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Summer 2019 Updates

Alumni Update: Berryman Finishes First NFL Training Camp

Aug. 31, 2019: Fellowship Christian School graduate Ian Berryman recently wrapped up his first NFL training camp as a punter.

While Berryman did not make the final 53-man roster, the rookie from Western Carolina University put up some very impressive numbers.

Berryman wrote on @iancberryman: "Thank you to the @steelers for the great opportunity. Looking forward to seeing where the next opportunity is and where this road will lead! Best of luck this season."

Berryman helped the Steelers post a 3-1 pre-season record and punted nine times for an average of 45.8 yards per punt. He led the team's two punters (Jordan Berry returns for his sixth season in Pittsburgh) with five punts downed inside the 20-yard-line. Berry had three.

During the preseason, Berryman had a 66-yard punt, which was the longest of the preseason for Steelers punters.

On Thursday night (Aug. 29), Berryman punted four times for 184 yards, including a long boot of 55 yards in Pittsburgh's 25-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of American Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Two of his four punts wound up inside the 20-yard-line.

Here are the official 2019 Steelers preseason stats.

Berryman would have been the first FCS graduate to reach the NFL in the regular season. He's the first to attend a NFL training camp.

(Photo courtesy of @iancberryman)


Alumni Profile: Baumann Moves From Volleyball to Business World

AJ Baumann has taken a lot of what she learned as a high school and college volleyball player into the work world.

"It's been really cool to see how a student-athlete like me turns into an employee in the real world," said Baumann, who recently took a job as a recruiter at Insight Global, a leading IT staff firm with an Atlanta office.

Baumann, who earned a bachelor of science degree in retail with an emphasis on fashion design from the University of South Carolina this spring, is excited to work for the No. 3 IT staffing firm in the United States and the No. 1 firm in Atlanta.

"This is my fourth week on the job," she said. "It's exciting. It's rewarding to see that volleyball has shaped a lot of my life. It taught me to work hard, show determination and be a good teammate."

Before joining Insight Global, Baumann spent two weeks on a mission trip to Zimbabwe with Johnson City Baptist Church, where she had the opportunity to spread the Gospel. Sharing Jesus was always a big part of her volleyball career.

"That community is small," she said. "It's great to reflect back [on FCS] and remember that it was about sharing your faith and playing volleyball. That's why I'd like to come back and help the Fellowship program, where the ultimate goal is to share Jesus. I want to stay involved."

Baumann headed to Columbia, S.C. as a walk-on beach volleyball player, played four years and earned a partial scholarship as a senior.

"It was rewarding [to earn the partial scholarship]," she said. "I pursued going to USC since I was a sophomore in high school. The coach turned me down twice for a scholarship, but I always wanted to go there for school. I'd like to consider myself determined, so I walked on and played for four years."

Baumann felt like she had a good senior season.

"It went really well," she said. "I finished up strong. I didn't get to play as much playing time as I would have liked, but I was one of three captains. I enjoyed stepping into that role. I also enjoyed being versatile during my career there. I was the first person the coaches turned to when they needed someone to play a role as a blocker, defender or set up person."

Throughout her career, Baumann helped the Lady Gamecocks finish in the NCAA rankings all four years, including 11th or 12th as a senior, eighth as a junior, sixth as a sophomore and eighth as a freshman.

Baumann also excelled in the classroom at South Carolina. She was named to the SEC Spring Academic Honor Roll for three straight years from 2017-19, and was placed on the CCSA 2015-16 Beach Academic Honor Roll and the 2015-16 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll.

In 2019, Baumann played in the exhibition pairing six times and went 2-2 in those matches.

She played four years at FCS, helping the Lady Paladins reach the GHSA Class A Championships Elite Eight in consecutive seasons from 2015 to 2016, and win the Area Championship in 2015. In 2014, Fellowship claimed the Region Championship and earn a trip to the GHSA Class A Championships Final Four.

(Photos courtesy of the University of South Carolina)


Davenport Makes Collegiate Lacrosse Debut at Lee University

Camille Davenport had the opportunity to play both goaltender and defense during her freshman lacrosse season at Lee University in Tennessee.

“It was a good first season,” the 2018 graduate of Fellowship Christian School said. “I was a goalie, but I also played a little bit at defense. Coach put me on the field because of my speed. I enjoyed that.”

She helped the Lady Flames post a 4-12 record. Lee plays in NCAA Division II’s Gulf South Conference.

Davenport played in seven games as a freshman, notching her first collegiate win as a goalie on Feb. 16, 2019 against Erskine College. She finished with 141 minutes and 13 saves. She backed up a senior goalkeeper.

This year, she’s in the running for the starting nod.

“I’ll probably play more in goal this season,” she said. “I’ll be the oldest goalie on the team. We have me, a sophomore, and a freshman.”

Davenport saw quite a difference in the talent level at Division II from high school.

“The talent of the shooters was different,” she said. “They really all know where to place the shots. You are rushed to clear the ball and make saves. You have to clear it fast. You see a lot of shots. [Off the field] you have to adjust to the schedule. It gets hard sometimes with practices, games and classes. But you get used to it quickly.”

Facing shots in practice helped Davenport prepare for the fast-placed college game.

The team’s goal is to “play on Sunday” this year as the Gulf South Conference title game is played that day.

Davenport helped build the Fellowship program that came close to winning a state championship this spring.

“Getting to know all the girls and our new coaches was a highlight [at FCS],” she said. “It was a thrill to win a first round state playoff game my senior year. I remember that year we lost the first five games that season and then won 12 of 13 games. It was great to see how our grade helped build it. We went from middle school to JV to varsity. All the girls in our class helped grow it.”

Davenport has some advice for any FCS athlete thinking of a collegiate career.

“Be ready to start playing with new teammates, and know you are playing for a greater good,” she said. “You have to learn how to work as a team right away.”

(Photo courtesy of Lee University)


Alumni Profile: Swartz Hopes to Make a Point at Boston College

Fellowship Christian School’s all-time scoring leader Cameron Swartz is hopeful she’ll have the opportunity to play for Boston College in the first semester.

“I transferred mid-year from Colorado,” she said. “I petitioned the NCAA to see if I can play in the first semester since I transferred before Christmas. Right now I am eligible to play during the second semester.”

Under NCAA rules transfers typically sit out two semesters before they are eligible to play for their new team. She expects to play both point guard and wing for the Lady Eagles.

Swartz, a 5-foot-11 point guard, left the University of Colorado after the first semester to join BC. She originally signed with the Lady Buffs, and played in seven games last season. Swartz’ first career point in college came off a three-point shot against Navy. She finished with 22 points, an average of 6.3 per contest, five steals and five assists.

“I learned a lot there,” she said. “I had heart surgery before going to Colorado, which put me behind. I wanted to be happy there, but I wasn’t. Boston College was right for me. I look forward to a great education and playing basketball [in the ACC].”

Head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee and her staff has made Swartz feel right at home in Beantown.

“I love the coaching staff,” she said. “I love this team. Everyone gets along well, and I have spent a lot of time with my teammates this summer.”

Swartz spent six weeks in Boston this summer taking summer classes and spending time with her teammates.

“I want to help this team win,” Swartz said. “I am playing point guard primarily now. I want to get better and rebuild my game. I have not played in a game in a long time, so I am working to get better and improve. It’s a different style here, but I am very excited about it.”

Swartz has built a rapport with assistant coaches AJ Cohen, Yolanda Griffith and George Porcha for different reasons. She said the younger Cohan is easy for the younger players to relate too, that coach “Yo” was a great WNBA player who shares her knowledge well and that coach Porcha was a great skills coach.

During her time at FCS, Swartz averaged 32 points, 8.5 rebounds 4.1 steals and shot 47 percent from the floor during career. She was named First Team Class 1A North All-State, second-team All-Georgia and led the state of Georgia in scoring as a senior. Swartz finished her career with 1,867 points and 612 rebounds at Fellowship.

While she was excited to top 1,000 points at Fellowship, winning a first-round state playoff game as a senior was one of biggest FCS highlights.

She will major in applied psychology and minor in communications at BC.

“Boston is very cool,” she said. “I would not have thought I’d like such a big city, but I have really enjoyed my summer here. The campus is gorgeous.”

During her time in Colorado, Swartz played wing. She’s excited for an opportunity to play both point guard and wing for the Lady Eagles.

“Point guard at the college level is different,” she said. “I didn’t understand how different [until she started practicing with her BC teammates]. Everything flows to each position from point guard.”

(Photos courtesy of Boston College)


Alumni Profile: Kierpa Shows Success at Covenant as a Relief Pitcher

Lauren Kierpa found herself in a little bit of unfamiliar territory her freshman season at Covenant College.

After being a starter for most of her pitching career at Fellowship Christian School and as a travel team hurler, Kierpa moved into a relief role as a freshman at Covenant (located in Lookout Mountain, Ga.).

"I definitely played more than I thought I would," Kierpa said. "We had two starters, and they were a junior and a senior. That meant a relief role for me. It was different. Especially because in high school I was the only pitcher for a few years until Baylor Aycock joined varsity. So I was used to starting and pitching six or seven innings."

Kierpa, who graduated from FCS in 2018, shared the lead among Lady Scot pitchers with 21 appearances. She started four games, went 2-2, picked up one save and led the team with a 4.58 ERA.

She pitched 1 1/3 innings in her college debut against Berry College on Feb. 9, 2019, made her first start at Berea (Ky.) College on March 20, 2019 and struck out a season-high five batters.

Her first collegiate win came on March 9, 2019 at Judson (Ala.) College, and she notched her first save was at The University of the South on Feb. 27, 2019. On March 26, 2019 she threw a season-high 6 2/3 innings against Birmingham Southern.

"I really enjoyed being a closer," she said. "For me, I wanted to do anything I could to get those three outs. But it was definitely an adjustment."

She learned first hand what it was like to become a college athlete.

"It was hard to manage my time sometimes," Kierpa said. "We played for practiced six days a week. Because we are a Christian school we took Sundays off. It was harder than high school with harder classes and more practices, games and study halls in college. But Fellowship prepared me well."

Kierpa hopes to land one of the team's two starting roles on the mound this spring.

"I hope to secure a starting spot as a pitcher," she said. "I have to step up and help my team win. We did well last year. We had a rough start after a late head coach change, but once we adopted her system we hit our stride as a team."

What are the biggest changes between high school and college softball?

"I think the game format," Kierpa said. "For high school we'd have 2-4 games a week and 5-6 in travel ball but mostly in single games, but in college we had double headers. The conditioning was tougher as we had 3-4 double headers in a week."

Kierpa's brother Grant is also a FCS graduate and former athlete at Covenant. He played two seasons of baseball for the Scots from 2016-17.

Covenant plays in the USA South Athletic Conference.

(Photos courtesy of Covenant College)


Alumni Profile: Murphy Seeks Balance Between Academics and Golf

Tripp Murphy played well today [July 29, 2019], but narrowly missed an opportunity to qualify for the Georgia Open being held later this summer.

On July 29, the 2018 graduate of Fellowship Christian School carded a 74 in the Georgia Open Last Chance Qualifier at Achasta Golf Club in Dahlonega, Ga., but did not qualify.

Murphy was three over through three holes, lowered his score to one-under par through 15 holes before going three over on the last three holes.

"I learned a lot today, and made like six birdies," said Murphy, who is about to enter his sophomore golf season at Division III Oglethorpe University. "So it's ok. That was a good takeaway."

His freshman season at Oglethorpe had some ups and downs, but Murphy is overall pleased.

"It went well overall," he said. "I played a decent amount in the first semester. I played in seven tournaments. I am excited to play again this fall. I have worked hard on my swing this summer, and am practicing a lot."

Murphy worked on his consistency on the course in the fall.

"I was a starter in about 3-4 of the seven tourneys, and I shot 73 or 74 at a home tournament," he said. "I averaged around 75 [per round]."

His plan is to play a little less this fall to focus more on academics.

"I am planning to ease into it this fall," he said. "My coach and I talked about it. It will be better to play 3-4 tournaments that will give me more time to study. He knows I am good player, but we both know I need to focus on my grades."

While Murphy's main focus will be on academics, he still eyes improvement in his game.

"I want to be more consistent and balance my grades and golf," he said. "I'd like finish in the top 10 of at least two tournaments, and average 73 or below [for the season]."

Managing time was challenge as a first-year collegiate golfer, Murphy admitted.

"Probably my time management was [my biggest struggle]," he said. "It was hard balancing studying, practices and tournaments. I have to learn to say no sometimes."

Among Murphy's biggest collegiate highlights last season was a trip to Pennsylvania for a tournament and his team's overall success.

"We went to Laurel Valley last year to play," he said. "It's probably one of the top 100 courses in the country, and we played well there."

Oglethorpe won the Southern Athletic Association Tournament by 23 strokes, and place sixth in nationals.

Murphy had a great career at FCS playing on Mike Kinsey's varsity teams.

"I had a lot of highlights there," he said. "Probably my biggest one was the 31 [he shot]. And qualifying for states was pretty big."

(Photo courtesy of Oglethorpe University)


From the Diamond to the Dugout for FCS Graduate Nolan Lavergne

Fellowship Christian School graduate Nolan Lavergne will transition from baseball player to coach this spring and switch schools.

Lavergne, a 2018 graduate of FCS, pitched one season for the Emmanuel College baseball team.

"It went really well," he said. "I had a lot of fun and pitched in about six games. I felt like I did well."

Following this spring's season, Lavergne decided to transfer from the Franklin Springs, Ga., school to the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Ga., and change his major to civil engineering.

In addition, he also decided to coach baseball and was hired as a pitching coach for Johnson High School, a GHSA Class AAAAA school in Gainesville, Ga.

"I am extremely excited to begin my coaching career," said Lavergne, whose younger brother Peyton is a former FCS athlete and now attends Johnson. "I thought it was the right time to change colleges. I hurt my elbow and dislocated my knee [at Emmanuel], and wanted to get into coaching."

What are the biggest differences between high school and college baseball?

"The gap between high school and college was bigger than I thought," he said. "In high school, the top 1-5 hitters in the lineup were always very tough, but easier after that. But in college there are 15 guys on each team that can really hit."

Lavergne learned to enjoy the game more in college.

"Definitely one of my biggest [takeaways] is to enjoy the game more," he said. "I remember being more stressed in high school about results. But now looking back I see it was just a game. You have to have fun."

Lavergne enjoyed his time on the Fellowship baseball squad and playing for head coach Shawn Oliver.

"He was very energetic and helped us prepare well," Lavergne said. "One of my favorite memories at Fellowship was during my junior year. We were up by a run against King's Ridge and I came in with the bases loaded and no outs. I got a strikeout and two pop ups and held them to no runs and we won."

