the upcoming Conference Carolinas Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Women’s volleyball worked on a Disc Golf Course.

Cycling did a massive clean-up on the trail system.

Men’s lacrosse stained their new lockers in the locker room.

Track and field works hard to get the facilities ready for next weekend's conference championships

Men’s soccer planted grass seed, re-worked the netting on the soccer goals, and did various other projects to make sure their practice and game fields are ready for the fall.

And many more student-athletes participated in making Lees-McRae a better place yesterday.

It was indeed a great day to see so many people coming together, working for a common goal and then seeing the fruits of their labor afterwards.

My sincere thanks to all who made an impact on the future of this college.

Best wishes

Craig

Senior Anna DeLuke

The Lees-McRae College athletic department will honor 15 members of its 2012 senior class this coming weekend, as Mac and head softball coach Merritt Yackey make preparations in the event of a rainout. The Bobcat women’s lacrosse team will honor seniors Anna DeLuke and Tiffany Rodman on Friday night, as they take the field against Belmont Abbey College in their regular season finale at 7 p.m.

Senior Alexander Hayes

The Lees-McRae tennis teams will host Belmont Abbey on Saturday, and will celebrate the careers of seniors Graham Battle, Houston Callaway, Alexander Hayes, Marcelo Tatai, Skylar Warren, Raven Harris, Kelsey Hiatt, and Lyndsey Peagram prior to first serve at noon.

Senior Lindsey Huntsinger

The Bobcat softball team will honor seniors Amanda Leonard, Laurel Gregg, Kim Coley, and Lindsey Huntsinger prior to the first pitch against Belmont Abbey on Saturday afternoon.

Coach Mac shared a rather amusing conversation with head softball coach Merrit Yackey this morning, as the two unwittingly experienced a Milli Vanilli moment while discussing the possibility of a rain-out this weekend. As luck would have it, my colleague Phillip Greene and I were there, video cameras in hand, to capture the moment on camera. The evidence is below for all of Bobcat Nation to enjoy!

Hope Springs Eternal

On Saturday I saw the biggest, brightest rainbow I have ever seen in the High Country. It extended from Tynecastle to Grandfather Mountain with such vibrant colors traffic was stopping to take pictures to capture the moment.

About 30 minutes prior to that sighting, our women’s lacrosse team hosted Newberry College, and we came away with our first win of the year. It has been a tough year for the young women, but they have showed remarkable resilience and a great deal of class. Despite the torrential downfall of rain, they played with passion leading to a very nice St. Patrick’s Day win!

My next door neighbor is a senior women’s lacrosse player and the smiles of her and her teammates were priceless. Knowing they had persevered and stayed the course made them so pleased, ecstatic, overjoyed, proud along with every other positive emotion known to mankind.

Our field looked like it might have had the Loch Ness monster somewhere amongst the lakes formed from the rainfall, but it did not hinder the young women and their desire to capture a victory.

For me, it was a great time to see folks come together for a cause. The parents were there proud of their daughters, Coach Wagner was glad to get a win, Coach Binder was proud to see the progress of the team, our staff was hoping for dry clothes, and the fans who stuck it out were glad they were there to show support.

My point is this, Lees-McRae has a lot of rallying cries, and for this I am truly proud. We have overcome adversity and seen what can happen if we have faith.

Continued faith will bring about results, and for this I am thankful for your support.

It all makes me smile, just like that rainbow did.

Until next time,

Craig

Junior Jeremiah Henry (left) earned his first career all-Conference Carolinas honors this season.

Dear Bobcat Nation -

On Tuesday of this week, I tried to put myself into the role of what it is like to be a Lees-McRae College student-athlete. I traveled with the men’s basketball team to their first round Conference Carolinas playoff game against Mount Olive College.

I have chronicled this journey to put it into perspective of what it is like to be a student-athlete. From the commitment to the dedication, trips like these build character.

7:00 a.m. – I woke up and went for a run, followed by breakfast.

8:00 a.m. – in the office, checking emails, returning phone calls and meeting with some key members of our athletic department.

9:00 a.m. – posted some info and pictures on Facebook

9:15 a.m. – went to check the game field for the afternoon’s women’s lacrosse game

9:45 a.m. – went to campus for a meeting, then checked mail for the department

10:30 a.m. – met with coaches to go over plans for spring break

11:30 a.m. – boarded the bus

2:00 p.m. – watched my 4th consecutive ESPN Sportscenter and began to contemplate food options.

3:30 p.m. – 7th ESPN Sportscenter was interrupted by Golden Corral in Smithfield, NC!!

5:00 p.m. – arrival in Mount Olive, NC

5:30 p.m. – met with Mount Olive College Athletic Director Jeff Eisen and he provided me with free popcorn and drink!

6:00 p.m. – tour of campus, followed by locker room speech from Coach Polsgrove

7:00 p.m. – tip off

7:30 p.m. – half-time and another free popcorn and drink!

9:00 p.m. – game over, we fell short in our attempt to advance.

9:15 p.m. – Gideon’s host parents brought cookies, 1st chocolate chip, then snickerdoodles!

9:45 p.m. – Gas station Subway for a February $5 foot-long.

11:00 p.m. – 3rd ESPN evening edition of Sportscenter

12:00 a.m. – Winston-Salem and Haynes Mall – delirium has set in as I have watched University of Indiana versus Michigan State highlights 5 times already.

1:30 a.m. – Two-story Wendy’s means one thing, Boone!

2:00 a.m. – Williams Center parking lot

2:30 a.m. – I climb into bed.

Now for most this would have been an opportunity to sleep in, but for the student-athletes at Lees-McRae this was mid-term week, so the alarms were set early as 8 a.m. exams were scheduled.

These young men made it to their mid-terms and did well on them from what I have heard from our faculty.

It takes something special to be special and I think we have it. Our young men and women are dedicated student-athletes looking to be the best in and out of the classroom.

Until next time,

Craig

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