Area colleges: MTSU enjoys sustained all-around success in Sun Belt

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 11:42pm

Ever since Middle Tennessee State joined the Sun Belt Conference 11 years ago, the Blue Raiders have made themselves at home.

And the 2010-11 campaign was no different.

For the third straight year — and for seventh time since becoming a member of the Sun Belt in 2000 — MTSU won the Vic Bubas Cup for being the top overall sports program in the conference. The Blue Raiders scored 126.5 points out of 189 — 13.5 points more than second-place Western Kentucky — and were presented the all-sports trophy on Tuesday at the league meetings in Destin, Fla.

“We make this a goal of ours every year, and it’s really a culmination of the hard work of the student- athletes and their drive to compete for championships,” Athletics Director Chris Massaro said. “… With all of the great programs in the Sun Belt Conference, this is indeed an honor to be recognized as the best overall. Everyone in our athletic department, the university and the community should take great pride in this because this was a total team effort and that's the great thing about an all-sports championship.”

MTSU is just the third school in Sun Belt history to win the award seven times and the only football-playing school to claim the title since football became a league-sponsored sport in 2001.

The Blue Raiders helped their efforts this year by winning or sharing six conference championships. They won regular-season titles in volleyball and women’s basketball and captured postseason tournament crowns in volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s indoor track and field, and men’s tennis.  

MTSU also had four different coaches earn league conference coach of the year honors — Jimmy Borendame (men’s tennis), Dean Hayes (men’s indoor track and field), Matt Peck (volleyball) and Whit Turnbow (men’s golf).

“The biggest thing in my mind is that this signifies just how solid the total athletic program is at Middle Tennessee,” Hayes said. “There isn't any emphasis on any one program. One of the goals in any athletic department is to be the most solid in the conference, and that’s what we’ve been since we entered the Sun Belt in 2000. In addition to that, it keeps our name up at the top of the Sun Belt, and gives our program more credibility to the public.”

Conference baseball honors: Five Belmont baseball players were named to the Atlantic Sun Conference’s all-conference teams, the league announced on Tuesday.

Senior Nate Woods (designated hitter) and juniors Matt Hamann (pitcher) and Dylan Craig (outfielder) were named to the first team. Sophomore Chase Brookshire (pitcher) was selected to the second team and Greg Brody (infielder) was tabbed to the all-freshman team.

It is the first time since 2007 that the Bruins have had five total honorees, and the three first-team selections is the most ever for the program.

Junior outfielder M.L. Williams was the lone selection for Lipscomb as he was named to the second team.

At Middle Tennessee State, senior outfielder and Murfreesboro native Will Skinner and freshman third baseman Hank LaRue were named to the second team.

• Belmont’s Byrd honored again: Belmont’s Rick Byrd collected another honor as he was named the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s men’s college basketball coach of the year earlier this week.

Byrd guided the Bruins to a 30-5 record, Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season and tournament championships and to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in six years.

He was also named the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year, the NABC District 3 Coach of the Year and the Atlantic Sun’s Coach of the Year.

Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins was named the men’s college basketball player of the year by the TWSA.

• Trevecca NAIA scholar-athletes: Five Trevecca Nazarene student-athletes were named NAIA scholar athletes on Tuesday.

Four Trojan softball players were honored: juniors Lauren Baker (Hendersonville) and Kelsey Lantrip, and seniors Melinda Patterson (Camden, Tenn.) and Karli Rush (Mt. Juliet). Patterson and Rush earned the award for the second straight season.

Junior golfer Ashley Scism (Donelson Christian Academy) was also named a scholar-athlete. She has a 4.0 GPA in nursing. In order to be nominated, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale and must be at least a junior.

Music City Distance Carnival: The Music City Distance Carnival will be held on June 4 at Vanderbilt’s track and field complex.

The meet features distance events only and starts at 5 p.m., with the men’s invitational mile ending the night at 10:15 p.m. Admission is $5 at the gate.

The race will feature several elite athletes and has drawn U.S. Olympians and runners from Canada, Kenya, Japan, Great Britain, Ireland, Barbados, Jamaica, Burundi and Congo. This year’s event will feature five Olympians.

Plus, Angee Henry, who set the meet record for the 800-meter run with a time of 2:01.81 last year, will be back.

In the men’s one-mile last year, four runners ran sub-four-minute times and meet director Dave Milner said, “I feel pretty comfortable, with the quality of runners committed already, guaranteeing a sub-4 mile” this year.

The meet also offers open races for all ages and abilities in addition to its high-caliber high school, collegiate and masters talent.

For more information, visit