(Photo courtesy of Nolan's Twitter page)


Alumni Profile: Sanson Enters Finals Basketball Season at Asbury; Exploring Post-Grad Degree Options in PT

Fellowship Christian School graduate Kari Sanson enters her senior year in the classroom this fall at Asbury University, and her third playing basketball at the Wilmore, Ky., school.

After being injured her freshman season, Sanson has played the past two seasons of NAIA basketball for the Lady Eagles. She says this will be her last season on the court for the Lady Eagles.

"It was different than I expected," Sanson said about her transition to college basketball. "I couldn't play my freshman year. I watched from the sidelines as I got to know the system and my teammates. It was actually good as it helped me mesh with the team. We did well as our whole starting lineup was seniors."

In three seasons at Asbury, Sanson has played for two head coaches and faced a pair of rebuilding seasons.

Current head coach Chad Mayes was an assistant with Lady Eagles during Sanson's second season with the program (and her first on the court).

"I was able to play my sophomore season," she said. "That was tough with a new coach that season, and not playing much in the beginning [after recovering from her injury]. But I got to play more toward the end of the season. The team did as well as it could have since it was a rebuilding season."

Following that season, coach Mayes took over the program as a head coach.

"He had totally different coaching philosophy," Sanson said. "He encouraged everyone though, and we rode it out with another rebuilding year. It was easier this time though as he was there [the season before as an assistant coach]. I played more last year, and the team was better."

Sanson enters her "junior year" on the court with a goal of improvement and hopefully more time on the court.

"I just want to get better and play more," she said.

Asbury plays in the River States Conference. The team wants to win more games this season and compete well, according to Sanson.

The 2016 graduate of FCS is on track to graduate this spring with an exercise science degree from Asbury.

"My plan is to go to physical therapy school after graduation," she said. "It will be a doctorate degree. I am looking at different schools now. But I am not planning to play another year [of basketball]."

Sanson, whose father Rick is a high school teacher at Fellowship, has looked at the University of Kentucky and schools in North Georgia for her post-graduate degree work.

(Photo courtesy of Asbury University)


Russell Moves Back to OL After Season on Defense at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Mason Russell has already shown some versatility in his short time with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team.

The 6-foot-1, 270-pound redshirt freshman lineman has moved back to the offensive side of the ball as the Mocs prepare for training camp that begins July 31.

"It was a learning experience last year," Russell said. "I started out on defense and practiced all season with the defensive line. But in the spring, they asked me to move back to offense."

Russell begins camp as a second-string center. At FCS, Russell played both offensive tackle and nose tackle on defense.

"It was kind of different in the beginning," he said about the change to offense. "I started focusing on defense when I got to college, but it was a little nostalgic to move back to offense [for spring practices]. It's really a matter of execution on offense."

Russell has quickly learned to enjoy the UTC offense.

"It's really quite similar [to FCS' offense]," Russell said. "There are a lot of laterals, and the unit moves together. Everyone moves as a unit. It helps when you study the playbook to have similar looks."

Not only does the UTC offense seem similar to the offense Russell played Fellowship, he'll also see some familiar faces during the season. Russell will face former FCS teammates Reed Kroeber and Jack Hardin as UTC hosts Furman University in a SoCon contest on Nov. 2 at Finley Stadium at 2 p.m.

The Mocs finished 6-5 in 2018 under head coach Rusty Wright, a UTC alumnus. Russell did not play as a true freshman, earning redshirt.

"We did pretty well last year," he said. "We started strong at 4-0, but lost a couple of crucial games. Coach Wright is an alumnus, and he's a great coach and is great for our program. Chattanooga is a great place to be. The city is awesome."

Russell's transition to college was pretty smooth.

"It went well," he said. "The conditioning at FCS helped me get quickly adjusted to college football. It prepared me for football, which is now a year-round thing. At Fellowship I did not think about football until the spring. Now football is always going on. It's a complete circle and a year-round commitment. It makes school a full-time job."

Russell is a mechanical engineering major at UTC.

"I went into college knowing I want to be an engineer," he said.

(Finley Stadium image, logos courtesy of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)


Mackenzie Gibbs Focused On Team Goals Heading into 2019 Soccer Season

Mackenzie Gibbs has not given personal goals too much thought as she prepares for her junior collegiate soccer season. She's focused on team goals.

"I am still thinking about [personal goals]," said Gibbs, a junior midfielder on the Coastal Carolina University soccer team. "Nothing specific personally, except for scoring more goals and adding to my playing time. Our team goals are most important to me. We want to win the conference and the tournament. Obviously I want to say that I gave it my all for the team."

The 2017 Fellowship Christian School graduate started two games and played in 15 contests for the 8-8-1 Lady Chanticleers in 2018. The team went 7-3 in Sun Belt Conference contests. She scored the tying goal in a 1-1 tie against Winthrop.

Overall, Gibbs finished with 24 shots and 10 shots on goal as a sophomore. That season was shortened due to Hurricane Florence.

"It's crazy to think about I am junior," Gibbs said. "After this year I only have one year of college soccer left. I am excited about this year. I think we are looking pretty good heading into camp. We lost three seniors, but we should do well."

As a freshman, Gibbs set career highs with three goals, six points, 29 shots and 12 shots on goal. She played in 20 games and stated 12 contests. She netted the tying goal to force overtime in a 2-1 win over Troy State, and scored the game-winning goal over Texas State.

The Lady Chanticleers finished 11-8-1 in 2017, including a 4-5-1 mark in conference play.

"There's pressure throughout the season [to win games] at Coastal Carolina," Gibbs said. "You want to win every game. It's exciting to be part of this program. Every year we want to win. We have great coaches who help us prepare for every game."

Gibbs has done well on the field and in the classroom at Costal Carolina. She was named to the Coastal Carolina Dean's List in 2017 and 2018. She also made the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List for 2017-18.

"Obviously it's hard to be a college athlete sometimes," she said. "There are ups and downs on the field with playing time, and with college classes but it's rewarding overall. I want to have an impact on our team whether I am playing a lot or not. Attitude is very important. My freshman year went well, but last year was harder as I was hurt and did not play as much."

But Gibbs heads to the Lady Chanticleers' training camp on Aug. 5 healthy, and is ready to battle hard for more playing time.

"Obviously I hope for more time this year," she said. I am ready for the season!"

(Photos courtesy of Coastal Carolina University)


Berryman Heads to Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp With Eye on Opening Day Roster Spot

Ian Berryman is trying to become the first ever Fellowship Christian School graduate to make a National Football League team.

The former punter at Western Carolina University and FCS is headed for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Training Camp, presented by FedEx, at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., which begins July 26. Players report to Saint Vincent, which hosts the Pittsburgh camp for the 54th consecutive year, on July 24. Berryman signed with the Steelers as a free agent following the 2019 NFL Draft.

Jordan Berry from Eastern Kentucky University has been Pittsburgh's No. 1 punter for the past five seasons. Berry and Berryman are the only punters on the roster as the team heads to camp.

"He and I are the only punters on the roster," Berryman said. "They will probably keep one of us. You can only control what you can control. I feel really good [after rookie and extended camps in Charlotte]. I was there for 2-3 weeks, and feel like I am in the best shape of my life."

Berryman was excited when the Steelers called his agent following the draft.

"I am very pleased to be here, and join their 90-man roster and have the opportunity [to win a job in camp]," the 2014 graduate of FCS said. "As many football fans do, I followed the Steelers. They have so many prime-time games and have fans all around the country. They were the only team to offer me a contract, so I am extremely excited about camp."

During his five seasons at Western Carolina from 2104-18, Berryman helped the Catamounts finish a combined 26-30, including three, 7-win seasons. The club went 17-21 in SoCon games during those seasons. Berryman was a redshirt in 2014 and did not play.

As a senior, Berryman was able to show consistency, enjoy his final season with the Catamounts and reach his main goal. He punted 38 times for 1,574 yards and attained an average of 41.4 yards per punt in 2018. He finished his Catamount career as the school's all-time leader in punt average at 43.8 yards per punt (206 for 9,021 yards).

"Setting the highest career punting [distance] average was my goal," Berryman said. "That was my main goal. I wanted to help our team any way I could."

As a junior, Berryman equaled his career high with 58 punts and set his career best with 2,578 yards. In 2016, Berryman punted 52 times for 2,335 yards as a sophomore. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Berryman set a career high with 58 punts that covered 2,534 yards.

Berryman came a long way in his career. In fact, he's the only player from the 2018 Western Carolina team at an NFL Training Camp. Former WCU teammates Keion Crossen (New England Patriots) and Detrez Newsome (Los Angeles Chargers) played in the NFL last season.

"Going to Western Carolina as a walk-on and doing what I have done to earn a scholarship and have the chance to play in the NFL is a highlight," he said. "It's rewarding, and I couldn't be happier."

At WCU, NFL scouts were able to see Berryman's hard work in directional punting and "placing the ball in the right spots," which could give him an opportunity to play on Sundays this season.

"I always treated practices like a game because there were always scouts there to see teammates like Keion and Detrez," he said. "I tried to be consistent at practices and games, and perform at a high level."

Berryman would not trade his experience as a Catamount for anything.

"We played at a lot of cool places," he said. "We played at Aloha Stadium where they hold the Pro Bowl, and got to play in front of 100,000 fans at Texas A&M and Tennessee. To travel around the country to kick the ball was an awesome experience."

Berryman will hopefully have three pre-season games to show his skills to Steelers coaches. The team has three pre-season games – Aug. 17 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, Aug. 25 at the Tennessee Titans and Aug. 29 at the Carolina Panthers. Pittsburgh will set its final roster soon after the Panthers game.

(Photo courtesy of Ian's Twitter Account)


Hurley Heads Back to Furman Healthy, Prepared for Senior Year

Emma Grace Hurley learned something about perseverance this spring.

The Fellowship Christian School graduate had a tough spring track & field season at Furman University. In all of her seasons running cross country and track & field at Furman and FCS, Hurley had not suffered through a lingering injury like the calf ailment she suffered during the outdoor track & field season.

"It was the first time in my career that I could not just take a day off to get past an injury," said Hurley, who enters her season year this fall. "It was hard for me. I ran for the team in races, but I did not finish with good times. My goal was just to make it to the finish line."

The injury sidelined her for two weeks, and also limited her practice time with her teammates. "My motivation is always to be my best for my teammates," she said. "I could not run with them to encourage them in practice."

She did recover enough to place second at 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters at the outdoor SoCon meet in the spring. Her disappointing spring season came following successful cross country and indoor track seasons in the fall and winter of 2018-19.

As a junior, Hurley placed 51st in the cross country nationals just 11 places and seven seconds away from being an All American. She also posted her best 5K time of 15.57 in the fall, won the 1,500 meters at the University of South Carolina meet and took second and third, respectively, in the 5,000 and 3,000 meter races at the indoor league meet.

A healthy Hurley has set some lofty goals for her senior year at Furman.

"This fall I'd love to be an All American in cross country with a top 40 finish," she said. "I also want to reach the NCAAs for outdoor track. I really feel like I should have done that already."

Her most memorable season at Furman was her sophomore campaign.

In her second year at Furman, Hurley won the 3,000-meter Steeplechase with a time of 10:06.35, a Furman record at the time, at the Raleigh Relays to qualify for the NCAA East Preliminaries and she finished 23rd at 10:18.97. She was also named to the All-Southeast Region team for cross country after turning in a 19th-place finish at 20:58.9. Hurley came in 126th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 20:56.44. She qualified for a slot on the All-SoCon second team with an eighth-place finish (17:18.3) at the league cross country championships.

She went on to have successful indoor and outdoor track seasons as a sophomore. Click here to read more about Hurley's highlights at both Furman and FCS.

"We had six underclassmen that season," Hurley said. "We had ability beyond what we did. That team was amazing to be a part of."

Hurley, who plans to seek a MBA following graduation from Furman this spring, offered advice for high school runners thinking about a collegiate career.

"I'd tell them two things," she said. "It's going to be a commitment. It will often feel like it's your whole life. It's also a huge step up in competition. Get ready for a little blow to the ego. Even if you are a state champion, you may run against five other state champions in one race. Your competition is so good at what they do."

(Photo courtesy of Furman University)


Aycock Trying to Impress New Coaching Staff at Georgia Tech

Fellowship Christian School graduate Tad Aycock will get a front-row seat to the changes at the Georgia Tech University football team.

Head coach Geoff Collins has taken over the Yellow Jacket program this fall from the retired Paul Johnson. Brent Key will serve as Tech's assistant head coach, run game coordinator and offensive line coach, while Dave Patenaude is the new offensive coordinator.

This year's Yellow Jackets' squad is very motivated for their new coach as it heads to fall camp on July 30.

"Our team goals are to work hard," said Aycock, a redshirt freshman center. "Coach Collins has brought a huge culture change. We want to win games and ultimately the ACC title. None of us have ever worked this hard."

Aycock, who played tackle in practices last season, enjoyed his first season at Tech as a redshirt.

"It was really good to get acclimated to college football and Georgia Tech [in 2018]," Aycock said. "It will be different with a new head coach and staff. We are excited about it."

Aycock heads into fall camp with an opportunity to show the new coaches what he can do at his new position.

"You are in a prove-yourself situation with new coaches," he said. "No one's job is safe. You have to show the coaches your effort every day. I am always hopeful [for playing time], but you have to work hard. I am behind seniors on the depth chart."

The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Aycock enjoyed his freshman campaign.

"It's such a great fan base here," he said. "It was incredible to be on the sidelines for home games. I got to travel to Georgia [for the game against the Bulldogs in Athens], and dress out for the Virginia game. That was a very close game. The talent here is incredible."

What was the biggest challenge of moving from Fellowship to Tech?

"Definitely the schedule of a Division I athlete was a challenge," he said. "Your day is planned out, which makes it easy to stay on schedule. But it's still a lot of work."

One of Aycock's biggest adjustments during spring practice and this offseason was moving to center, a new position for him.

"I had not played center before," said Aycock. "It has been an adjustment."

Aycock, who helped FCS reach the 2016 Class A Private School Football Championships, was recruited by Johnson and retired GA Tech offensive line coach Mike Sewak, who happened to coach Aycock's uncles Hunter and Sand Chadwick at Georgia Southern University. Hunter is the former AD and head football coach at Fellowship.

"It was pretty cool to be recruited by coach Johnson," Aycock said. "Coach Johnson kept the same line coach for all those years. I experienced the same things my uncles did 20 years later. He was the godfather of the Triple Option."

(Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech)


Marshall Kent has Solid Senior Golf Season at Covenant College

Marshall Kent wrapped up his collegiate golf career with some pretty good recognition.

The 2015 graduate of Fellowship Christian School earned the USA South All-Sportsmanship Award following his senior year at Covenant College of Lookout Mountain, Ga.

"All of my life my mom encouraged me to be an encourager and be a blessing in everyone's lives," Kent said. "I am proud of this award because it shows how much I care about people."

