NEW ORLEANS -- Covenant men's cross country runner Nate Collins, women's runners Lilly Smith and Hannah Samuels, along with both men's and women's programs were honored recently by the USTFCCCA (U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association) for their academic exploits.
Collins, Smith, and Samuels were all named to the All-Academic team, which requires that honorees have a cumulative GPA of 3.30 or greater and finish among the top 25 percent of finishers at their respective regional championships.
For a sixth straight year under head coach Katie Stanford, both programs were honored as All-Academic Teams by the organization. Programs must have compiled a cumulative GPA or 3.10 or greater and competed in at least five different meets with at least five runners representing their school at each in order to qualify. The women had a team GPA of 3.42, while the men compiled a 3.28.
Overall, there were 393 teams honored by the USTFCCCA today. Of those teams, 215 of them were women's programs and 178 of them were men's teams.
Collins had a strong rookie season. The freshman from Birmingham, Ala., earned first team All-USA South honors after placing fifth at the conference meet. At the regional meet, Collins was 54th overall. He was a two-time USA South Rookie Runner of the Week honoree, earning the award on Sept. 3 and Sept. 24
Smith and Samuels once again led the women's team.
Smith, a senior from Weaverville, N.C., had one of the best seasons for an individual in program history. She captured a second straight USA South Runner of the Year honor after being a four-time Runner of the Week recipient and holding four of the top five 6k times in the conference. Smith qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships, becoming the first Covenant runner to do so, after finishing ninth with a then-second best program 6k time of 22:57.6 at the NCAA South/Southeast Region meet. At the national meet, Smith placed 104th, out of 279 runners, at the NCAA Championships and shattered her own program record in the 6k at 22:34.8.
Samuels, a senior from Dothan, Ala., placed 54th at the region meet. She earned All-USA South second team honors after placing 12th with a 6k time of 24:44.7, a season-best mark, at the conference meet. Samuels had three top 10 finishes on the year.
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