Beyond Box Scores: Spring 2012 In Review
By Rob Daniels
OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD
Paul Chelimo: All-American and National Runner-Up in 5,000 meters, NCAA East Regional heat winner in 5,000 meters, Southern Conference champion in 1,500 meters.
Paul Katam: Second Team All-American in 10,000 meters, NCAA East Regional heat winner in 10,000 meters, SoCon champion in 10,000 meters
Dylan Belles: SoCon All-Freshman Team in 10,000 meters
Eric Williams: SoCon All-Freshman Team in 3,000 meter steeplechase
Ashley Schnell: SoCon champion in 1,500 meters
Count to one and subtract a millisecond. That’s all that separated Paul Chelimo from becoming the first Southern Conference athlete to win an NCAA individual track title in 64 years.
Chelimo and teammate Paul Katam, the university’s first participants at the NCAA Championships, earned All-America honors this spring and are believed to be the first so honored from the SoCon since 1984.
Chelimo took second in the 5,000 meters, in which Southern Utah’s Cameron Levins edged him by 0.99 seconds. Katam placed ninth in the 10,000, another event won by Levins.
“That weekend was awesome,” coach Linh Nguyen said. “We had two sophomores running in their first outdoor championship meet, and we walked away with two All-American performances. It really puts us on the map nationally.”
The two Kenyan natives helped the Spartans to the program’s first SoCon cross country title in the fall, and they never slowed down. Simply qualifying for the nationals in outdoor track seemed like a great achievement, but there was more fun to be had.
Before 2012, no SoCon runner had finished the 5,000 in less than 14 minutes, 13 seconds. Chelimo went out and eviscerated that standard, established in 1981, by 32 seconds at the national championships. He wound up one stride shy of becoming the first athlete from the league to claim national supremacy since Norman Rucks of South Carolina won the 440-yard dash in 1948.
“I’m happy with my performance,” Chelimo said. “The race was great for me. Second place is my best finish in a national race so far. I hope to build on that next year.”
Chelimo also claimed glory at the SoCon championships, capturing the 1,500 meter title in 3:49.06.
Katam also had reason to be pleased, beating his personal best by 17 seconds and smashing the pre-Katam SoCon record by 21 seconds. That standard was held since 1979. His time at the national championships followed up his 10,000 meter SoCon championship.
Additionally, freshman Dylan Belles (10,000 meters) and Eric Williams (3,000 meter steeplechase) picked up SoCon All-Freshman accolades.
Women’s track also enjoyed history of its own when senior Ashley Schnell won the 1,500 meter event at the SoCon meet for the second straight year. She capped it all by earning a second-team spot on the Capital One Academic All-America team. A music performance major with a 4.0 grade-point average, Schnell frequently hustled from practice and competitions to concerts.
Women’s Individual Honors
Fanny Cnops: Southern Conference Player of the Year, SoCon Freshman of the Year, First Team All-SoCon, NCAA Regional participant.
Emily Marron: SoCon Coach of the Year
Ana Lucia Martinez: All-SoCon selection
Men’s Individual Honors
Alex Ehlert: SoCon All-Freshman Team
Few, if any student-athletes, changed the fortunes of a Spartan program as much as freshman Fanny Cnops did in women’s golf this spring. The Belgian qualified for the NCAA Championships and nearly got her team to an NCAA regional. Cnops was named the Southern Conference Player and Freshman of the Year, becoming the first Spartan to accomplish that feat in program history.
Cnops wasted no time in making her mark, as she won the spring’s first tournament and helped the Spartans take second in a 33-team field at Kiawah Island, S.C., in February. She kept going, ultimately leading the SoCon for 2011-12 in stroke average over 29 competitive rounds.
And she had company. The three top returnees from last year all improved their stroke averages from 2011 to 2012. Courtney Taylor (1.21 shots per round), Ana Lucia Martinez (3.07) and Begonia Sarabia (2.38) fit in quite nicely with the new kid, and as a result, the Spartans moved from sixth in the SoCon to second this year, tying for their best performance in their 15-year membership history.
Martinez earned All-SoCon honors for her efforts during the year while head coach Emily Marron was tabbed as the SoCon Coach of the Year. Marron moved on from the program, accepting the head coaching job at UCF.