It capped a very successful season for Kent, who had a career-best 77.55 scoring average in 2018-19. He played in all nine events and tied a personal best with a 70 in the second round on the second day of the Piedmont Fall Invitational on Oct. 2, 2018. He finished second in that tourney with a 36-hole total of 144 (74 in the first round).

Last season, he also shared first in the Reeder Cup with a two-day 148 (75 and 73) Oct. 15-16, and carded a first-round 71 in the Chick-fil-A Invitational Oct. 22.

"It was a really cool season," Kent said. "Josh Wall and I were basically the team's captains. We worked really hard to help build a culture that can last at Covenant. Our team played very well last season."

Kent has helped the Covenant program rise in the national Division III golf rankings from 232 after his freshman year to 60th in the nation following this past season.

"Watching that growth was such a cool thing," he said. "I had teammates like Josh in my corner for four years, and coach [Tom] Schreiner always believed in me. Having those people in my life was a great thing."

Kent credits coach Schreiner and his teammates for building a winning attitude at Covenant.

"Our success was partly recruiting, as we brought in a lot of talent my sophomore and senior years," he said. "But coach Schreiner instilled confidence, and a lot of it was hard work and determination to improve our games."

As a senior, Kent represented Covenant on the USA South All-Sportsmanship team and was named to the USA South All-Academic team. During his career, Kent had seven top-10 tourney finishes that ranks fourth in school history.

In 2017-18 as a junior, Kent played in all seven events. His top finish that season was seventh place at the Eagle Invitational with a 36-hole total of 161 (74-87). He became the first Covenant golfer to notch a hole-in-one during a tournament with an ace on the 11th hole of the Wynlakes Intercollegiate event his junior season.

As a sophomore, Kent played in 10 events. He shared second and was named to the all-tournament team at the Piedmont Fall Invitational with a two-day 147 (70-77).

He played in six events as a freshman, including a season-low 152 (79 and 73) at Piedmont College Fall Invitational to earn a spot on the all-tourney team.

In total, Kent competed eight years in golf at FCS and Covenant. He is a big fan of the team environment that has helped him prepare for post-college life.

"I have no idea where the time went," he said. "It was a great experience. I am so thankful for coaches like coach [Mike] Kinsey at FCS and coach Schreiner."

Kent, who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., was recently promoted to a large move specialist for Bellhops Moving, the company he joined following graduation from Covenant.

His long-term goal is marriage, seminary and a career in ministry.

"I have friends going to seminary," he said. "It's pretty rigorous, so I'd like to get married and have a wife to share that experience and career with."

(Photos courtesy of Covenant College)


Kroeber Heads to Camp as Starting Right Offensive Guard on Furman University's Football Squad

After splitting his time at center and guard last season, Reed Kroeber is ready to settle in at offensive guard on the right side this season at Furman University.

Kroeber played in 10 games for the Paladins, including nine starts, in 2018 to help Furman finish 6-4 overall (6-2 in SoCon games). The junior lineman started the games against Clemson University and Elon University at center before moving to guard early in the season. He and the Paladin OL opened the holes for Devin Wynn to rank among the SoCon's top ground gainers with 722 yards and six TDs.

"I am sitting right at the top of depth chart at left guard heading into camp," he said. "I have been all over the place [on the line] during my career. Nothing is guaranteed though. I have to earn my spot."

Off the field, Kroeber earned a spot on the SoCon Academic Honor Roll in 2018.

Overall, the school has finished 17-17 in Kroeber's three years with the program. The club went 8-5, including a 6-2 mark in 2017 following a 3-8 season in 2016.

"It's been amazing here," Kroeber said. "I'll be in my third year already. I am so excited for this year. Even though I have been working out all summer, the season seems so far away. But pretty soon the fun part begins with training camp."

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School has high hopes for this season.

"I have become a starter here, so I'd like to stay healthy and start again," he said. "My goal is to be an all-conference performer who helps his team do well. We want to have a good season. Last year we had a share of the conference title with Wofford and East Tennessee, but the hurricane limited us to 10 games and we missed the playoffs."

Through his high school and collegiate career, Kroeber has shown his versatility playing both defensive and offensive tackle at FCS and tackle, guard and center in college.

"I have grown as a player," he said. "I have played pretty much everywhere, and have developed an understanding of what we are trying to do offensively on every play. I have played all five positions."

After settling in at guard last season, Kroeber realized how much he enjoys the Paladins' run-focused offense and blocking in general.

"I get to block on a lot of pulls and traps, and we sweep a lot," the 6-foot-4, 286-pound lineman said. "We run every kind of running play. Running is the key to our offense."

In 2017, Kroeber was named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team and earned Freshman All-America honors by HERO Sports and Phil Steele. He started a career-high 13 games, including three at left tackle to start the season and the final 10 contests at right guard. The line helped a pair of Paladin running backs reach the All-SoCon Team that season.

A member of the scout team in 2016 as a freshman, Kroeber was selected for the SoCon Academic Honor Roll.

(Photos courtesy of Furman University)


FCS Graduate Enters Final Soccer Season at University of Alabama-Birmingham

Fellowship Christian School graduate Megan Hudgens is ready to finish her collegiate soccer career at the University of Alabama-Birmingham off on a bright note personally, and also help her team win soccer games.

"It's my last year, so I want to do well," Hudgens said. "I want my team to do well. I take nothing for granted as it's the end of my career."

The Lady Blazers hope to win Conference USA and capture the conference tournament.

"Those are two big goals, but we have a lot of talent here, both old and new," she said. "The upperclassmen have talked a lot. We all have similar idea for the season."

Hudgens is coming off a little bit of a disappointing junior year, so she has some extra motivation to do well on the field for UAB.

"Last season wasn't as good for me," she said. "But in the spring, I felt my confidence coming back. I am confident and ready for this season."

As a junior, Hudgens started six games and played in 18. She was second on the team (6-4 in conference play and 9-8-1 overall) with three assists. Hudgens shared fifth on the squad with three points, and ranked fourth with six shots on goal and was fifth with 13 shots.

Hudgens' second season at UAB was her best statistically and probably the most memorable. She played in and started all 20 matches, and ranked second the club and seventh in Conference USA with 19 points. She led the Lady Blazers with five assists and shared second with a seven goals. She set career highs in goals, assists and points.

"My sophomore year was a highlight," she said. "Our team atmosphere was great. We made it to the conference tournament for the first time in a while. We also beat Alabama in the spring of 2017. That was a great win."

As a freshman, Hudgens started and played in all of the team's 17 games. She shared the team lead with four goals and ranked second with three assists. Her 11 points, 36 shots and 22 shots on goal topped the Lady Blazers.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School has advice for any current Lady Paladins thinking about a collegiate soccer career.

"Remember why you love the sport," she said. "It's really like a job. But if you remember why you love it, then you'll give it all you have. I learned so much about time management in high school that I needed in college. You have to be able to balance your sport, school and social life."

Hudgens, a finance major with a minor in marketing, is already thinking about her post-soccer career.

"I am focusing in on commercial real estate or sports marketing work at a larger company," she said.

(Photos courtesy of UAB)


Jack Hardin Heads to Furman University Camp with Eye at Playing Time

Fellowship Christian School graduate Jack Hardin enters his third year with the Furman University football program with hopes of moving up the depth chart at quarterback.

Hardin, who's been working hard this summer to prepare for his redshirt sophomore season, is part of a stiff competition with two other quarterbacks for the starting role and also the potential for significant playing time as the team prepares for pre-season practices that begin in August.

"I felt I played very well in the spring game," Hardin said. "My biggest individual goal is to become a starter. Right now the way I look at is that I am third string, and that I need to work hard to move up [the depth chart] and get into games."

The good news is for Hardin is the fact that the shoulder injury that hampered him in 2018 is gone.

"My shoulder is fully healed," he said. "I feel really good heading into the season. I had a full offseason to train [and not rehab an injury]."

The 2017 graduate of Fellowship Christian School has grown a lot during his two seasons with the Furman squad.

"To see our growth has been great," Hardin said. "We are becoming a very tough team to play. I have learned to be very patient here and wait for my turn. It takes time to prove yourself [at the collegiate level]. You have to stay ready to play. You want to be among the guys who work hard when it's not easy too. You can't ever get down about not playing."

The team goals for the Paladins are very high.

"Our goal is to win the SoCon championship outright," Hardin said. "We had a three-way split last year. It's reachable this year. We have a ton of depth. Our coaching staff has done a great job of bringing in a lot of talent here. Our talent and depth is really all over the field."

Looking ahead to 2019, the Furman run game should once again be strong.

"We are very well rounded there," Hardin said. "Our line is very good. They know a lot [about blocking]."

Following a stellar athletic career at Fellowship, a well-prepared Hardin joined a different Paladin program.

"Playing three sports at Fellowship helped me grow my time management skills," he said. "I was prepared for the lifestyle of sports [in college]. It's a full-time commitment. Furman is tough academically. But I am really thankful for FCS and how my teachers prepared me for college academically. I learned how to study and communicate with teachers. That's important in college. FCS taught me how to balance sports and school."

Hardin's teammate at Furman is 2016 FCS graduate is junior offensive guard Reed Kroeber

(Photo courtesy of Furman University)


Fellowship Grad Looks to Close Out Career Strong

After three years on the field for the Berry College soccer team, it's hard to imagine that Jake Williamson really debated about whether or not to play collegiate soccer after graduating from Fellowship Christian School in 2016.

"I really wasn't sure if I wanted to play soccer in college," he said. "After my senior year at Fellowship I thought should I pursue going to the University Georgia like my friends, or should I go to a Division III school to play soccer?"

Well a lunch with his brother Drew and the former "Voice of the Soccer Paladins" Jeff McClendon changed that idea.

"He's really wise," Williamson said about McClendon. "He gave me the best advice. He told me that after watching me play during my senior year [and the team's run to the state title game] that he could tell I was not ready to give up soccer yet. He said 'I want to encourage you to try and least give it one year.' Well going into my fourth and final year at Berry, I know it was a great choice. Mr. McClendon gave me the best advice. It has been challenging at this level, but rewarding too. The talent is great here in Division III soccer. And the coaches are great here too."

Now Williamson is one of two senior leaders on the Viking squad.

"It's crazy to look back on my career at Berry as I get ready to go back to school for my senior year," Williamson said. "I am one of two seniors on the team. I'll have even more of a leadership role than I had the last couple of years. I feel really good as I head into this season. I know what to expect on the field and against our conference opponents."

Williamson appreciates the advice he received, and as a result takes the opportunity to encourage others. In fact, he's often shared the same advice with Berry recruits who are not convinced about a potential Division III career.

"It's all about the people you meet, and how they impact you," he said. "I have met with a lot of recruits, and some are in the same spot I was. So I always say 'give it a try for a year.' "

Last year's Berry squad had 13 seniors, while the program is adding 9-10 freshman for the fall 2019 season. The team's roster is expected to include eight sophomores and five juniors. Williamson led the Vikings with a career-best 31 points, four game-winning goals and seven assists, 66 shots and 38 shots on goal, and shared the lead with a career-best 12 goals. His assist, shots and shots on goal totals were also career bests.

Williamson played in all 17 games, including 16 starts, and was All-SAA as a junior.

"It'll be a big change this year," Williamson said. "We will be a much younger team. I came into the program with four other freshmen, but now there are only two of us left [for our senior year]. So we'll need a lot of young guys to step up."

The Berry squad went 10-5-2 in 2018, including a 3-2-2-conference mark. The club went 8-8-1 overall and 3-3-1 in Southern Athletic Association contests in 2017, and was 10-9 overall and 3-4 in SAA games in 2016.

"It was such a great season in 2018," Williamson said. "Our record really doesn't reflect on how good we were. We had two overtime games that were ties, and all of our losses were one-goal games that could have easily gone the other way. We had a super run that ended in the semifinals with a loss to Oglethorpe. Their center back scores on a long 30-yard shot [to tie the game] and we lose in overtime. We were definitely the best two teams in the league."

Oglethorpe went on to win the SAA Tournament in 2018. Williamson hopes it is Berry's turn this time.

"We want to keep the momentum going [in 2019]," Williamson said. "We will have to work pretty hard to get back to the playoffs, but we know we can do it. We'll have to work on team chemistry with a lot of new freshmen coming in, but the upperclassmen know what we need to do. We have reached the conference semifinals for three straight years. We want to win the conference tourney this time."

During Williamson's three years as a Viking he's put up some very solid numbers. The team has a combined 28-22-3 record during that stretch, while Williamson has collected 60 points (23 goals, 14 assists).

During his sophomore year, Williamson was All-SAA First Team and led the team with six assists, 18 points and 64 shots (30 on goal), and shared first with six assists. In 2016, he was third on the club with 11 points (five goals, one assist).

The 2016 graduate of FCS is looking to close out his career strongly.

"I want to score as many goals as I can," he said. "But I also want to be more of a balanced player. I want to help out more in the middle and the back third of the field. Being a leader is a symbol on the field of doing what's right to help your team win."

(Photos courtesy of Berry College)


FCS Graduate Meredith Moore Wraps Up First Collegiate Lacrosse Season at Presbyterian College in SC

Fellowship Christian School graduate Meredith Moore had a little bit easier adjustment academically than athletically during her first year in college. But overall it was a big success.

Moore, a 2018 graduate of FCS, completed her first year at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. this spring for the Blue Hose Division I women's lacrosse team.

The 5-foot-5 defenseman played in 16 games, including nine starts, for the Blue Hose. She collected a pair of assists (her first as a collegiate player came on March 8 in a home win over Delaware State) and had 10 ground balls. She also caused four turnovers, and earned her second assist at Wagner College on March 24.

"Lacrosse was very hard this year," Moore said. "The college game was a lot different. It was tough to play against girls a lot older. Some of my opponents were 22 or 23. It was really big jump in the game. I loved college [academically]. I am an undecided major, but I took a lot of general education classes. It was really the easiest part of my freshman season. It's a great school, and I am so happy to be at Presbyterian."

On the field, Moore quickly saw the differences between her years on the field for FCS and at Presbyterian, which competes in the Big South Conference.

"The biggest differences in the game are the speed, quickness and agility of the players," she said. "In college lacrosse you don't stop on the whistle. You run the whole time."

The Blue Hose finished 1-16 overall last season, and are in the middle of coaching transition.

"It was a tough year on the scoreboard," Moore said. "But it was an awesome experience overall. It was a joy to travel to games, prepare with my teammates and spend time with them. We are a recovering program, but we hope to make improvements this season. Our goal is to make the conference tournament."

The Blue Hose transitioned into a Division I program about five seasons ago.

Moore began her lacrosse career as a fourth grader and spent seven seasons with FCS middle school, JV and varsity teams.

