Lee Athletics Accomplishes Record-Setting Year

  • Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Lee University continues to move the bar higher and higher when it comes to accomplishments on the courts and playing fields, but at the same time it is also sometimes overlooked at just how well the athletes perform in the classroom.
 
The Lee 2023-24 athletic teams ranked 15th out of 300 NCAA DII schools in the final Learfield Director’s Cup Standings. Overall, the student-athletes’ GPA has improved from 3.11 in 2015 to 3.37 currently. This ranks higher than the NCAA DII (3.16) average and the Gulf South Conference (GSC) (3.10).
 
A review of the athletic teams’ and individual accomplishments in the GSC and DII displays the outstanding year:
 
The Gulf South Conference All-Sports Trophy, Male and Female Sports Trophies for a record-setting fourth consecutive year belongs to Lee.
Cale Kassen (Track and Field) won the Indoor Track and Field National Championship in the Heptathlon, setting a new NCAA DII record in the event. He also finished second in the Decathlon at the Outdoor Track and Field National Championships. Kassen was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Indoor Field Athlete of the Year and GSC Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year
 
Women Soccer’s Kate Dirkse was named the GSC Female Athlete of the Year. She added First Team All-American, First Team All-South Region, and GSC Defender of the Year honors to an outstanding final season at Lee.
 
Baseball’s Jack Nedrow did his part in pitching the Flames to a regular-season GSC title. He was named First Team All-American, First Team All-South Region and GSC Pitcher of the Year. Teammates Brandon Daniels and Cam Suto were named Third Team All-Americans.
 
Women’s golfer Supuschaya Srichantamit earned First Team All-American, First Team All-South Region, GSC Female Golfer of the Year, and was the GSC Championship Medalist. Oliver Lewis-Perkins, the leader of the men’s golf team, was a standout Third Team All-American, First Team All-South Region and GSC Male Golfer of the Year.
 
In Women’s Cross-Country Aria Hawkins was the South Region Women’s Athlete of the Year after winning both the NCAA South Region and GSC Individual Championships. 
 
Powered by cross country and indoor/outdoor track, Lee claimed GSC Conference Championships in seven different sports: Women’s Cross Country (7th straight), Men’s Cross Country (2nd straight), Women’s Indoor Track and Field (5thstraight), Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Baseball, Men’s Outdoor Track and Field (2nd Straight) and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field (7th straight).
 
Success continued for Men’s and Women’s Cross Country as they won the NCAA DII South Region Championships. It was the fourth straight for the women and the third straight for the men.
 
Indoor Track and Field followed, and All-American honors were captured by Cale Kassen (heptathlon, 60m hurdles), Jacob Hatcher (mile), Lily Hare, Carissa Hall, Letlhogonolo Magoro, and McKenna Cavanaugh (distance medley relay).
 
Outdoor Track and Field All-American honors were claimed by Cale Kassen (110-meter hurdles, decathlon), Justin Steele (400 meters, 4x400 relay), Nokia Masengu (4x400 relay), Aiden Shaw (4x400 relay), Doniven Jackson (4x400 relay), Roberto Fajardo (1500 meters), Aria Hawkins (1500 meters), and McKenna Cavanaugh (steeplechase).
 
The success of his teams meant more honors for Caleb Morgan. He was named GSC Coach of the Year for (women’s cross country, women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s track and field). The rewards continued when he garnered South Region Coach of the Year (men’s and women’s cross country, women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field).
 
For the first time since Lee joined the GSC, every sport qualified for the conference tournament and was the only school in the GSC to accomplish this feat during the 2023-24 seasons. Twelve teams, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and baseball qualified for the NCAA DII National Championship Tournaments/Events.
 
Said Lee Athletic Director John Maupin, “The 2023-24 athletic year was certainly one to remember for Lee University. All 18 sports that we sponsor qualified for post-season play—that is the first time that has happened since we joined NCAA Division II.  That speaks volumes about the depth of quality coaches and student athletes that we have here.”
 
“I am also proud of the fact that we finished the year ranked in the Top 15 nationally in the Learfield Director’s Cup—that puts us amongst the best athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. We take a lot of pride in providing a high-level student athlete experience, competing for championships, and doing it in a way that brings glory to God. I am thankful for Lee University and all the people that make these accomplishments possible.”
 