Sarah Sargent was named the Spartans’ new head coach in July. The former professional golfer played six years on the Duramed Futures tour and two years on the LPGA tour.
In men’s golf, the Spartans produced some quality golf at various points in the season, including SoCon All-Freshman Team honors for Alex Ehlert. Additionally, UNCG hosted a successful NCAA Regional at the Grandover Resort in May.
Colin Chapman’s third-place individual showing led UNCG into the third spot in a 16-team event in Arizona in February, and Will Almand tied for second at William & Mary a few weeks later.
Southern Conference Regular Season Championship
Women’s Individual Honors
Niltooli Wilkins: SoCon Player of the Year and First Team All-SoCon
Jeff Trivette: SoCon Coach of the Year
Wilkins and Lucy Dougherty: First Team All-SoCon Doubles
Annette Rios: Second Team All-SoCon @ No. 3 singles
Stephanie Falcon: Second Team All-SoCon @ No. 6 singles
Rios and Kayla Gammie: Second Team All-SoCon Doubles
Men’s Individual Honors
Orcun Seyrek: SoCon Player of the Year, First Team All-SoCon
Seyrek and Ahmet Sarioglu: First Team All-SoCon Doubles
Ahmet Sarioglu: Second Team All-SoCon @ No. 2 singles
Randy Phillips: SoCon All-Freshman Team
The Spartans won their first outright SoCon regular-season championship in women’s tennis with a 10-0 record in league play. Five players and head coach Jeff Trivette earned league-wide acclaim in the process.
Niltooli Wilkins, 19-1 overall and 10-0 in regular-season conference play, was named Player of the Year and first-team all-league in singles and doubles along with partner Lucy Dougherty. Annette Rios and Stephanie Falcon were second-teamers in singles, and Rios and Kayla Gammie earned that distinction in doubles.
Trivette became the third person to win Coach of the Year honors in men’s and women’s tennis in SoCon history. He was awarded the honors on the men’s side in 2001.
The Spartans advanced to the championship match of the conference tournament before falling to the College of Charleston. The final score of that match --- 4-0 – was deceptive. The three singles matches played went to three sets.
Senior Orcun Seyrek became the fourth player in Southern Conference men’s tennis history to earn first-team honors four years in singles and at least three years in doubles in leading the Spartans to a 6-4 regular-season league record.
Seyrek and his doubles partner, Ahmet Sarioglu, were first-team performers as a pair, and Randy Phillips earned All-Freshman honors from the conference.
BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL
Both the baseball and softball programs were in transition with the departures of head coaches at the end of the 2012 season. Janelle Breneman was introduced as the ninth head coach in UNCG softball history July 18 while Link Jarrett was chosen to lead the baseball program July 26. The two programs have bright futures in store under the watchful eyes of Breneman and Jarrett.
Breneman comes to UNCG after spending the past eight years in the SEC and ACC. She brings 17 years of collegiate coaching experience to the program, including nine years as a head coach at both Bucknell and East Stroudsburg. Breneman spent the past two seasons as the top assistant at SEC member South Carolina, while also working six years as an assistant coach at North Carolina.
Jarrett, a two-time Assistant Coach of the Year award winner, brings 13 years of coaching experience to the program, including stops at Flagler, Mercer, Florida State, East Carolina and Auburn. He spent the past three seasons at Auburn, averaging 34 wins per year with the Tigers and earning SEC Assistant Coach of the Year accolades in 2010.
Baseball fell short of the league tournament for the third time in four years in 2012, finishing 25-27 overall and 10-20 in conference play. Third baseman Thomas Troelstrup earned second-team All-SoCon honors while junior right-hander Tyler Hollstegge was selected in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Oakland Athletics and Kris Richards signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles.
Softball posted a 22-34 overall record, including a 10-13 mark in SoCon play. The Spartans won one game at the SoCon Tournament before being eliminated by the College of Charleston. Sophomore Katelyn Bedwell was named All-SoCon Second Team after hitting a team-high 11 home runs. Additionally, Alex Emeterio and Eileen Horsmon both earned all-state designations. Aisha Figueroa, who hit .283 with 14 stolen bases, spent her summer playing for Puerto Rico’s national team in a major international competition.