Note: As part of NCAA Division III Week, a week set aside by the NCAA to promote D3 student-athletes and their accomplishments on the field, in the classroom and in the community, the following is on senior women's cross country runner Beth Burgess.
By: Andrew Mindeman, Sports Information Director
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Between going to class and heading to a practice session with her teammates, women's cross country senior Beth Burgess' career at Covenant could be summed up by these two demands: academics and running.
The decorated student-athlete from Nicholasville, Kentucky, which sits just south of Lexington, is nearly finished with her time at Covenant and is loving every last minute of it.
"I really enjoy everything I do here at Covenant," Burgess said. "I enjoy running and the academic work. It's been a lot of fun."
Growing up in Kentucky, Burgess attended Trinity Christian Academy, a small, private, Christian school. In her graduating class, Burgess was one of 20. In fact, the school did not even sponsor a cross country team until her junior year.
"I was playing soccer (at Trinity) and I saw cross country and thought it looked like fun and something that I would like to join," Burgess recalled.
That "fun" activity has turned into an outstanding collegiate career. Burgess is arguably one of the best runners in Covenant women's cross country history. This past season alone, she set the program record (for a second time in two years) in the 6k with a time of 23:44 at the Sewanee Invitational on Sept. 6 and was named USA South Runner of the Year. Burgess set the 6k record in program history for the first time as a junior at the NCAA South Regional meet in 2013. She also earned USA South Runner of the Week three times during this past season.
The complete list of accomplishments in Burgess' collegiate athletic career is a long one. She is a four-time all-conference honoree (twice in the USA South and twice in the Great South Athletic Conference); in 2013 Burgess won the USA South individual title as she led her team to a second place finish. She has also earned several runner of the week awards and was on the Great South all-freshman team.
"Beth has been one of the hardest workers I have ever coached," noted Covenant head coach Katie Stanford, who has coached Burgess throughout her time at Covenant. "Her work ethic and dedication to this team is a huge reason for her success. Her work ethic and dedication to this team is a huge reason for her success. Not just dedication to her workouts and racing, but also as a spiritual leader and a prayer warrior for this team."
As successful as Burgess has been on the course week in and week out, she has been equally impressive in the classroom. Majoring in biology with two minors, mathematics and chemistry, Burgess has earned nearly a 4.0 GPA during her time at Covenant. Additionally, she has been honored for her academic prowess at the conference level (USA South and Great South), regionally (CoSIDA Academic All-District) and nationally (USTFCCCA All-Academic).
Admittedly, Burgess does not have the answers as to how she has been able to accomplish so much as a student and athlete at Covenant.
"The fact that I really enjoy what I'm doing here at Covenant has really helped me not to get burned out," Burgess said. "Trusting God is huge. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and need to pray 'God help me get through this.'"
"She mastered time management and not only was on top in cross country, but also in the classroom," Stanford remarked.
Burgess is set to graduate in May and has been accepted into medical school at the University of Kentucky. She applied and was granted a scholarship through the Health Professions Scholarship Program with the Air Force. Part of the program requires Burgess to serve on duty as a medical professional at the Air Force after her time in medical school. Ultimately, Burgess would like to practice in general medicine or become a family doctor.
Leaving Covenant will not be an easy thing for Burgess, but she says her time at the College has helped prepare her for the future.
"I've grown as a person, both spiritually through mentors and other friendships, and academically," Burgess said. "I've been challenged in the classroom, in my relationships and on the cross country trails. My professors have been great and the friendships with other girls on the team and on my (residence) hall have really taught me a lot."
Continued Burgess, "Also, there's a lot of pain and determination that goes into running. I remember going into my medical school interview and thinking 'well, at least it's not going to be physically painful.' Being able to be a part of a team and a community here will help me in the future."
Through it all, Burgess will cherish the final moments she has with her teammates and classes before graduating next month and heading into the next step in her life. Covenant will always remain with Burgess.
Added Burgess, "God works in a lot of different ways. A lot of people have supported me in different ways throughout from my teammates, to coach Stanford, to professors. This was a healthy environment to be in and grow not only as a student-athlete but as a person."