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Tennessee Wesleyan University's Kyle Blassingame, a 2019-20 senior who participated in track and field and cheerleading with the Bulldogs, is the male winner of the Appalachian Athletic Conference's annual character award for best exhibiting "the core values of the NAIA Champions of Character program: respect, responsibility, integrity, sportsmanship and servant leadership" as selected by AAC member schools' presidents and an award nominating committee, according to a TWU release. Blassingame was in a car wreck last summer, with injuries and infections ultimately leading to the Athens native having a leg amputated, but he continued his academic progress, eventually returned to the cheerleading program and was set to compete in racewalking for the track team this spring before the schedule was wiped out by the coronavirus outbreak. In addition to multiple academic honors and involvement in numerous campus and community organizations, Blassingame is now a member of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helps permanently disabled athletes have the chance to still participate in sports.

 

Cross country

* University of Tennessee at Chattanooga cross country coach Andy Meyer has announced the men's and women's teams' 2020 schedule, starting Sept. 4 in Knoxville at the Tennessee Invitational and continuing with the program's own Twilight Meet at 6:15 p.m. on Sept. 18 at Camp Jordan in East Ridge. That will be followed by a trip to Kentucky for the Louisville Cross Country Classic on Oct. 3, with the regular-season finale a shorter trip down to Rome, Georgia, on Oct. 17 for the Berry Invitational, where the UTC women are back-to-back reigning champions and the men finished second in 2019. The Southern Conference championship races are Oct. 31 at Mercer in Macon, Georgia, with the NCAA South Region meet Nov. 13 in Tallahassee, Florida. "We are looking forward to competition," Meyer said. "It is great having all the meets fall two weeks apart and flowing perfectly throughout the season. This schedule may be fluid and changes may occur as the present situation dictates, but we are looking forward to having the kids on campus, training and competing once again."

* After two cross country seasons at Cleveland State, Derek Gallardo recently signed with NAIA Division II member Tennessee Wesleyan University. Gallardo was the TCCAA/Region VII individual champion this past October and finished 47th at the NJCAA meet in November, and his 8-kilometer (4.97-mile) time of 26 minutes, 12 seconds at that national meet in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a Cougars record. "I am so proud of Derek and know he will do amazing things at TWU," said Lindsey Beck, Cleveland State's interim head coach this past season. "He is a hard and humble worker who continues to get better each and every day."

 

Baseball

* Noah Hill, who excelled at Ringgold High School and Cleveland State and was a senior baseball player this past season at East Tennessee State University, is a first-team selection for the College Sports Information Directors of America's academic all-district lineup announced this week. Hill carried a 3.77 cumulative GPA as a physical education major, and as a junior he made the SoCon honor roll and was a CoSIDA Academic All-American; now he is eligible for that honor again. In two years at ETSU, with this season's schedule greatly curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, Hill hit .288 with 65 hits, 40 runs and 33 RBIs. He hit safely in all 15 games the Buccaneers played this year and ended the season with a six-game hitting streak.

* Lee University and coach Mark Brew will host two youth baseball camps on the NCAA Division II school's campus in Cleveland this summer. Advanced hitting, pitching and catching instruction for ages 8-15 will be provided June 29-July 1, with hitting from 9 a.m. to noon each day and pitching or catching (choose one) from 1 to 3 p.m. A more broad-based fundamental skills camp for ages 5-15 is set for July 13-16 from 9 a.m. to noon each day. Registration is available at leeflamesbaseballcamps.com, with a $20 discount available; use the code Lee20. Brew, who is entering his 15th year with the program, emphasized the Flames "will be following the most up-to-date CDC, state and local health guidelines as we provide the safest environment as possible" while still offering "a challenging baseball learning experience" amid the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Softball

* Lee University infielder Brooklyn Frazier, a senior this past season, is a first-team selection for the CoSIDA academic all-district lineup in NCAA Division II. Frazier, from Ringgold and Heritage High School, carried a 3.89 GPA while majoring in health science and led the Lady Flames with a .516 slugging percentage as she hit four home runs and as many doubles with 17 RBIs this season, which was limited to 23 games in Lee's case because of the coronavirus pandemic. She is eligible for Academic All-America recognition, which will be announced in June. Said Lee coach Emily Russell in a release announcing the honor: ""She is a true student-athlete, and I'm very proud of all she has accomplished so far and what she will continue to accomplish in her doctoral program beginning in the fall."

 

Tennis

* Three Sewanee Tigers were among the student-athletes recognized by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association this week. Jordan Brewer is the ITA Atlantic South Regional men's senior player of the year as well as its most improved men's senior for 2019-20 after going 10-1 in singles — 6-0 this spring — and 6-3 in doubles. From the women's team, doubles partners Ellie Czura and Catherine Owen were both honored by the ITA, Czura as the Atlantic South's most improved senior and Owen as the region's player to watch. They teamed for a 4-1 record and finished with a top-10 national ranking to earn All-America recognition.

 

Basketball

* Lee University women's coach Marty Rowe has added Tennessee Tech transfer Hannah Garrett for next season, when the 6-foot post who was a two-time all-state selection at Clarkrange will be a junior. Garrett helped her Division I program go 17-13 overall and 10-8 in Ohio Valley Conference play this past season, when her teammates included former GPS and Hamilton Heights player Akia Harris.

* Turner Battle, an assistant coach for the UTC men during the 2013-14 season, has joined SoCon rival ETSU as a member of recently promoted head coach Jason Shay's new staff. Since his time in Chattanooga, Shay had worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which had a coaching change in the offseason. Prior to his season with the Mocs, Battle was at Buffalo from 2007 to 2013.

 

Volleyball

* Cleveland State coach Alizabeth Atnip has announced five freshman signees for the Lady Cougars' 2020 season, her second in charge: right-side hitter Claire Beasley from McMinn County High School and Athens; Kacie Hughes, a home-school student from Tullahoma; outside hitter/defensive specialist Diemond Simpson from Dalton High School; and defensive specialist/libero Madison Miner and outside hitter Grace Wiggins, both from Sequoyah High School and Madisonville. "We have a well-rounded group of players incoming, and I expect them to make a big impact," Atnip said in a release announcing the additions. "The talent level equals the motivation."

Compiled by Marty Kirkland. Contact him at mkirkland@timesfreepress.com.

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