For the first time in Bethel athletics history, a team has received the national “Champions of Character” award.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) named the Bethel golf program this season’s Buffalo Funds Five-Star Champions of Character Team.
The recipient team “demonstrates in everyday decisions integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership,” according to the NAIA.
“These institutions and athletic programs strive for excellence in and out of competition and are part of communities throughout the country dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.”
Thresher golf was named the KCAC Men’s Golf Team of Character previously this spring.
“Character is important to me because it shows who a person is and what they represent,” said Gregg Dick, head coach.
“Wins are an important part of competition and we are always striving to win, but our team character is the most important element and whether you win or lose, you do it with character.”
One of the highlights for the Bethel College golf team this year was a four-day trip to Kids Across America, a Christian sports camp designed for inner-city youth, located on Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri, and where Bethel golfers regularly volunteer.
The Bethel students worked with around 60 grade-school- through high-school-aged kids, demonstrating not only golf fundamentals, but also teaching and reinforcing values such as integrity, respect, responsibility and sportsmanship, and the relationship of these values to both golf and life.
In Bethel’s Champions of Character Team Award application, Mark Parry of Kids Across America wrote that the Thresher golfers “jumped in and not only taught the kids about golf, but also developed friendships.
“This is where their true light shined brightest. Your true character shows when asked to do difficult or hard things. I watched the Bethel team character in full force.”
The golfers also volunteered for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) meat canning event, held each year at the MCC Central States office in North Newton, and helped prepare and serve food one evening at the Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale, which raises around $500,000 each year for world relief.
In both situations, multiple people expressed appreciation for the team’s work ethic and character, and how they represented themselves, their team and Bethel College.
“Character is something that manifests itself in several areas of one’s life,” explained graduating senior Sam Bertholf, Winfield. “While a team’s raw performance is important, what is more important, in my mind, is having a team full of guys that do the right thing day in and day out regardless of the circumstances.”
Bertholf went on to say, “This is frequently stressed by Gregg, and it is a mindset that we have that has paid dividends for us this season.
“We have had tournaments where we have not played up to our expectations, but we have not hung our heads about it, we just show up ready to work and get better the next day. We have also had a tournament where we broke the school record for team scoring.
“The practice after that tournament resembled any other practice – everyone was focused on getting better. This consistency in character has helped us improve over the course of the season, both as golfers and as people.”
“This team has performed exceptionally in the classroom, in the community with community projects, and on the golf course, setting the record for the lowest team score in program history after struggling early in the year,” Dick added.
“This team has bought into the concept of high character, and the outcome is a team to be proud of wherever they go and whatever they do.”
One of the golf team members and two tennis players were also named to the 2017-18 Google Cloud Academic All-District® Men’s At-Large Team, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
This award recognizes the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performances on the playing field and in the classroom.
Earning Academic All-District® First-Team placement was golfer Parker Austin, junior from Derby, along with tennis players Ryan LaCombe, junior from Newton, and Tyler Shima, graduating senior from Topeka.
Austin’s award is back-to-back with 2017 graduate Brian Krehbiel’s placement on the academic team last spring.
Austin turned in three different top-10 finishes this season, and broke four program course records.
LaCombe and Shima are believed to be the first members of the Bethel men’s tennis team to earn this award, which has existed since 1982.
LaCombe was able to go a combined 19-18 this season and earn KCAC Player of the Week once, while Shima went 14-13 almost exclusively from #4 singles. Both were part of a team that more than tripled their team wins from a season ago, and qualified for the KCAC postseason for the first time in four years.
Combining this with their sound academics earned the three their All-District® First-Team honors, with a shot at the Academic All-America® team to be announced June 11.
CoSIDA began the distinguished Academic All-America® program in 1952. Currently, CoSIDA sponsors Academic All-America® programs for men’s and women’s soccer, football, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball and men’s and women’s track and field/cross country. Other sports are eligible through the At-Large program.
The Academic All-America® program comprises four divisional teams, with student-athletes honored separately in NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III, and the College Division (NAIA, Canadian and two-year student-athletes). This format began in 2011-12, changing from University Division (NCAA D1) and College Division (all others).
Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.
In sports, Bethel competes in the 12-school Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) and the NAIA. For more information, see bethelthreshers.com.
Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.