ROCK HILL, S.C.– Mars Hill's Nathan Jones was voted the 2016 South Atlantic Conference men's cross country Scholar-Athlete of the Year, while Alyssa Johnson of Wingate picked up the women's cross country honor, the League announced today. The pair earned the honor for their achievements in academics, athletics, service and leadership.
The South Atlantic Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year award is presented annually to one student-athlete in each of the Conference's championship sports, and is voted on by the SAC's Faculty Athletic Representatives Committee.
Jones, a senior mathematics major, boasts a cumulative 3.79 GPA, with a perfect 4.0 in his major courses. Jones has earned Academic All-American honors twice in his career, has been named to the Dean's list three times as well as earning three appearances on the South Atlantic Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll. Jones earned the Mars Hill University Man of the Year honor during his junior season.
"Nathan is a person who plans and set goals and works tirelessly to bring his plans to fruition," said Mars Hill head cross country coach Mike Owens. "As a team captain this season, he helped guide 10 freshman runners and took it upon himself to step up and fill the shoes of decorated runners that graduated from the 2015 squad."
Jones has been a formidable runner for the Lions since his freshman year and culminated his career with the Individual South Atlantic Cross Country Championship this past season. A three time All-Region selection, Jones is a four-time All-Conference honoree and took home Freshman of the Year honors during his rookie season. He currently owns both the 10K and 8K records at Mars Hill as he posted his fastest 8K time of his career this past season with a clocking of 24:07
On top of his efforts and contributions on the running course, Jones has also given his time for numerous causes on the Mars Hill campus. During his freshman year, Jones was a volunteer for the Bailey Mountain Conservation Society and was a member of the Campus Beautification Project, both of which strive to achieve goals of sustainability. A member of the Campus Activities Board, Jones donated five hours per week on the year in addition to his work as a math tutor in both the math labs and math center, where six hours a week were given to both. For the last two years he has been a member for the Ethics Bowl Debate Team and has participated in the ongoing effort with the Animal Rescue Operation. The honor is his second-consecutive Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor.
Johnson, a senior elementary education major, carries a perfect 4.0 GPA. She has made the President's all six semesters she has been at Wingate, and joined the Wingate University Honors Program during her first semester of her sophomore year. Johnson was also inducted into the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society during her sophomore year as well. This past season, Johnson took home the inaugural Women's Cross Country Elite 18 honor as she posted the highest GPA at the South Atlantic Conference Cross County Championship.
"Alyssa is a student before she is an athlete," said Wingate head cross country coach Ashley Vaughn. "Her 4.0 GPA has set a precedent for the rest of the women on her team. "She has helped to develop and environment where teammates desire to have the academic standards for their careers."
A four-time First Team All-South Atlantic Conference selection and All-Conference Freshman team honoree, Johnson has been a member of the three Conference Championship teams, the 2013 Southeast Regional Champion team, and has qualified for the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championship during her sophomore and junior seasons. During the 2014 season, Johnson was named to the Capital One Academic All-District team and was a First Team All-Southeast Region honoree. In 2015, Johnson was an Academic All-American third team recipient as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Johnson has also made a big impact in her community through her extensive involvement. Since her freshman year Johnson has been a member of UCAN, a student-led organization that serves the needs of the community through student involvement that addresses societal problems where Wingate students can step in and take action. She has spent all four years of her career as a member of the Outreach Program for Soccer as she helps young athletes with disabilities learn to play soccer and help place the players on teams in the community. Johnson is currently a coach for Girls on the Run at Rocky River Elementary and is a member of the Bulldogs into Going Green student sustainability group.
At Wingate, Johnson served as Presidential Ambassador and participated in the United Way Day of Caring that saw service efforts being made across Union County to help hundreds of families and organizations.
Other Men's Cross Country Nominees:
Anthony Jackson, Carson-Newman
James Gregory, Coker
Jacob Troutman, Wingate
Other Women's Cross Country Nominees:
Abigail Bozarth, Anderson
Hannah Green, Carson-Newman
Lucie Noall, Queens