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Lee University did not become a full-fledged member of the Gulf South Conference until 2015. That was more than enough time for the Cleveland school, which completed its transition to NCAA Division II five years ago, to figure largely into the GSC's all-decade teams for cross country. Standout performers for the years 2010 to 2019 were selected by league administrators, coaches and school personnel, with the honorees announced this past week by the GSC. Lee's Caleb Morgan swept coach of the decade awards for both the men's and women's teams, the Flames' Christian Noble was the men's runner of the decade and the Lady Flames were the only program with more than two first-team selections among the women's honorees, with Amy Carpenter, Chloe Flora and Audrey Smith representing Lee. Morgan coached the Flames to four straight GSC titles (2015-18) and has guided the Lady Flames to three conference crowns since they joined the league, and both teams have become mainstays in regional and NCAA competition. "It's been an honor to compete in the GSC the last five seasons," Morgan, a Lee graduate and Cleveland native, said in a school release. "There were several great candidates for this award. I am extremely humbled to have been chosen. I've been blessed with great athletes and great assistant coaches. Any award I receive is because of their hard work." Noble, a senior this past season, won the GSC individual title as a sophomore and junior and became the program's first All-American with his 18th-place finish at the 2018 national meet. "It means a lot to be recognized by the GSC for this award," Noble said in the release. "I am very surprised to win as there have been very talented runners to come through the Gulf South. I just want to say thank you to Coach Morgan and to our athletic department for giving me the opportunities to race all over the country. I can't do what I do without them." He was joined on the first team by former Flames standout Harold Smith, and Lee was represented on the second team by Seth Eagleson. "What an honor for these three individuals," Morgan said. "They are currently our three best cross country runners in Lee University history. Not only do they hold multiple top marks on our all-time top 20 list, they have had the highest individual finishes at conference, regional and national championships since we made our move to D-II." Lee's Charlee Boxall made the women's second team, and Celine Ritter received honorable mention. "These five women have done so much for our team culture and bringing our women's team to where it is today," Morgan said. "I can honestly say our team wouldn't be where it is without their leadership. I am thankful to have coached each one of these athletes." Alabama-Huntsville's Vicky Winslow was the women's runner of the decade.

 

Miscellaneous

* The 14th annual Athens Chamber of Commerce event featuring Jack Nicklaus as the guest speaker will now be held Saturday, Oct. 17, at McMinn County High School (original date was June 27). Dinner-and-program tickets and program-only tickets are still available; to purchase, call 423-745-0334, order online at itickets.com/events/434354 or visit the chamber office at 13 North Jackson St. in downtown Athens. A limited number of VIP tickets are available, as are table sponsorships.

 

Football

* The Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Directors Association has recognized the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for having the most improved NCAA Academic Progress Rate among Southern Conference football programs, an honor the Mocs also received in 2016 and 2011. In the most recently released APR scores, they posted a 951 for the 2018-19 school year, a 62-point improvement from 2017-18. The FCS ADA annually presents awards for highest APR and most improved APR in each of its 13 conferences. Wofford was the SoCon honoree for highest APR.

* UTC is offering a Father's Day special for the 2020 football schedule that includes general admission season tickets for $35 each (minimum purchase of two required) and a "Happy Father's Day" video message from a member of the Mocs football program that will be delivered via email on the holiday weekend of June 20-21. This package is available until June 18; visit gomocs.com to purchase.

 

Wrestling

* Kyle Ruschell, preparing for his second season as head coach for the UTC wrestling program, has announced the first signee of this year's recruiting class: three-time state champion Matthew Williams, an anticipated 149-pounder who is from Fair Play, South Carolina. Williams competed for West-Oak High School, where coach Greg Brewer's staff includes former UTC wrestler Adam Duncan, who was a 2001 SoCon champion in his final season with the Mocs. Williams, an honor roll student, went 177-20 on the mat in high school — 12 of those losses were in his freshman season, when he also reached the state finals but came up short — and capped his career by being named the Palmetto State's most outstanding wrestler by South Carolina coaches. The Mocs are coming off a third-place finish at last season's SoCon tournament.

 

Basketball

* In a recent report on 50 coaches making a major impact in NCAA Division II or NAIA men's college basketball, Silver Waves Media recognized Dalton State College's Alex Ireland as one of 15 "up-and-comers" in addition to its main list. Ireland was named interim head coach of the Roadrunners in July 2018 after Tony Ingle retired, and Ireland led the team to an 18-13 record in the 2018-19 season. Dalton State removed Ireland's interim label in March 2019, and this past season the Roadrunners set program records with 27 regular-season victories and 17 consecutive wins as they went 30-3, won the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament and received a No. 1 seed for the NAIA Division I tournament, which was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. "I am honored to be listed alongside so many incredible D2 and NAIA coaches," Ireland wrote on Twitter. "We are all so fortunate to be able to do what we do and impact young lives!"

 

Volleyball

* Cleveland State's 2020 volleyball season is set to begin Aug. 21 at Wallace State's two-day tournament in Hanceville, Alabama, and the Lady Cougars will play their first of seven home dates when they face in-state foe Johnson on Sept. 3. The other home matches are against Southwest Virginia (Sept. 10), Roane State (Sept. 22), Walters State (Sept. 29), Chattanooga State (Oct. 6), Bryan's junior varsity (Oct. 8) and Reinhardt's JV (Oct. 15). Cleveland State will also make short road trips to face Chattanooga State (Sept. 15) and Bryan's JV (Sept. 17). The complete schedule is available at cscougars.com.

 

Bowling

* Cleveland native Aaron White has been promoted from assistant to head coach of the men's and women's bowling teams at Tennessee Wesleyan University after working on John Ferguson's staff the past two seasons. White is a Cleveland State graduate who has worked as a private bowling coach for more than 20 years, and he has also worked as an assistant for Bradley Central High School. He has 34 years of experience in the sport, was a member of the Professional Bowlers Association from 1989 to 2000 and is currently a PBA50 member. As a competitor, he has more than 60 perfect games of 300 and more than 20 series of 800-plus to his credit.

Compiled by Marty Kirkland and David Paschall. Contact Kirkland at mkirkland@timesfreepress.com.

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