"We grew the program with my class," said Moore, who played for head coaches Maddie Leathers Cason, Ali Senft and Tracy Morgan and assistant Jeff Buchweitz. "They were all awesome. They prepared me for college. The training with Tracy was unreal. They taught me a lot about being ready for college lacrosse."

During her career at FCS, she played middle school lacrosse for several dad coaches, including her own (Kent Moore). Kent happens to be the current middle school lacrosse coach at FCS.

Meredith was a four-year starter for the Lady Paladin program (JV and varsity), including its first two varsity seasons in 2017 and 2018. She helped the 2018 team finish 12-7 overall and advance to the GHSA Class A-AAAAA Girls Lacrosse Championships for the first time in school history.

Moore is spending her summer working at Camp Glisson in North Georgia.

(Head shot courtesy of Presbyterian; action picture from FCS archives)


2018-19 School Year and prior school years

World Cup Luge: Germaine Places 14th in Calgary for Best Season Finish

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine, a member of Team USA’s Senior Luge squad, posted her best World Cup finish of the season earlier this month.

Germaine closed out the third World Cup race of the season on Dec. 8 with a time of 47.255 seconds, only 0.036 second off her first time, to finish 14th overall. On Dec. 8, Germaine opened the race in 15th place with a time of 47.219 seconds in her first heat.

On Dec. 6, Germaine qualified for the World Cup race Calgary, Alberta with a sixth-place finish in the Nations Cup qualifier with a time of 47.003 seconds.

The fourth race of the season – and last of 2018 – will be held this weekend (Dec. 21-23) in Lake Placid, N.Y.

World Cup race No. 2 was held in Whistler, British Columbia. On Dec. 1, Germaine opened the World Cup race second with a personal-best time of 38.930 seconds, which was just 0.029 second off the track record. At the end of the first run, she was 16th overall and second best among the Americans.

Her second run started even better than her first. Germaine shattered her personal best start by 0.027 of a second, was solid all the way down again and ended with yet another personal best time of 38.820 seconds. She was able to move up one position to finish in 15th place. On Nov. 29, she was 15th in the qualifier by a mere 0.104 of a second.

The first World Cup race was held in Igls, Austria, the week of Nov 19.

On Nov. 21 in the qualification field, 32 women competed for the 16 available World Cup slots. Germaine’s time of 40.560 seconds helped her place 11th.

In the final round, Germaine ended up in 13th place, with a finish time of 40.051 in the first World Cup run in Igls. Her time was a personal best and was less than 0.2 seconds behind a podium finish. Her second run’s time was 40.144 seconds to place her 16th overall.

(Photos submitted by Bob Germaine)


Gemaine Earns Spot on U.S. National Senior Luge Team

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine has begun her 10th season competing in luge with some exciting news.

Germaine prevailed and overcame some struggles from the 2017-18 season to earn a position on the USA National Team following her performance in the two-day National Seeding races and National Championship held in Lake Placid, N.Y., Oct. 26-27.

“I’m so proud of all she has achieved in the sport these past nine years, but I’m even more proud of seeing her persevere through some very challenging life lessons,” said her father, Bob Germaine. “Raychel had very strong training going into the race, and each day she seemed to gain more and more confidence. Raychel was enjoying herself again as well. She had a great National Championships.”

In Lake Placid, Germaine posted the fastest time of all her runs (44.751) in her last heat on Oct. 27 –  and also posted the second fastest speed of anyone over the two-day event (112.48 kph) – to wind up third overall and earn a spot on the senior national team. On Oct. 26, Germaine was third following the first two runs. She fell to fourth place after the first race on Oct. 27, but closed out strong to earn a spot on the team again.

Following the championships, Raychel and her teammates headed to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a week of training before traveling to Oberhof and Koenigsee, Germany for more training. The season kicks off with the first World Cup race in Igls, Austria, from Nov. 18 to 19.

Prior to the Lake Placid event, Germaine completed the first weeks of training for the Team USA squad in Lillehammer, Norway, and Sigulda, Latvia, ready to put her disappointing 2017-18 season behind her.

“This luge off-season was one of the most challenging of Raychel’s career,” Bob Germaine said. “She started last year with such high aspirations, but her performance left her disappointed and discouraged. Although she was the Olympic alternate, she was never able to put a solid race together all season. For eight years she gained the reputation of putting it together on race day, but all last season she couldn’t quite pull it together.”

Her father shared that Raychel will focus on three things this season:

1.    Be Christ Centered – If you do this, no matter the worldly outcome, you will be successful!

2.    Be Positive – Let every word, every sentence, and every thought, focus on the positive perspective of life.

3.    Have Fun –   You are sledding!  Your work is sledding!!! How fun is that?  You love what you are doing, so focus on the aspects of what you love!

 Summer 2018 Updates and Prior Years

Mackenzie Gibbs received quite a bit of notoriety as a freshman soccer player this past season.

The Coastal Carolina University freshman scored the tying-goal in the 89th minute of a 2-1 double overtime victory over Troy University on Sept. 22, 2017 that was aired on ESPN Sports Center as a top 10 play of the day.

“The season went really well,” said Gibbs, a 2017 graduate of Fellowship Christian School. “It started off good, and was kind of up-and-down for us as a team. But it was a great experience, and we finished the year strong.”

Gibbs appeared in 20 games for the Lady Chanticleers, including 12 starts and logged a total of 1,045 minutes played. She scored three goals on 29 shots, including her first career goal an insurance score in 3-0 victory against Wofford College. Gibbs netted for the game-winner – her third career goal – in a 2-1 Sun Belt Conference first-round playoff victory over Texas State.

“Making it all the way to the Sunbelt Champions was a season highlight,” she said. “Although we lost, it was a great experience. Having my goal against Troy played on Sports Center was also something to remember.”

A 2017 Coastal Carolina Dean's List student, Gibbs played attacking midfield as a freshman after beginning preseason as a winger. 

“The transition [to college soccer] was a challenge,” Gibbs said. “Adapting to a new team and being part of a new system took some getting used to. The girls in college are stronger, the speed of the play is faster and the players are better conditioned. They work out a lot more.”

Gibbs said her main goals for the 2018 season are to come into the season more fit, and “earn the highest GPA I can.” She is focused this summer on work, the weight room and being prepared preparing the season.

Gibbs majors in Biology at Coastal Carolina.

She joined the Lady Chants program following a stellar career under the tutelage of former FCS head coaches Tripp Hughes and Tim Rice, current coach Andy Trevers and their staffs. 

While at Fellowship, Gibbs was a three-time MVP (sophomore, junior, and senior seasons), and earned the Max Prep Player of the Year award as a Lady Paladin senior.

FCS captured the GHSA Class A State Championship during Gibbs’ sophomore season. She helped the team reach the state title game in 2015, and the GHSA Elite Eight during her senior campaign as team captain. She notched 172 points (62 goals, 48 assists) in her four-year high school career at Fellowship.

(Photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina)

Michael Bruno has completed his first season of college soccer.

The 2017 graduate of Fellowship Christian School helped the Division III LaGrange College soccer team to a 5-11-2 record and a trip to the USA South Tournament (the Panthers fell 7-0 at Maryville College in Tennessee in the first round). He played midfield at LaGrange, where he notched three assists in eight games.

“It went decent,” Bruno said. “I was pretty happy about everything. I honestly hoped to play more, but athletically college did not seem to be a huge leap. I enjoyed college soccer last season.”

During a recent interview, Bruno shared that he’s transferred to Georgia State for his sophomore year. The Panthers have both a NCAA Division I team and a pair of club soccer teams. He will try out to see which team he’ll land for the season.

 “[Transferring] does not mean soccer is going away,” he said in a recent interview. “I am not sure how soccer looks for me this year yet, but I will know soon [following tryouts]. I want to grow as a player and see more minutes whether at the semi pro, club or college level.”

Bruno, sociology major with a minor in psychology, faced a few big adjustments to college.

“The conditioning for college athletes is much harder than high school,” Bruno said. “There are really so many adjustments really. Dorm life was a struggle at times. Plus the challenge for any new college athlete is fitting in and impressing the coaches.”

After having his freshman season behind him, Bruno has some advice for this year’s freshman class of college athletes from Fellowship heading off to college.

“When it comes to college sports, being more independent is my one key takeaway from last season,” he said. “Freshman need to listen, be coachable, focus on physical fitness and learn to play to your strengths and abilities as a player.”

Freshman can’t worry about playing time, but make the most of it when they are on the field, he also noted.

Bruno, who played under Andy Trevers, Ari Durham and James Williamson at FCS, was a two-time All-Area selection at Fellowship, where he helped the Paladin squad reach the GHSA Class A state finals as a junior in 2016. He was selected for the 2016 GHSA All-Star team.

(Photo courtesy of Hudl)

Harrison Mansell had to battle through a hamstring injury during his first season of track & field at The Citadel, but the season still included a pretty big highlight.

“It went well,” the 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School said about his first collegiate track season. “It wasn’t until the end of the year before I could show the coaches what I could do. I think it goes for all college sports, but the practices aren’t as intense in high school. It’s a bigger deal at college. We are all more motivated because we choose to be there.”

Mansell competed in three meets last season in the high jump, including the SoCon Championships.

His happiest memory of the season was placing fourth in the high jump with a personal best six-feet, six inches at that meet. It was two inches longer than his previous career best.

“My previous best was 6-4 when I won the state championship as a junior at Fellowship,” he said.

Managing college classes and the schedule as an athlete at the Citadel was not always easy for Mansell. Then add the routine of attending a military institution, and the schedule becomes even a little bit more demanding. To say it’s an adjustment for a freshman held true for Mansell.

“It was very tough at first,” he said. “Brandon Wilson, who I went to Fellowship with, helped me out. It was something to adjust too. The days are long. I would leave my room at 6 a.m. and not be back until 10 p.m. Having Brandon there really helped me adjust quicker.”

Mansell’s typical morning routine includes getting up at 6 a.m., followed by weight room, training, running and military exercises before heading to class.

He quickly adjusted to the college and cadet rotunines, which helped his transition into the winter track season.

As an athlete, Mansell competed in the indoor track season during the winter, and the outdoor track and field season that begins in February and run through May.

Mansell was selected by the Bulldog coaching staff to travel with his team to all the winter and spring meets, where his team competed against former FCS teammate and classmate Emma Grace Hurley, who enters her junior season at Furman University.

Mansell is hoping to have an injury-free sophomore season at The Citadel. He has been participating in a summer conditioning program to prepare for the track seasons.

“I am looking forward to the season,” he said.

(Photo courtesy of The Citadel)

Red-Shirt Freshman: Jack Hardin to Battle Back from Shoulder Injury at Furman this Fall

Unfortunately Jack Hardin enters the Furman University football team’s preseason on the injured list.

The 2017 graduate of Fellowship Christian School tore the labrum on his right shoulder during the spring game. Hardin was a member of the Paladins’ scout team last fall, and was awarded a redshirt and extra year of eligibility. He was named to the SoCon Academic Honor Roll.

“It went really well,” Hardin said about his freshman season. “I red shirted, but I got hurt in the spring game. The doctors told me it was a six-month recovery time. I have not started throwing yet. I hope to get the clearance in early September [to begin practice]. My playing time this year depends on how my shoulder heals. I was working my way up the depth chart before the injury.”

One of six quarterbacks on the Furman roster, Hardin has been working out this summer with former FCS and current Furman teammate Reed Kroeber, who is switching to center this season. Hardin has been taking snaps from Kroeber, who is learning the art of the center position quickly this offseason.

Kroeber was a welcome sight for the new freshman.

“It was a good experience,” Hardin said about his first year of college. “It was hard not playing, but I knew it would be a learning experience. I have enjoyed being at Furman. It was brand new, but Reed helped. I was blessed to have him there. I was prepared for not playing, but I was not expecting an injury.”

Hardin, who also played basketball and soccer at FCS, was used to being busy in high school but his activity level ramped up at the Greenville, S.C., college.

“I was used to time management,” he said. “But you really have to balance your time as a college athlete. With meetings, workouts, practices, games, travel, four classes and school work, you’re pretty busy.”  

Hardin is part of a growing program that won eight games in 2017, and reached the second round of the league playoffs. The club finished 8-5 overall.

Furman opens the 2018 season at intrastate rival Clemson University on Sept. 1 at 12:20 p.m.

The Paladins are ranked 16th in Hero Sports Preseason Top 25 for FCS schools. Kroeber and Hardin will face former FCS teammates Clay Buchweitz (Samford University) and Ian Berryman (Western Carolina University) on the field this season.

Hardin, a two-year QB starter at FCS, led the Paladins to an 18-6 record in his two years at the helm of the Paladin offense from 2015-16. He led Fellowship to the GHSA Class A Private Championship Game, Region 6-A and sub-Region championships and a school-record 13-game win streak that season. The 2016 team finished with a single-season record 13-1 mark.

At FCS, Hardin also played strong safety and linebacker. He finished with 3,308 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,000 yards during his career at Fellowship.

In his senior campaign, Hardin threw for 1,774 yards and 24 TDs, ran for 754 yards and 16 scores. He received several honors that year, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-State Class A Private School Offensive Player of the Year Award, and the All-Region 6B Offensive Player of the Year Award. He was also selected for the North Fulton All-Classification First Team.

He is both a second-generation Furman athlete and college football player. His mom Nicki is a 1991 Furman graduate, and was the school’s track and field MVP in 1987. His father, Greg, played football at Murray State.

(Photo courtesy of Furman University)

 

Jake Williamson has had a pretty busy summer, highlighted by an opportunity to play soccer in South America.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School traveled to Brazil from May 28-June 6 with a team of NCAA Division III all-stars for four games against under-22 teams from Brazil in Jundial, Valinhos and Rio de Janeiro.

Williamson, FCS’ all-time leading soccer scorer with 150 career goals, was among a team of players from NCAA Division III schools who were recognized as All-Americans, All-Region or All-Conference athletes and selected for the trip. The 16 players on Williamson’s squad came from eight different schools and eight different states. His teammates from Berry College – senior Caleb Ford and junior Alec Jones – were also part of the squad that competed in Brazil.

“It was awesome,” Williamson said. “It was a great experience. The first two teams we played were two of the best teams I have played in my life. We went 2-2 overall, and we had some very tough games. It was an honor to be part of this opportunity. All the players there from our team and Brazil were very, very good.”

Williamson is coming off a very strong sophomore season at Berry. He scored six goals and assisted six others, tallied two game-winners, took 64 shots (30 were on goal) and started all 17 games for Berry College (8-8-1 overall and 3-3-1 in SAA play). Following the season, he was selected for the All-SAA First Team. He set career highs in goals, assists, points (18), game-winning tallies, games, starts, shots and shots on goal in 2017.  

“I thought we did really good last year,” Williamson said. “We’re still young, so we are really looking forward to next year. We had some bumps throughout the middle of the season last year. We went four or five games without a goal, but then we got on a roll later in the year. Personally I was happy with my season too. I was free from injuries and I started every game.”

