HILTON HEAD, S.C. – Columbus State University won the 2010-2011 Peach Belt Conference Commissioner's Cup which is presented annually to the best overall athletic program in the league at the annual athletic directors meetings in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
"I am so proud of the job our student-athletes, coaches and staff has done this year to accomplish this feat," said athletic director Jay Sparks. "It was a lot of hard work by everyone and a great reward for the department. I am glad we could represent our university in such a positive manner."
CSU had three teams, men's cross country, women's cross country and women's soccer, win the Peach Belt Conference Championship while the baseball team and the men's and women's tennis teams finished second in the conference in their respective sport. Eight of the 11 PBC sponsored sports that Columbus State also sponsors finished in the top half of the league. This is the fourth time CSU has won the Commissioner's Cup in the past six years including winning three in a row from the 2005-2006 school year to the 2007-2008 academic year.
The fall sports got the athletic year underway in grand fashion which illuminated with the Cougars sweeping the titles at the PBC Fall Festival held at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, GA. The women's soccer team, which tied for the regular season championship, won their fourth PBC Tournament title in the last five seasons. CSU defeated North Georgia in the final by a score of 4-2 giving them the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, its fifth straight appearance. The Lady Cougars graduated their most decorated senior class including the program's new all-time leading scorer, Stephanie Parrish. Stephanie Lowery also garnered First Team All-America honors by Daktronics and was a Second Team All-America selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
On the course, Meshack Koyiaki became a household name as he had one of the finest collegiate seasons by any cross country runner. Koyiaki won six of the seven meets he competed in with his lone blemish being a second place finish at the NCAA National Championship, where the Kenya native ran in snow for the first time ever. He earned All-America honors for the second consecutive year and also won the PBC Championship for the second straight season. The senior paced the Cougars to their fifth straight PBC Championship, a second place finish at the Southeast Regional and 18th place finish at the NCAA Championship, their highest mark in school history.
The Lady Cougars were equally as impressive claiming their sixth straight PBC Championship as Britney Skiles claimed her second straight PBC Runner of the Year award and won the PBC Championship. Skiles just missed qualifying for the NCAA Championship race although Naomi Tanui represented Columbus State at the event. The Lady Cougars placed third at the Southeast Regional, missing a NCAA Championship appearance by two points.
Transitioning to the winter sports, both basketball programs were under the direction of first year (men's basketball) and second year (women's basketball) head coaches. In men's action, Robert Moore took over the reigns of a team that hasn't had a winning season since the 2006-2007 campaign. Coach Moore's squad missed making the PBC Tournament by one game finishing the year with an overall record of 11-15. Ten of their 15 losses this year were by 10 points or fewer including four that were single-possession losses. The highlight of the men's year came on November 8 when the Cougars took down Auburn University 54-52. On the women's side, Coach Norton fielded a highly competitive team finishing sixth overall and third in the West Division. They were led by Dominique Gilbert, an All-Conference honoree, who led CSU in scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 rpg).
The cheerleading team won the Peach Belt Conference competition and the dance team finished second at the event which was held in conjunction with the PBC Basketball Tournament. The cheerleading squad also competed in the Universal Cheerleaders Association National Championship with the small co-ed team winning the national championship, the large co-ed team finished second in their division and the duo of Tommy Goforth and Ali Anderson winning the partner stunt competition.
Wrapping up the winter championship season was the rifle program which won their second consecutive NCAA Southeast Sectional. In just their second year of existence, the program produced their first-ever All-American (April Dunn) and Columbus State University served as a co-host of the NCAA Rifle National Championship along with Fort Benning.
Onto the spring championship sports, the busiest time of the year for CSU athletics. Having the biggest impact on the standings was the softball program which was predicted to finish eighth in the preseason conference poll. The Lady Cougars proved many doubters wrong finishing in a tie for third place in the conference with one of the youngest teams in the league. Sophomores Kara Gordon and Morgan Staffins were First Team All-Conference selections and five different student-athletes earned weekly PBC awards during the season.
Also having a fine season on the diamond was the baseball team which won the PBC West Division and finished second overall in the league. For the second consecutive year the Cougars had the conference leader in home runs (Logan Dollar) and also produced four First Team All-PBC honorees (Bruce Alter, Thomas Campbell, Ryan Lewis and Cameron Scott). CSU earned an at-large bid to the Southeast Regional, their 23rd overall which is the seventh most all-time.
Both tennis teams finished second in the conference and hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Cougars had just one blemish in league play and finished the year with a 17-6 mark.
Three different student-athletes garnered All-PBC laurels (Tracy Castillo, Loriane Favoretto and Madeline Johnson) while Castillo was also named to the All-Academic Team. The trio was also named All-Americans by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association; the first time in school history three different student-athletes earned All-America honors in the same year. On the men's side, the bar keeps rising as they advanced to their second straight "Final Four" battling the eventual national champion to a 5-3 score. Christophe Noblet and Gordan Divljak are currently ranked No. 4 nationally in doubles action including wins over the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles team and ended the year on a 13 match winning streak.
Another program that has made great strides in just their second year as a varsity sport was the women's golf team. Kimesha Anthony became the first Lady Cougar to advance to the NCAA Tournament competing in the South Regional after finishing as the runner-up at the Peach Belt Conference Championship. Nikki Crowley was the first women's golfer individual medalist taking home the BSC Southern Shootout which Columbus State also won as a team, their first team match title. The men's golf team advanced to the national championship round for the 31st time where they placed 10th as a team. Stephen Swanepoel, Rourke Van der Spuy and Stephen Woodill each earned All-Conference honors by the PBC.
Closing out the spring season are the track & field programs, which are also in their second years. The men's team set 11 new school records this year including four different relay teams. The Lady Cougars also broke numerous school records including Shan Crawford's times in the 100 and 200 meter dash which qualified her for the NCAA National Championships. Crawford became a two-time All-American after coming in fifth in the 200 meter dash. She finished fifth a year ago in the 100 meter dash also earning All-American honors in that event. The 400 meter relay team also competed at the national meet and return all four members next year.
Individually there were many successes as well for the Columbus State Athletic Department. Within the Peach Belt Conference, 24 student-athletes earned All-Conference honors, three were named the Athlete of the Year in sport and CSU garnered two Coach of the Year awards. The Cougars represented on the regional and national level as well having a total of 13 student-athletes recognized including five All-Americans. The department also had a Region Coach of the Year and an Assistant Coach of the Year award winner.