Academics certainly did not take a back seat and the 2023-24 athletes again left their mark in several areas:
 
There were 66 total graduates during the 2023-24 academic year. Fall Sports placed 69 athletes on the GSC Honor Roll and nine students on All-Academic Teams. The GSC requires student- athletes to maintain a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher to receive honor roll recognition and the All-Academic teams are voted on by the conference's Athletic Communications Directors. Athletes must have a 3.20 cumulative GPA or higher, have spent at least one year on campus at the institution. The teams are comprised of athletes that achieved a prominent level of success both academically and athletically.
 
There were four women’s cross-country student-athletes, two men’s cross-country student-athletes, two women’s soccer student-athletes, and one men’s soccer student- athlete named to the GSC All-Academic Teams. The Honor Roll included 11 Volleyball, 15 Men’s Soccer, 18 Women’s Soccer, 12 Women’s Cross Country and 13 Men’s Cross Country.
 
Winter Sports placed 62 athletes on the GSC Honor Roll and nine students on All-Academic Teams. There were two women’s basketball student-athletes, three women’s indoor track and field student-athletes, and three men’s indoor track and field student- athletes named to the GSC All-Academic Teams. The Honor Roll posted 20 Women’s Indoor Track and Field, 24 Men’s Indoor Track and Field, 13 Women’s Basketball, and six Men’s Basketball.
 
Spring Sports placed 141 athletes on the GSC Honor Roll and 18 students on All-Academic Teams. Lee had four representatives on the women's outdoor track and field team. There were three representatives on the men’s outdoor track and field, baseball, and women's lacrosse team. Women's golf had two representatives, while men's golf, men's tennis, and women's tennis each had one. Lee also had 141 students on the honor roll which was the second most in the GSC.
 
Anna Muhonen (women’s basketball) was named the GSC Champion Scholar Athlete of the Year. GSC Champion Scholar Athlete of the Year are individuals who have the highest GPAs of anyone competing in the GSC Championship in their respective sports. Muhonen carried a perfect 4.0 GPA!
 
Lee athletics had 40 student-athletes inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma Honor Society (Student-Athlete National Honor Society). This is the seventh induction class for Lee University; 234 student-athletes have been inducted over the past seven years. Members of Chi Alpha Sigma are student-athletes who: have achieved the rank of junior or senior, attended Lee University for two or more semesters, achieved a 3.4 cumulative GPA, earned a varsity letter.
 
Lee Athletic Director Maupin noted, “A highlight for our department is the work our student athletes put in academically, and their commitment to excelling in the classroom. A 3.37 GPA across an athletic department of 300 plus student athletes is outstanding! The faculty that we have at Lee University and their ability to connect and shape our students is an important factor to our success.”
 
The teams were also involved in the tasks of community leadership/student-athlete wellness and annually take part in these Community Causes: Women’s Soccer, Kickin It For Kid’s with Cancer (Austin Hatcher Foundation), Volleyball’s Volley For A Cure (CHI Memorial Foundation/Mary Ellen Locher), Basketball’s Hoopin For A Cause (Various Organizations in Cleveland/Chattanooga), Softball’s Strikeout Cancer Game (Strikeout Cancer), Baseball Military Appreciation Day (Bradley County Veterans), and Lacrosse Out Cancer Game (Austin Hatcher Foundation).
 
Under the direction of Cody Finch (Director of Student Athlete Development), Hannah Manning (Director Student Athlete Welfare and Athletic Counselor) and Megan Smith (SAAC Administrator) 300 student-athletes participated in leadership programs, student athletic advisory committee, and life skills training throughout the year.
 
Finch served the student athletes, coaches and staff by leading Bible studies, prayer and mentorship and discipleship programs throughout the year. 
 
Annual fund-raising and giving was at all-time high: A total record-setting of $91,000 was raised from corporate sponsorships; and in the inaugural Give Day, a total of $76,268 through gifts from alumni and friends. The Flames Club raised $22,350 and individual team fundraisers netted a total of $178,563.
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