The Vikings lost to Oglethorpe University in the SAA semifinals. Oglethorpe went on to win the league title and advance deep in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

In addition to his trip to Brazil, Williamson is working at Camp Highland for part of the summer and working with a local production company in Alpharetta that specializes in documentaries, short films and commercials. “It has been a good experience,” said Williamson, a communications major at Berry.

Williamson finished his Fellowship career with 150 goals and 45 assists, and helped the Paladins advance to the 2016 GHSA Class A Soccer Championships title game.

He brought plenty of talent to Rome, Ga., where he appeared in 14 games (four starts) as a collegiate freshman in 2016. He tallied five goals and collected an assist for the Vikings, who finished 10-9 overall that year and 3-4 in SAA contests. That season he took 24 shots, including nine on goal, and had one game-winning goal.

“I feel like I have figured out the college game, so I am really looking forward to this year,” Williamson said. “Our team dynamic has been working very well. We only had two seniors last year, and one is coming back [earned another year of eligibility due to injuries], so we’re returning pretty much the same team. We are excited.”

The Vikings open the season at the BSC Labor Day Classic in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 31-Sept. 2.

(Photo courtesy of Berry College)

Dariean Ward has completed her successful collegiate softball career believing the old adage that defense wins games.

“It went very well,” she said about her career at Lander University in Greenwood, S.C. “This year we made it to the conference tournament, and we made it past the first round. I wound not change [my experience] at Lander. It’s hard being a college athlete, and balancing it all but it was rewarding too. College sports help your mental focus stay sharp.”

Ward, a 2014 graduate of Fellowship Christian School, earned a bachelor’s degree in business-marketing management from Lander.

Eventually the Marietta native eyes a career in real estate, and a potential move back to the Atlanta area, but she is currently working in the office of a Greenwood company.

“It has been a very good experience for me,” she said.

Ward wrapped up a four-year career for the Lady Bearcats this spring, helping the club finish 32-18.

She played in 47 games, which matched her career high, and hit two home runs, smacked three doubles, drove in 15 runs – her second-highest season total at Lander – and scored 10 runs. But the infielder and utility player prides herself on her defense.

“Hitting numbers are important, but my defense was good this year,” Ward said. “I am proud of how I performed defensively over my final three years. It was consistent and helped our team win games and improve. I overcame my freshman year injury [being hit in the face with a batted ball], and wound up with a very good career.”

In 2018, she started 45 games and finished with four 2-hit games for the Lady Bearcats. She matched her career best for homers.

As a junior, Ward appeared in 38 games and made 33 starts. At the plate, she collected one double, two home runs and 12 RBIs.

She also scored six runs and belted a three-run walkoff homer in a 6-3 victory over Columbus State on March 24, 2017.

Arguably Ward’s best season at the plate came as a sophomore.

She appeared in all 47 games, made a career-best 46 starts and set career highs with 21 RBIs, two home runs, a team-leading 16 doubles, 25 runs and a .317 batting average.

On April 2, 2016, Ward finished with five hits, three RBIs and two runs during a doubleheader against Georgia Southwestern. She registered a career single-game best four hits against USC-Aiken on March 16, 2016. On March 14, 2016, she collected four hits, including three doubles, scored four times and drove in three more runs during a doubleheader against North Greenville.

As a freshman, Ward played in 40 games at Lander. She finished with one homer, 13, RBIs, six doubles and 15 runs. 

(Photo courtesy of the Lander University)

AJ Baumann has been part of the growth of the University of South Carolina’s beach volleyball team. The 2015 graduate of Fellowship Christian School has played on the Game Cock team for the past three years.

“We were one of eight teams to reach the NCAA Tournament last season,” Baumann said. “I have really enjoyed my time there. It’s been a real progression there. It’s very nice to have been part of the improvement.”

What’s the reason for the success?

“I would say a big part of our season last year was that our team bought into the mental aspect of the program,” she said. “We believed we could win. We had a couple of great recruiting years and our coaching staff is great, so we knew we could do well.”

In collegiate beach volleyball, two players are on the sand “court” at one time in a best-of-five match. Each school has one to five pairs on their roster during the season that runs from late February through May.

USC is part of the CCSA Conference, and is only one of two Southeastern Conference Schools to have a beach volleyball program (Louisiana State in the other). Baumann estimates that there are 60-70 beach volleyball programs around the country.

“We have high expectations for this season,” she said.

This summer, Baumann is working out to get ready for the season, and has an internship with a women’s clothing company called fab’rik. Her major at USC is fashion merchandising with a minor in business administration.

“It’s been a great experience,” Baumann said about her internship.

She feels the same way about her indoor volleyball career at Fellowship.

In her last season at FCS, Baumann helped lead the Lady Paladins to the GHSA Class Volleyball Championships Final Four.

“That was one of my favorite memories at FCS,” she said. “I always remember that season. It was a dream. We had an awesome ride to the Final Four. We had a great coach [Kirbie Wallace] and a terrific bunch of girls. We were good enough to win, but we believed in our team and we worked very hard to get that far. We also had an amazing group of fans. I remember the uniqueness and advantage we had at Paladin Gym. Our classmates came out to support us and were very vocal.”

In 2018, Baumann played in three duals during the exhibition season (including a 1-1 record with partner Caroline Skaff) for USC as a junior.

In her sophomore season, Baumann played in a match with Hannah Edelman in a loss to Jacksonville State on April 15, 2017. She played in six exhibition matches that year for the Lady Game Cocks. As a freshman, Baumann went 1-0 in match action and competed in three exhibition matches.

Scholastically, Baumann was named to the 2016-17 Spring SEC Academic Honor Roll and was placed on the CCSA 2015-16 Beach Academic Honor Roll during her collegiate career.

(Photo courtesy of the University of South Carolina)

Emma Grace Hurley had the distinction of holding the Furman University record time in the steeplechase for a while last spring.

The Fellowship Christian School graduate set her personal record and school record time of 10:06.35 during her sophomore season before the mark was eclipsed by her teammate at the NCAA East preliminaries. She battled through injuries and placed 23rd in the event at the NCAA Championships (10:18.97).

To say that Hurley has had a busy first two collegiate years at Furman is a bit of an understatement.

The former FCS standout and state champion ran cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track & field in the spring for both of her first two seasons. She enters her junior year at the Greenville, S.C., university in August.

“We don’t really have an offseason,” said Hurley, who is working fulltime this summer at Camp All-American at Perimeter Church. “I am still running 50 miles a week. I am probably busier over the summer [than during the school year]. I enjoy going to work more than class. Freshman year was a hard adjustment, but this year was very good. We worked together as a team, and it did not seem like we were competing against each other.”

Among Hurley’s highlights her sophomore year was the Paladin squad placing seventh at Nationals, and winning the conference title in indoor track.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better two years,” she said. “I really like Furman.”

Hurley plans to take a year off of outdoor track as a junior to have an opportunity to run outdoor track as a fifth-year senior. “I am looking towards the 2020 Olympic trials in the steeplechase,” she added.

Hurley is preparing for her third collegiate cross-country and indoor track seasons.

“We really want to place in the top four at nationals,” she said. “For me personally, I want to be an All-American in cross-country and indoor track.”

As a Furman freshman, Hurley set a new Paladin outdoor record in the 3,000 meters of 9:44.41 at the Tiger Outdoor Track Classic. She was named to the SoCon All Freshman team for cross country, indoor track (mile and 3,000) and outdoor track (3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000 meters).

“It seems like my freshman year was a really long time ago,” Hurley said. “A lot of high school you can get by natural talent. But you have to work much harder in college.”

(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Camaratti/Furman University)

Fellowship Christian School graduate Clay Buchweitz saw his first collegiate football action for the Samford University team last season, and is hoping for more time on the field in 2018.

“I am not 100% sure where I am on the depth chart,” the sophomore linebacker said. “But I played in one game last year and made two tackles. It was a great experience. I know that I am working as hard as I can to get on the field, and that I am playing linebacker again.”

The 2016 FCS graduate will have the opportunity to see some familiar faces on the field in 2018. Buchweitz will face former FCS teammates Reed Kroeber and Jack Hardin (Furman University) on Oct. 20, and Ian Berryman (Western Carolina University) on Oct. 6.

“It’s a blast to play against those guys,” Buchweitz said. “Reed and I graduated together. We always talk after the games. It’s fun to see them again.”

Buchweitz stayed in Birmingham, Ala., this summer to work out with his teammates and work for Magic City Wordworks. Buchweitz enters his redshirt sophomore season on the field and his junior year in the classroom with hopes for more playing time.

“It’s one of those things,” he said. “Everyone on the team has their job. I go out and compete for a job, but I also know my role on the scout team is important. I help our offense see the look that our opponent’s defense has. Everyone has a different style of defense, so we get them ready for it.”

The Bulldogs enter the season in the top 10 of the FCS polls.

“We have really built our program over the past two years,” Buchweitz said. “We made the playoffs the last two seasons. Obviously we want to make the playoffs and advance further this year.”

In 2017, the Bulldogs lost to Kennesaw State, 28-17, in the first round of the FCS playoffs. The team dropped a 38-24 decision to Youngstown State in the first round in 2016. Samford finished 8-5 last season, and was 7-5 in 2016.

Last season’s highlights for Buchweitz were games against the University of Georgia in Athens, and a road victory at Virginia Military Institute.

“Being on the field in that stadium [in Athens] was fun,” he said. “That was a fun trip. We had an 11-hour bus trip to VMI, and another back. And that was after we took care of business and won.”

In addition to helping grow the Samford program, Buchweitz had a similar opportunity in high school.

“I hope we made an impact,” Buchweitz said about his FCS senior class that went 5-5 and set the stage for a 13-1 season. “We lost four games by like a total of just 12 points as seniors. The next year, the pace picked up and the program really grew. You could it coming though. It was a progression there from my freshman to senior years.”

He fondly recalls his Fellowship career.

“There are a whole list of great memories,” Buchweitz said. “I remember my interception against Christian Heritage, and that we beat Riverside Military Academy and our defense held them to less than 100 years of offense.”

(Photo courtesy of Samford University)

 

Soccer has been a big part of the summer break for Megan Hudgens.

The junior to be at the University of Alabama-Birmingham is participating in her school’s off-season strength and conditioning program and also has found the time to play for the MOBA Soccer Academy team of Peachtree City that competes in The Women’s Premiere Soccer League.

The WPSL “strives to provide the highest level of development opportunities for amateur players in the United States. Entering its 21st season, the WPSL has grown to more than 100 clubs and is the largest women’s soccer league in the world,” according to the league’s website. It does not affect a player’s college eligibility.

“It has been a good experience,” said the 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian school. “Our team has different college players from all around. We play teams from Nashville and Memphis. Our home games are in Peachtree City.”

She entered this offseason coming off a very successful sophomore soccer season at UAB.

In 2017, Hudgens helped the Lady Blazers to a 13-4-3 record and a berth in the Conference USA Tournament. She finished second on the club with a career-high 19 points, shared second with seven goals and was tied for first on the team with five assists. Her 33 shots shared third on the Lady Blazers. Her goal and assist totals were career bests. She suited up for a career-high 20 games.

UAB kicks off the season against Jacksonville State on Aug. 12 at 1 p.m.

“It was a great season,” Hudgens said about 2017. “We had a new coach and we did a lot better. We had a new team atmosphere and got better and better as the season went on. This year, we look to grow on that improvement. I want to score more goals and become even more of a leader.” 

As a freshman in 2016, Hudgens led UAB with 11 points. She played in all 17 games and shared the team lead with four goals and was second with three assists. She topped the squad with a career-best 36 shots and 22 shots on goal.

“I have found a good balance of school and soccer at UAB,” said Hudgens, a finance major. “I love the game, the school and the girls on the team.”

One of her biggest highlights for UAB this season was scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over the University of Alabama during the spring season. 

(Photo courtesy of University of Alabama-Birmingham)

 

Reed Kroeber has already shown his versatility during the early years of his collegiate football career.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School enters his redshirt sophomore season (and third academic year) at Furman University with an eye on the starting center position. It’s his third position on the offensive line for the Paladins since starting 13 games at left tackle or right guard as a redshirt freshman last fall.

“It was really a neat year for me,” Kroeber said. “My first year was tough as a freshman not playing at all, but then getting to start 13 games last year and being a contributor on the field was a big deal. We had a rough start at 0-3, but we finished 8-5 and beat Elon in the first round of the playoffs.”

The Paladins, who open the 2018 season at intrastate rival Clemson University on Sept. 1 at 12:20 p.m., fell to Wofford College in the second round of the playoffs in 2017.

“Last year I played left tackle and right guard, and I played there in spring practice,” the 6-foot-4, 284-pound lineman said. “But this summer the coaches told me I need to plan to play center. This is a new thing.”

Kroeber has been practicing taking snaps this summer with Furman redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Hardin, a name familiar to FCS fans. Hardin led Fellowship to the state title game in 2016, graduated from the school in 2017 and was redshirted as a freshman at the South Carolina school last fall.

“Jack has been helping me,” Kroeber said. “He’s helping me get used to snapping the ball. It’s different kind of offensive line transition than from guard to tackle or tackle to guard. I have never played center before. But it’s good to be able to play multiple positions on the line.”

It’s actually very good for job security for the former FCS football and basketball star.

He received several accolades following the 2017 season. Kroeber, a member of the SOCON All Freshman team, was named first team offense for the HERO Sports Freshman All-American team, and was picked for second team offense for the Phil Steele Freshman All-American Team. As a note, there are 124 FCS teams across the country.

Furman is ranked 16th in Hero Sports Preseason Top 25 for FCS schools.

“Our goal is always to win the Southern Conference championship,” Kroeber said. “If we do that then we’ll make the playoffs. Personally I want to play as much as I can and contribute.”

Kroeber and Hardin will face former FCS teammates Clay Buchweitz (Samford University) and Ian Berryman (Western Carolina University) on the field this season.

(Photos courtesy of Furman University)

 

Fellowship Christian School graduate Marshall Kent accomplished something last season that very few avid golfers, not to mention weekend duffers, attain.

On March 26, 2018, Kent made Covenant College golf history by becoming the first Scot to record a hole-in-one during a competitive round when he aced the par-3, 11th hole at Wynlakes Golf & Country Club during the Wynlakes Collegiate hosted by Huntington College in Montgomery, Ala.

“I used a 4-iron on the 192-yard hole, and the ball landed on the front of the green and rolled in,” he said. “It was a super cool experience.”

Kent, who graduated from FCS in 2015, played in all seven team events as a junior for the Scots in 2017.  He finished seventh – his best finish of the year – at the Eagle Invitational with a 161, that included a first-round 74. He finished third on the team with a scoring average of 82.13.

As he enters his senior year with the Scots, Kent has set his sights on consistency.

