High Point — Conference Carolinas announced the 2018 Fall Scholar Athletes of the Year, as voted on by the Student-Athlete Affairs Committee. This award is presented annually to one student-athlete in each sport for recognition of their outstanding performance both on the field and in the classroom.
Candidates are submitted by member institutions for each of the conference’s twenty-three sponsored sports. To be considered for the honor, the student-athlete must have been named Academic All-Conference, which entails having attended their member institution for at least one year and having reached junior or senior standing with a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher on a 4-point scale. Scholar Athletes of the Year must also be represented on their sport’s First, Second, or Third All-Conference Team, the rosters of which are chosen by coaches at the end of each playing season. This fall’s class of honorees holds an impressive average GPA of 3.75.
Earning the award for men’s and women’s cross country are a pair of UMO student-athletes in Tai Smith and Leah Hanle. The duo have earned numerous accolades this season and capped off the 2018 cross country season with the highest conference academic honor they can receive.
Tai Smith was a leader for the Trojans men’s cross country team all season long as he helped the team win their seventh straight Conference Carolinas Championship title, a Southeast Regional runner-up with a second-place team finish at regionals and a 13th place team finish at the 2018 NCAA Division II National Championships held in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 1. Individually, Smith picked up the Conference Runner of the Week twice during the season, earned a spot on the All-Conference Second Team, and was named to the Southeast All-Region team. The Trojans ranked as high as 8th this season in the USTFCCCA National Coaches Poll and held first in the Region for a period of time as well.
On the academic side of things, Smith was an Academic All-Conference honoree with his 3.649 GPA in Psychology. He earned UMO Scholar Athlete of the Month honors as well for the month of October. He earned the D2 Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award for excellence in the classroom during the 2017-18 academic year.
Leah Hanle was announced as the Fall Scholar Athlete after a very successful cross country season that was highlighted by her third NCAA DII All-American honor. Hanle was named an All-Southeast Region runner after picking up her third consecutive Regional Runner of the Year honor for finishing first at the NCAA DII Southeast Regionals and was a Conference Carolinas first-team honoree as she helped the Trojans to a fourth consecutive Conference Carolinas Championship title. Hanle set the course record for her first place finish at the NCAA National Preview back on Oct. 20 with a time of 21:54 in the women’s 6K. And she broke her own school record in the women’s 5K at the Royal Cross Country Challenge, finishing second with a time of 16:43.
Academically Hanle was named to the Academic All-Conference Team after completing the semester with a 3.687 GPA in Psychology. She joined Smith on the D2 Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award list for excelling in the classroom during the 2017-18 academic year.