“It was a crazy spring this season,” he said. “I played a lot, but was not consistent. I played a few good rounds this season, but I want t be better. I was inconsistent in both our fall and spring seasons. It was a weird pattern of good rounds and then bad rounds.”

Kent is working on his game as he prepares to participate in the US Amateur tournament qualifier this summer being hosted by Jennings Mill Country Club in Watkinsville, Ga. The top six performers move on to sectionals.

“I am looking to enjoy it,” Kent said of the summer practice rounds, the qualifier and his upcoming senior season at Covenant. “It’ll be a fun year. We’ll be a much better team this year. I believe we will be more competitive.”

Kent will have four roommates this season, including two freshmen. That allows him to take on a mentor role that he enjoys. “They are the future of Covenant golf,” he said. “I look forward to helping them adjust to college and college golf.

As a sophomore, he carded his career-low college round of 70 at the Piedmont Fall Invitational. He wound up tied for second with a two-round 147 (his career-best 36-hole tourney total), and earned all-tourney honors.

That season he finished with three top-10 finishes. His 70 at Piedmont wound up being the team’s low round of the season. He also had three of the team’s lowest individual scores of the season.

In 2015-16, Kent played in all seven events for Covenant. In his first collegiate event, he shared sixth at the Piedmont event with a season-low 152 (79-73). He made the all-tournament team. He carded two 73s on the season, including the second-round score at Piedmont and during October’s Chick-fil-A Collegiate.

(Photos Courtesy of Covenant College)

National Champion: Bryant Has Memorable 2017 Season at Alabama

The 2017 college football season will not be one that Hunter Bryant will soon forget.

The 2014 Fellowship Christian School graduate saw his first collegiate football game action for the National Champion University of Alabama football team this past fall, and also helped the Tide capture its second national championship in three years.

On Nov. 18, 2017, Bryant played in his first collegiate game during his fourth and final walk-on season with the Crimson Tide in a 56-0 victory over Mercer University on senior day in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“It was pretty surreal,” Bryant said about game day against Mercer. “The day of the game came, and none of us [senior walk-ons] knew if we would get on the field. We talked about it, but we didn’t know. You’re nervous, and not sure if you’ll get in. But I finally had the chance to play. I’ll never forget that feeling of accomplishment.”

Bryant, who earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing in three years at Alabama, enters his fifth year at the school this fall in pursuit of his MBA with a concentration in finance.

“It’s the first summer away from football,” he said. “I’ll be interning with the Atlanta Falcons during training camp before I head back to school. It’ll be nice to see my former teammate Calvin Ridley at camp, and see how he does.”

Bryant has had time to reflect on his college career.

“It’s a little sad to see it coming to a close,” Bryant said. “But I am ready. All my friends have graduated, so I’ll be a lone wolf in Tuscaloosa. Pretty soon it’ll be time to get a real job!”

Bryant no longer looks back at his decision to forgo an opportunity to play and probably star at Division III Berry College for the opportunity to play for coaching legend Nick Saban at Alabama as a four-year walk-on.

“I probably could have started at Berry for four years,” Bryant said. “But I love Tuscaloosa. For a couple of years I wondered. It was tough at times [not playing], but truly I maximized my time there. I love the people there. The size of the campus was intimidating at first, but it’s like home now. I have had a blast there. My senior year made it all worth it. We won two national championships and made it to three title games in four years. But probably my second year I realized my purpose on the team was not to be a star, but to support the guys on the team. It really strengthened my faith. I know what God’s purpose was for me at Alabama.”

Now it’s time for Bryant to become a football spectator, and watch his younger brother grow on the football field at Fellowship.

“Our family is all so proud of Brooksie,” Bryant said. “He really has done so well at quarterback at FCS. I look forward to coming home to watch him play this year.”

 

 

 

As Ian Berryman enters his fifth season with the University of Western Carolina football team, he is taking his future in stride.

“Everybody thinks about it heading into their fifth season,” Berryman said about an opportunity to play in the NFL. “But my focus is on the season, and being the best punter I can be. If the NFL comes, it comes. This summer I am focused on being in the best shape I can be. I want to be prepared for teams looking at me, but really I want to help my team win football games.”

Berryman, who is spending the summer in Atlanta working out a sports performance gym, reports back to Western Carolina on Aug. 3 for practice that begins the next day.

For the second consecutive season, Berryman has received preseason honors. Recently, the 2014 graduate of FCS was selected as the second team punter on the HERO Sports 2018 FCS Preseason All-American team.

Prior to the 2017 season, Berryman was selected as a preseason All-American by STATS FCS, and was named to the 2017 Athlon Sports and College Sports Madness All-American team. Also that year, Lindy’s Sports selected Berryman as a Preseason First Teamer, and league coaches named him as an All-Southern Conference Preseason First Team Selection.

Last season, Berryman helped the Catamounts to a 7-5 season. He punted 58 times for a career-best 2,578 yards, an average of 44.4 yards per boot. Berryman’s punts topped 50 yards 17 times in 2017, including a long of 62 yards. He finished with a career-high 26 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line.

In 2017, Berryman went 1-for-3 on field goal-attempts and was 1-for-1 on extra-point kicks to notch his first four collegiate points.

“I had the opportunity to punt, place kick and kick off,” Berryman said. “It was a fun season. We went 7-5, but a couple of games could have gone either way. Overall it was a great season, and the seniors and I are working hard to finish strong. We want to win that Southern Conference Championship.”

The Catamounts kick off the season against Newberry on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at home in Cullowhee, N.C.

As a sophomore, WCU struggled to a 2-9 record but Berryman set a career bests with a 44.9 punting average and 19 boots that topped 50 yards. The Catamounts finished 7-4 in 2015 and Berryman averaged 43.7 yards per punt as a redshirt freshman, including his career best kick that covered 65 yards. He did not play as a true freshman in 2014 when the Catamounts finished 7-5.

“We have won seven games three times since I have been here,” Berryman said. “We’re in every game we play, and always have a never-say-die attitude. It’s a great place to play football, go to school and develop lifelong friendships. It’s exciting for all these preseason accolades, but I want to help us win football games the most. Winning football games is something that I can talk about for 15 or 20 years. This next year will be fun. We will have the opportunity to play Carolina again in Chapel Hill.”

Among the 2017 highlights for Berryman was playing against the University of North Carolina, and at the University of Hawaii at Aloha Stadium, the site of the NFL Pro Bowl.

“Getting to play at a venue like that was awesome,” he said. “And I scored my first college points in that game [a 41-18 loss to open the season]. It was also memorable to beat Samford, 38-34, on the last play of the game [Sept. 23, 2017].”

Berryman has certainly bulked up during his career with the Catamounts.

“It’s interesting to think I came here as a 6-foot, 170-pound freshman,” he said. “Now I am around 205 and continue to train to get into the best shape of my career.”

During his WCU career, Berryman has kicked to the NFL Rookie of the Year, first-round draft picks and NFL players. Now hopefully he’ll have the opportunity to have his name called on NFL Draft Day in the spring of 2019.

(Action Photo Courtesy of Catamount Sports Blog)

 

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine's attempt to qualify for the 2018 Olympics came up just a little bit short as she failed to qualify for fifth World Cup Race of the season.

Following a 15th place finish in a Nation's Cup race in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Dec. 15, Germaine did not reach the next day's World Cup race that may have ended her 2018 Olympic hopes.

Although Germaine didn't make the Olympic Team, she has been selected as the official Olympic Women's Luge Alternate. This position requires she slide the 30-day period prior to the Olympics. She will continue to train and maintain her focus on her original goal of 2022 in Beijing, China.

"Her start [for the last run on Dec. 15] was safe and adequate, but when she hit the entrance to curve 7, her sled climbed the curve and went into a skid," said Bob Germaine, Raychel's father. "She had a similar issue in curve 18. As Raychel reflected on what went wrong, she didn't feel she missed a drive, so all she could conclude is that she made her steels too sharp during preparation. Ironically, she thought going sharper would be safer. That one issue in curve 7 marked the end of her quest to make the 2018 Olympic Team. To say she was devastated is an understatement. She came into this season with such confidence and optimism, but it proved to be an uphill struggle all year.

"Thank you all for your continued prayers and well wishes. Although one might consider the prayers not to be answered, I know they were answered, but in God's own way. She has just gone through one of the most stressful and challenging experiences in her life, but she pushed through each trial with a stronger and stronger attitude. I'm so very proud of her, and all she has accomplished."

(Photo -- USA Luge)

 

Fellowship Christian School graduates Ian Berryman and Reed Kroeber have both received post-season Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) honors.

Berryman, a junior punter and kicker at Western Carolina University, was named to the Second Team of the Associated Press All-America Squad as a punter. Berryman punted 58 times this season or 2,578 yards, an average of 44.4 yards per kick. He downed 26 of his punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, and had only two punts blocked all season. As a place kicker, Berryman went 1-for-3 in field-goal attempts, and made his only extra-point attempt of the season. He also completed a team-high 25 kickoffs for 1,368 yards.

Click on this story for more information about Berryman's honor.

Furman University offensive lineman Reed Kroeber has been named to the 2017 Hero Sports FCS Freshman All-America Team.

Kroeber, a 6-foot-4, 284-pound redshirt freshman from Roswell, Ga., earned starts in all 13 games this past season at Furman. Kroeber started the first three games at left tackle and final 10 at right guard for the Paladins. Click on this article for more information about the Freshman All-America Team.

He played a total 752 plays for the Paladins this season, and earned SoCon All-Freshman Team honors as well. To read more about Kroeber's season, please click on this link.

(Photos courtesy of WCU, Furman)

 

Six recent Fellowship Christian School graduates recently received accolades during their fall sports seasons.

A punter on the Western Carolina University football team, junior Ian Berryman was named First Team All-Southern Conference (SoCon). Click here to read the school's release.

Freshman soccer player player Mackenzie Gibbs was named to the Sun Belt Conference Women's Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team for Coastal Carolina University.

Sophomore Emma Grace Hurley helped Furman University's woman's cross country squad place seventh in the recent NCAA Championships.

An offensive lineman on Furman's football team, Reed Kroeber was selected for the SoCon All-Freshman Team. Click on this link to read the Furman release.

A freshman soccer player at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Megan Hudgens has been placed on the Conference USA All-Academic First Team presented by InTouch Credit Union. See the school's release for more information.

Berry College sophomore Jake Williamson was named Southern Athletic Association First Team All-Conference in men's soccer.

(Photos submitted by UAB, WCU and Furman)

FCS Grad Megan Hudgens Honored by Conference USA

Fellowship Christian School graduate Megan Hudgens has been selected All-Academic First Team by Conference USA.

As a freshman at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Hudgens earned a 4.0 grade point average in finance and on the field became one of the biggest Conference USA scoring threats. Hudgens, a native of Alpharetta, Ga., is a 2016 graduate of FCS.

She ranked second on the Lady Blazers with 19 points (seven goals and a team-leading five assists). She started all 20 games at forward and helped UAB notch 21 more goals than during the previous season. As a team, the Lady Blazers finished 7-2-1 in conference games and 13-4-3 overall for one of the best seasons in school history.

(Photo courtesy of UAB)

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine took one step closer to making her first Olympic team after being one of four women named to the 2018 World Cup Team by USA Luge. The selections were made following the Norton Seeding Race held Nov. 5 at the 2018 Olympic Track in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Team USA will announce the 10-member team competing in the 2018 Olympics, being held PyeongChang, South Korea, following the five-race World Cup circuit that wraps up Dec. 16. The first race is being held in Igls, Austria later this month.

Team USA’s Olympic squad will feature three men, three women and two doubles teams. The women’s four-member World Cup Team includes 2014 Olympians Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher.

“Raychel’s race did not go so well [in South Korea],” said her father, Bob Germaine. “She did not have a single clean run through curve 9. She ended up in fifth place, but the junior athlete competing against her for the fourth spot, ended up in fourth place. This created a tie between Raychel and the junior and forced the selection to follow the Olympic Team Selection process. According to the process, the tie breaker was based on the performance at the first race in Whistler. In that race, Raychel finished ahead of the junior in both runs. It wasn’t how she wanted to do it, but the outcome was in her favor.” After six more days of training at PyeongChang, the Americans head off to Igls, Austria.

(Photo submitted by Bob Germaine)

 

 

Raychel Germaine, who spent several days training with the United States Luge team at Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, and is hoping to secured a spot on the Team USA Senior Luge squad and take a step toward qualifying for the 2018 Olympics.

In what’s known as the fastest track on the circuit, the former Fellowship Christian School student wrapped up a week of training with a fourth-place finish at the first United States seeding race of the year this past weekend (Oct. 14-15). The second leg was held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She recently finished training in Lillehammer, Norway.

“For those who have been following her career, Raychel has always been fighting for sports due to her small stature,” said her father Bob Germaine, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. “I cannot think of an athlete who has had her luge career on the line for more races than my daughter has. But what makes it even more challenging is the fact that it’s an Olympic year.”

Germaine did feel some extra pressure heading into the first seeding race.

“The prospect of making the Olympic team has a way of adding even more pressure,” Germaine said. “We encouraged her to enjoy the moment, lean on her Savior and keep God as the focal part of her journey.”

It has worked so far as Germaine prepares for the next leg of the three-race trials to be held in Lake Placid, N.Y. (an Olympic format with four runs over two days).

Germaine was in fourth place following the first two runs, including as personal-best time of 39.403 seconds in her second run of the day to hold fourth place by a mere 0.15 of a second. She had two more runs to hold down fourth place.

In her final runs of the seeding race, she hit just under 81 miles per hour and wound up fourth overall.

 

This is Germaine’s ninth season in luge.

Fellowship grad Emily Sonnett helped the Portland Timbers capture their second Women’s National Soccer League championship. She set up the game-winning goal in the title game played against the North Carolina Courage on Oct. 14.

The team claimed the title in the league’s inaugural season in 2013.

Fellowship Christian School graduate Jake Williamson, a current sophomore soccer player at Berry College, has been named the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career, as announced by the league office.

Williamson, Fellowship's all-time leading soccer scorer, netted two goals and had two assists last week. He was also a standout football player and kicker for the Paladins.

 

Despite a pair of part-time jobs this summer in Big Canoe, Ga., Fellowship Christian School graduate Marshall Kent has managed some valuable time to work on his golf game.

“I have put in some good hours on the golf course,” said Kent, who enters his third year on the Covenant College Division III golf team this fall. “I have been busy, working two jobs for about 40 hours a week and also on my game.”

 

The Scots will kick off the fall season against Brevard College, and will have a full slate of matches this fall and spring. The squad will compete in 8-10 invitational matches that will feature tournament fields of 5-10 schools, including an opportunity to potentially close out the season at a California tournament.

 

Kent played in all 10 tournaments for the Scots in 2016-17. He shared second and earned all-tournament honors at the Piedmont Fall Invitational with a two-day score of 147 (70-77).

“I am excited to play at Piedmont again this fall,” he said. “That’s the tournament where I did the best last year. I was two-under par on the first day there.”

Kent has been pretty aggressive with his goals heading into his junior season at the Lookout Mountain, Ga., institution.

“There are a lot of them,” he said. “One is to finish under par for a tournament. That gets you a long way in Division III golf. It’s only been done twice in Covenant College history. I’d also like to set the single-season scoring average record of 74 and single round score of 68. If I want to shoot 73 or better for a season average, then there’s no room for rounds in the 80s.”

As a sophomore, Kent owned three of the top 10 scores by Covenant golfers in 2016-17, including the team’s best score of the season (two-under 70 at Piedmont).

The 6-foot Kent also notched three top-10 finishes on the year for the Scots, including 10th place with a 165 (84-81) at the Reeder Cup. He also shared 40th in the Wynlakes Intercollegiate with a two-round total of 154 (78-76).

“My [sophomore season] got off to a hot start,” he said. “The Piedmont tournament was a highlight. It was a good season. I had to show frit and determine to score well, especially with my driving. When you aren’t hitting fairways consistently, you need to hit your other shots well. I have been working on that. I am super, super competitive, so I want improve my game.”

The Scots are counting on Kent hitting good shots all season long.

“With two freshmen coming in and several sophomores, I want to be a good leader this year,” Kent said. “We have a lot of drive on this team. We will be ready.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Covenant College)

Jake Williamson has always had a knack for finding the net in soccer, and even kicking game-winning field goals in American Football.

So while he felt ready for college soccer at Berry College in Rome, Ga., he now realizes staying healthy is the key for the college level as it relates to playing time. More playing time also equates to more opportunities to score more goals.

“It had a lot of ups and downs,” Williamson said about his freshman year. “It took a little bit [to get used to the college game]. It’s a lot faster, a little different and more intense. I felt behind at first, but then I got the hang of it.”

Enough to tally five goals and notch one assist in 14 games for the Vikings. He actually earned four starts, and wound up with 24 shots (including nine on goal).

Williamson, who had 150 goals and 45 assists during his high school career at Fellowship, lost three weeks of practice time and missed five games due to a pulled hamstring and then later suffered an injured ankle.

“I am really excited more about this year,” he said. “The coaches have said I could have a key role this year. I want to stay healthy and be away from injuries. I see an opportunity for more playing time.”

The Vikings finished 3-4 in SAA conference play in 2016, and finished 10-9 overall.

“This year we want to win conference and get to nationals,” Williamson said.

Berry opens the 2017 campaign with a trip to California for the UC Santa Cruz Tournament on Sept. 1 and 3. The Vikings face Pacific (Oregon) on Sept. 1, and will battle the host school on Sept. 3.

It will be Williamson’s second trip to California since his freshman season ended.

In June, Williamson participated in a California camp with Athletes in Action, an organization that teaches college athletes of all sports and levels how to integrate faith into sports with spiritual truths and focal points.

“It teaches you how to look at college sports differently,” Williamson said. “It was a terrific experience.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Berry College)

 

Fellowship Christian School graduate Chad Davenport helped the Wheaton College football program reach some pretty good heights during his four years at the Illinois school located 40 miles west of Chicago.

“It was a very good experience at Wheaton,” Davenport said. “We made the playoffs three out of my four years there. My class was the winningest in Wheaton history.”

NCAA Division III Wheaton was a good academic and athletic fit for Davenport, who will wrap up his degree in Christian education and ministry this summer. “I’d really like to go into ministry,” Davenport said.

“It was a very great place for me,” Davenport said. “It’s a unique community, where I actively pursued my faith. The typical type of person who goes to Wheaton is probably not your typical college student. Which I think is a good thing. Faith and growing your relationship with God are very important there.”

Davenport, a two-way lineman at Fellowship, split his career on the offensive and defensive lines at Wheaton. He spent two years on the offensive line before transitioning to the defensive line in time for the playoffs his sophomore year.

FCS prepared Davenport well for college, athletically and academically.

“I learned at Fellowship that I needed to work hard at practice, but also on my own to get better,” he said. “Guys like myself, Jacob Miller and Conor Linneen really put in the effort after practice.”

On the academic side, Davenport felt prepared for the rigorous Wheaton class schedule.

“I also knew I had to actively make time for school,” he said. “Some schools have mandatory tutoring and study halls, but not at Wheaton. It’s a hard school, and they expect you to get the work done on your own. Their message to athletes and all students is don’t neglect your school work. If you don’t get it done, they can easily find another athlete to take your place.”

What advice does Davenport have for high school students and fellow Fellowship graduates heading to college football?

“Don’t go into with a big head, or think that you are God’s gift to the game of football,” he said. “You are very much a big fish in a small pond [at FCS], and when you reach that level the expectations are high. Essentially playing high school football teaches you the value of hard work, so you’ll need to take that work ethic with you to college.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Wheaton College).

The 2016-17 season is one that Fellowship Christian School graduate Grant Kierpa might like to forget about.

The pitcher struggled on the mound for the Covenant College baseball team.

"It was not my best year," Kierpa said of his sophomore campaign. "It was a combination of things. I think I was a little bit complacent after a good freshman year, and then I had issues with my mechanics."

Kierpa made 11 appearances with four starts in 2016-17, finishing with a 0-4 record, one save and an ERA of 10.68. Kierpa fanned 11 batters 30.1 innings. He struck out a season-high four batters in a loss to Maryville College on March 4, 2017.

The team struggled a bit too.

The Scots finished 14-24 overall, including a 6-12 conference mark.

"As a team we did not play that well either," Kierpa said. "It was a tough year. I was not throwing a lot of strikes, which made me lose my confidence. It kind of snowballed."

As a freshman, Kierpa posted a 2-0 record and recorded one save in seven games, including five starts for the Scots. The club finished 23-17 overall, including a 9-8 conference mark. Kierpa struck out 11, walked seven and allowed 18 hits in 28.1 innings.

He was even named USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Week for March 21, 2016.

"I am working hard this summer to work my way back into the rotation," Kierpa said. "I started throwing with my old pitching coach [Chance Beam] two weeks ago, and I already feel a lot better. He told me, 'let's get back to basics,' and he went over everything with me. I can feel my confidence coming back."

The 6-foot, 165-pound Kierpa said he and his teammates are focused on getting better and finishing with a much better record this season.

"We'll set our team goals after our fall practices," he said. "But our senior short stop received a medical red shirt and is coming back. That's a huge help and will benefit the team. For me, my main goal is to pitch better. I don't want to give anything away. I want to keep hitters honest. I am working hard this summer to make that happen."

Kierpa is majoring in history with a minor in business at the Lookout Mountain, Ga., school.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Covenant College)

Conor Linneen showed great patience during his Division III collegiate football career at Centre College.

After spending three years as a key special teams performer and defensive backfield backup, Linneen finally earned a starting role in the defensive backfield as a senior in the fall of 2016. He hung on tight, especially after a shaky first start.

"After our first game, the coaches pulled me aside and said we may start someone else next week," Linneen said. "But I got to work, and had the best week of practice in my career, and got the start in week two. I made 12 tackles and had an interception that next game. I hung on to the starting job the rest of the year."

Linneen, who earned an economics degree with a minor in political science from the Danville, Kent., school this spring, eyes a career in business on the analytical side.

"It went very well," the Fellowship Christian School graduate said about his senior year. "Other than my first game, it was very good. We went 8-2 and were second in our conference [Southern Athletic Association]. I led the team in tackles, was honorable mention All Conference and was voted on as most improved player by my teammates."

The Colonels only losses in 2016 came against Rome, Ga.'s Berry College (21-19 on Nov. 12) and at Hendrix College in Arkansas (35-28 on Oct 1). Linneen finished with 55 tackles, including 30 solo stops and 25 assists. He registered 5.5 tackles per contest overall, and 5.8 tackles per conference game.

What was Linneen's favorite accomplishments in college football?

"The most improved player award," he said. "That's my favorite! They recognized me after I waited my turn to start. It was awesome."

Linneen will also cherish the opportunity to have played college football and being part of the Colonels for four years. He'll take what he learned on the football field to the business world.

"My background in football will help me in the world," he said. "Being part of a team is important to your personal development. The team is more important than any individual. Plus you learn to overcome adversity. When you get knocked down, it's how you respond that counts."

Football helped Linneen develop his work ethic and a positive attitude.

"Taking care of your own business is important to being part of a team," he said. "Everyone has to trust each other and do their job to be successful. You have to learn to work hard and accomplish your goals."

 

(Photos courtesy of Frank Linneen, and Centre College)

Fellowship Christian School graduate was the typical freshman at Samford University last fall during his first year in NCAA FCS.

“I practiced with the team, dressed out for the home games, but I couldn’t step on the field during games, or I’d lose my red shirt,” said the young linebacker from FCS. “It was an awesome first year. I loved the program, my teammates and coaches.”

An offensive lineman and linebacker at Fellowship, Buchweitz was ready for college.

“Fellowship prepared me well for the field and the classroom,” he said. “It’s a tough schedule though. It’s super strict, especially with fall and spring practices, meetings and working out.”

Buchweitz learned a lot practicing with Samford’s linebacker corps last season.

“I learned the basics at Fellowship,” Buchweitz said. “I was on the right path, but I had to learn the formations and the plays.”

Buchweitz, a sports administration major with a double minor in political science and marketing, is hoping to reach the field for the Bulldogs this fall.

“I’d like to make the travel squad,” he said. “I am working my way up the ladder, and that would give me more opportunities to play. I’d love to play on special teams too.”

With two seniors in front of him, Buchweitz “is working my tail off this summer” to be prepared for fall camp in August.

Samford opens the season at home against Kennesaw State on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. Buchweitz will face two former FCS teammates in Southern Conference matchups at Western Carolina University (Ian Berryman) on Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m., and at home against Furman University (Reed Kroeber) on Nov. 18 at 3 p.m.

 

(Photos courtesy of the Samford University)

Hunter Bryant, who earned his undergraduate degree in marketing in just three years of college, enters his fourth season as a preferred walk-on with the University of Alabama football team.

 

The 6-foot-5 Bryant has plenty of happy memories during his time as part of the storied Crimson Tide program.

Bryant, a 2014 graduate of Fellowship Christian School, has been a part of one national championship team, three Southeastern Conference title squads and has won the Cotton Bowl and the Peach Bowl with the Tuscaloosa school. The Tide fell just a little bit short in the national title game in January to Clemson.

“It’s been the hardest of three years,” Bryant said. “With the level of competition in practice every day, the training and all the hard work [in football and in school], it’s not been easy. But it’s been an experience I would not have traded for anything.”

Bryant, a three-sport star at FCS, has been a part of quite a collegiate football program under the direction of legendary coach Nick Saban, a former walk on himself.

“Training with guys every day who wind up playing in the NFL has been amazing,” he said. “Coach Saban and his staff are incredible. You really learn what to expect from yourself [being part of one of the top NCAA Division I programs].”

Managing practices, workouts, travel and away games on the way to accomplishing his degree in just three years is a testament to the dedication Bryant possesses.

“It feels hard to believe I accomplished that,” Bryant said. “At FCS I loaded up on AP classes, which helped. My teachers there also helped me be very prepared for college. All that has worked out in my favor.”

Bryant, who enters his first year of a two-year MBA program this fall, enters his final year of eligibility at the Tuscaloosa, Ala., school hoping for a shot at taking the field with the Tide. Fall camp for the Crimson Tide starts Aug. 4.

“I have given it my all,” he said. “It will be bittersweet when it’s over. I have been part of a team since I was four, and am so used to being part of the locker room. It’s been incredible to be part of this team for four years.”

The Tide open the season against Florida State on Sept. 2.

“It will be a dangerous game for us,” he said. “They are a potential national championship contending team. It’ll be a tough matchup.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Kevin Bryant and the University of Alabama)

Emma Grace Hurley’s first year in college included plenty of running.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School competed in cross country, indoor track and out track & field for NCAA Division I Furman University.

“It was an interesting adjustment in the first semester,” said Hurley, who began her track career as a fifth grader at Fellowship. “The second semester was easier. We only had about a week off between the seasons. We all run on all three teams.”

Hurley, who started cross county as a freshman at Fellowship, had her best college results in cross country.

“I had the most success at cross country individually,” she said. “As a team we won conference and placed fourth in regionals.”

The Furman squad was “close” to going to nationals – only five points out. “It was close,” Hurley said. “It’s the difference of about five places, or between 1-2 seconds a runner.”

Hurley, who won three GHSA Class A championships during her scholastic career, was among six freshman runners at Furman.

“Such strong competition [in college],” Hurley said when asked about the biggest difference in the next level. “Top state performers in high school can find it tough to place in the top 50-100 in college races. We are not used to that much talent or pace every race. I even placed 170th in one race. I know I was sick, but I still did not run a good race that day.”

A strong performance at conference, and good performance at Southeast Regional “was a huge breakthrough for me” were among Hurley’s season highlights, she said.

Her goals entering the cross country season are to win conference with the team, qualify for NCAA meet and finish among the top 10 schools in the nation.

“All my goals are for cross country,” Hurley said. “I have not thought about track yet.”

In the Eye Opener Invitational held on Sept. 2, 2016, Hurley placed third in 5K at 17:57.5 for her highest finish of the cross country season. She tied that finish with third place at the SoCon Championships 5K at 16:55.4 on Oct. 29, 2016.

In indoor track, Hurley’s best finish came at the mile trials at the SoCon Championships on Feb. 25 (second place with a time of 5:04.78). She was fifth in the finals (4:57.6).

On April 8 during the outdoor track & field season, Hurley placed second in the 3,000 meters at the Tiger Track Classic (9:44.4). She notched a time of 17:02.9 to claim second in the 5,000 meters at the SoCon Championships on May 11.

 

Furman’s cross country team kicks off the 2017 season on Sept. 2 at the Eye Opener Invitational in Spartanburg, S.C. The Furman Invitational is slated for Sept. 10.

Reed Kroeber enters the Furman University fall football training camp with an opportunity to win a starting role on the Paladin offensive line.

Kroeber, who earned a red shirt as a true freshman in 2016, has spent the last month training and building up his conditioning at Furman in preparation for the upcoming fall training camp.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School did not play as a true freshman.

“It was good [first year at Furman,” Kroeber said about his first year at the Greenville, S.C., school. “Football wise, I had a learning curve. It was a big adjustment going up against guys in practice who were All Region and All State. Playing against those guys is a challenge. But I really, really like Furman. The class sizes are similar to Fellowship, and it’s not too far from home.”

Kroeber’s confidence grew after a successful spring camp under new head coach Clay Hendrix, a long-time Air Force Academy assistant and Furman graduate, and his staff, that includes Air Force Academy graduate Peter Lusk as offensive line coach.

“Right now I have a good outlook,” Kroeber said. “I had a pretty good spring, and I know I will compete for a job in fall camp.”

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Kroeber worked out at left tackle and guard this spring. He played right tackle at Fellowship.

“We only retained two coaches [from last year’s staff],” Kroeber said. “I have a different line coach. Coach Lusk is a former player under our new head coach. It’s been great [under the new coaching staff]. Coach Hendrix was an offensive line coach for 30 years, so he’s heavily involved with the line and the offense. All of the guys really like him.”

Furman finished 3-8 last season, but is looking to turn it around.

“We had a tough opening six games last year,” Kroeber said. The Paladins started 0-6, but went 3-2 over the final five contests.

The Paladins will face a pair of Kroeber’s former FCS teammates this season in the Southern Conference: at Western Carolina University on Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m. (Ian Berryman) and in Birmingham against Samford University (Clay Buchweitz) on Nov. 18 at 3 p.m.

 

Furman kicks off the season at Wofford College in nearby Spartanburg, S.C. on Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. The Paladins face Elon University in the home opener in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 9 at 1 p.m.

 

Fellowship Christian School graduate Dariean Ward is heading into her fourth and final season as a member of the Lander University softball team in a few short weeks.

The Lady BearCats play a short three-week fall season, and have a full season scheduled in the spring.

“We lost a lot of our outfield, but we do have a good mix of recruits and returners,” said Ward, who graduated from FCS in 2014. “We did not make the conference tournament last year, but we hope to reach it this year. We want to build on last year.”

Ward, the returning starter at third base, helped Lander post a 21-29 record in 2017, including a 12-10 home record and a 9-15 conference mark in Peachbelt contests.

Ward, who was hit by a line drive in practice during her sophomore season, battled back to start 33 contests and play in 38 games as a junior. She scored six runs and collected one double, matched her career high with two home runs and finished with 12 RBIs.

“My coach [Glen Crawford] helped me a lot to recover from confidence at the plate,” she said. “I had to re-learn every thing at the plate. But my confidence improved as the season went along.”

Ward belted a three-run walk-off home run in 6-3 win over Columbus State on March 24, and went 2-for-3 with and knocked in both runs of a 3-2 loss to North Georgia on April 2. She scored two runs in 8-0 victory over Emmanuel on April 6, went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in 10-2 win over Georgia College on April 8 and was 2-for-3 with a run scored in 2-1 victory over USC Aiken on April 14.

“It’s been a fine experience here,” she said. “I have enjoyed playing here.”

As a sophomore, Ward appeared in all 47 games with 46 starts (both career bests) for the Lady BearCats. She batted a career-high .317 with 25 runs scored, two home runs and 21 RBI. She led team with 16 doubles. She set career highs in home runs, doubles and RBIs.

 

Ward appeared in 40 games as a freshman in 2015. She batted .230 with one homer, 13 RBIs, 15 runs scored and six doubles.

Fellowship Christian School graduate Caroline Long learned a valuable lesson in perseverance this past season.

Long, who graduated from Georgia College and State University with a communications degree in May, wrapped up her four-year collegiate volleyball career at GCSU last November. But her senior season at the Milledgeville school was filled with plenty of ups and downs.

"It was a tough situation to start the season," said Long, who is completing an eight-week internship with Samaritan's Purse in Boone, N.C. this summer. "I was a three-year starter and captain, and helped start our program. But when the year started I found myself on the bench. I was coming off an injury, but for whatever reason the coaches decided not to play me."

But Long did not quit. She showed her dedication and kept on working hard in practice and waited for her opportunity. Eventually she returned to the lineup and helped her team win its fair share of matches down the stretch and reach the league tournament.

"We played 28 matches, and I think I started the last half of them," she said. "I knew going in I had it in me [to not quit]. I earned my spot back before conference play. I had to be patient, and learned that you shouldn't take life too serious. I learned that the things high in my mind aren't always as big as you think in the grand scheme."

Long, whose father Mike is a former FCS high school principal, felt her spiritual side grow and sees her internship with Franklin Graham's international ministry as "a blessing."

The Lady Bobcats posted the first winning season in school history with a 17-14 record, including an 8-10 mark in Peachbelt Conference matches.

GCSU fell to USC-Aiken 3-0 in the Peachbelt Conference quarterfinals on Nov. 18, 2016.

"We lost in the tournament, but overall we had a very good season," Long said. "I am glad my team did well, and that I personally finished the year strong."

Long, who graduated from FCS in 2013, helped the Lady Bobcats start their volleyball program back in the fall of 2013.

Long finished fourth on the team with 191.5 points and recorded 41 digs.

 

(Photos courtesy of GCSU)


Megan Hudgens really made a name for herself as a freshman on the University of Alabama at Birmingham's women's soccer team this past season.

The Alpharetta, Ga., native led the Lady Blazers with 11 points, shared the team lead with four goals and was second with three assists.

As a senior at Fellowship Christian School in 2016, she led the Lady Paladins to the GHSA Single A Girls Soccer Championship.

"It was a great experience," said Hudgens, who reports to UAB on July 17 for practice. "It was a lot of work, but it was worth every minute of it."

She said the major differences between FCS and NCAA Division I soccer were an increased intensity level and more extensive practices.

"The level of play is outstanding," said Hudges, who helped the Lady Blazers finish 4-11-2 overall and 1-7-2 in Conference USA matches last fall. "But we definitely improved. We did fine overall. It felt like a family. I learned a lot. We hope for more victories this season."

She has set some goals for 2017.

"[I want to] Be the best I can be, score more goals and get better every game," Hudgens said.

She led the Lady Blazers, who went 4-4-1 at home, with 36 shots and 22 shots on goal. Hudgens tallied the game-winning goal in a double OT win over the University of Texas El Paso on Sept. 25, and assisted the game-winning tallies in wins over McNeese State on Sept. 4 and UNC-Asheville on Sept. 1.

Hudgens started all 17 of UAB's games and logged 1475 minutes.

The four-time All-State selection at FCS helped the Lady Paladins become the first team in school history to capture a GHSA championship.

"It was a great experience," she said. "It was a cool legacy to leave at FCS. It is one of my favorite high school memories."

At Fellowship, Hudgens tallied a school-record 114 goals, was named to the All Area/Region teams four times, earned the Class A MVP Award in 2016, and was also a member of the National Honor Society.

During her career at FCS, she also was a member of the Fire ECNL Team and was the squad's top scorer.

The Lady Blazers open the season on Aug. 8 at Jacksonville State in Alabama, and kick off the home season at BVA Compass Field in Birmingham on Aug. 18 against Atlanta's Georgia State University.

 

The team has a slate of 20 contests. The Conference USA championships will be held Nov. 1-5 in Boca Raton, Fla.

(Photos courtesy of UAB)

While Ian Berryman is thrilled to be recognized for his punting this preseason, he would rather receive similar postseason football recognition.

The Fellowship Christian School graduate was recently named to the 2017 Preseason FCS All-America Team. The team features players from 10 different conferences and 19 different NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division IAA) schools.

"It's a blessing," said Berryman, a junior punter at Western Carolina University. "I have had a whirlwind of a career here. If two years ago you would have told me that I would become a pre-season All-American, I would have laughed at you."

The Marietta, Ga., native enters his fourth year at WCU, and his third season playing on the Catamounts squad.

"I am focused on the season," he said. "I want to be on the All-America list at the end of the season. I want to be among the top three punters this season, average 46 yards a punt and make a name for myself heading into my senior year."

The 6-foot, 205-pound Berryman is coming off a very successful sophomore campaign when he set a WCU single-season record with an average of 44.9 yards per boot. His average was second among Southern Conference punters and fourth in the nation. He was selected for the 2016 HERO Sports All-America Team following his sophomore campaign.

That recognition came following a redshirt freshman campaign in 2015 when he became the Catamounts' lone All-Southern Conference pick and was a finalist for the NCAA FCS top freshman punter honors.

In 2016, the former FCS Paladin punted on 52 occasions that covered 2,335 yards. He booted TWO career-high 64-yard punts, and notched 19 kicks that topped 50-or-more yards. He downed 18 punts inside the WCU opponents' 20-yard-line.

With success like that, has the humble and down-to-earth Berryman thought about the next level?

"Honestly I take it one punt at a time," he said. "That is there, but it's not set prominently in my mind. I want to win a Southern Conference championship and help my team win football games."

Berryman, No. 83, has truly worked hard to get where he is today.

"I really worked hard to develop my punting before I had the opportunity to kick in games [during his true freshman season]," Berryman said. "I added weight to help me take hits, watched, learned and was amazed by the speed of the game. The returners are really, really fast. You have to worry about ball placement. If you don't put the ball in the right place, they can make you pay. Last season, I really tried to take it one step at a time and get better with every kick."

The Catamounts open the season at the University of Hawaii on Sept. 2, and host Davidson College in their home opener being played in Cullowhee, N.C. on Sept. 9.

The Southern Conference media day for football will be held on July 18, and Catamount athletes report for preseason football practice on July 31. A communications major, Berryman is interning at Score Atlanta this summer.

 

Berryman is among four former FCS football players competing in the Southern Conference. The others are a pair of redshirt freshmen – offensive lineman Reed Kroeber at Furman University and linebacker Clay Buchweitz at Samford University, and incoming freshman Jack Hardin at Furman.

 

(Photos courtesy of Western Carolina University)

 

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine finished third in Team USA’s Summer Seeding Races held March 25-26 in Lake Placid, N.Y. With her finish, she earned a spot on the USA Luge summer squad.

Bob Germaine, Raychel’s father surprised her and her brother Robert Germaine (a Skelton athlete) with a visit to Lake Placid.

“At dinner the night, before her first race the next day, she informed me that the two seeding races on Saturday and Sunday were the first Olympic qualifying races, and were actually quite significant,” said Bob Germaine. “Her coaches told her only six women would be selected to the summer team, and only those six would be qualified to race in the four Olympic qualifying seeding races in the fall. Erin Hamlin secured one of the spots, based on her World Championship finish, but the other five positions would be determined by the race results of the two seeding races. Raychel and her two senior teammates would be joined by five of the top junior athletes invited to race. The top three positions after the two races, would have a secured position, and the last two positions would be coach’s discretionary selections.”

 

This wraps up the 2016-17 season for the younger Germaine, who will slide with her senior teammates until the middle of April. They will travel to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for additional testing and training.

 

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine placed 16th in the three-day Luge World Championships held Jan. 27-29 in Igls, Austria.

Every year, except for the Olympic year, it’s the premier luge race with more countries and athletes competing than any other World Cup race during the season. This year, the women’s event included 45 competitors from 21 countries.

Germaine finished 18th after the first run with a personal track record time of 40.218 seconds. The top 20 qualified for a second run. She finished 16th.

“Her second start was much cleaner,” her father Bob Germaine said. “She looked calm and relaxed on the sled, and she kept her aerodynamic position throughout the run. She completed the run with another personal record time of 40.201 seconds, she moved up two positions.”

In addition, there was also a race within the race for the U-23 sliders in Igls. She finished fifth among the 24 under 23 sliders.

In the seventh World Cup race, held in Oberhof, Germany on Feb. 4-5, Germaine posted a then personal record time of 42.241 seconds and took 12th place in the Nations Cup Race to qualify for the World Cup race. She claimed 24th place in the World Cup event.

“Her next opportunity happens to be pretty exciting,” said Bob Germaine. “She will participate in a week of international training at the 2018 Olympic track at Pyeong Chang, South Korea. And the following week, she will complete in the World Cup race at the same location. This World Cup race will serve as the test race for the 2018 Olympic Games, as it will take place almost exactly one year away from the big event.”

In Sigulda, Latvia, Germaine set a time of 42.82 was ninth overall in the Nations Cup Race on Jan. 13. She qualified for the World Cup Race No. 6 the next day, where she placed 23rd. On Jan. 5-6, Germaine placed 20th in World Cup race No. 5 in Koenigsee, Germany. She was ranked 13th in the world heading into World Cup Race No. 6 in Sigulda.


Fellowship Christian School graduate Kelsey Royalty made an impact on the Samford University softball team as a freshman.

A 2015 graduate of FCS, Royalty finished seventh on the Lady Bulldogs squad with a .287 batting average and helped the team post a 40-20 record. She played in 57 of the team’s 60 games, including 49 starts.

Royalty, who played mostly in right field, collected three home runs, nine RBIs and 37 hits.

As a Lady Paladin, Royalty played four years of varsity basketball and 2-3 years of varsity softball in addition to 5-7 years of travel softball.

She recently discussed her freshman year at Samford and her FCS career during a recent interview.

Question: What was your first year in college like?

Answer: I loved my first year at Samford. I was a little worried making the transition to college from a small high school, but I chose Samford because it was so small. It was a great academic and athletic environment to begin my career. FCS really helped me be prepared for college. I took a lot of AP classes at Fellowship that helped me reduce my course load a little as a freshman. That was very helpful for me.

Question: What was the highlight of your freshman season on the field?

Answer: It was amazing. It was the first time in school history that we won a conference title. We won 14 games four years ago, so it was great for our seniors to go out with 40 wins. We went 0-2 in NCAA Regionals at the University of Alabama, which was tough, but it was the school’s first trip to NCAA Regionals so o overall it was a great season. There was so much excitement on selection Sunday! It was great to be involved in that atmosphere. It’s a very good program. We have a great coaching staff, and a great team.

Question: What was your biggest challenge about becoming a college athlete?

Answer: I’d say time management. We were required to have eight hours of study hall time a week. That is a lot of time with all the practices, games and classes. After posting at least a 3.5 GPA in the first semester, I moved to five hours a week [of study hall] in the second semester. I love school, and love the academics of college, but it’s hard to fit in all the hours sometimes. We practice every day, including 3-4 hours a day in the spring.

Question: What goals do you have for your sophomore year?

Answer: It was a learning experience as a freshman. I must have messed up like a 1,000 times. I played right field this year, but I would really love to play some in center field next year, and also raise my GPA to a 4.0 in both semesters. I played 2-3 sports a year at Fellowship, but I was always a student before being an athlete. It’s no different for me at Samford. Coach [Clay] Price preached that to us at Fellowship. I have that philosophy in college too.

Question: What was your favorite sports memory at FCS?

Answer: I had a lot of great memories at Fellowship. I played two or three years of varsity softball and four years of varsity basketball under coach Price. He was an amazing coach and mentor. I would have to say my greatest highlight was senior night for basketball. Abigail Freemyer and I were both honored at center court with our parents. We both played four years for coach Price, and I also played a fifth year for him at JV. Since we had been in the program for such a long time, he was gleaming at center court when they talked about us. He didn’t have kids, so we were like his kids and he was like a second father to all of us. I never have felt so proud to make someone so proud of me.