NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College women’s basketball is in a three-way tie for most All-America scholar-athletes, while both Bethel teams received service awards from their athletic conference.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) named 18 Bethel students as Daktronics All-America Scholar-Athletes for 2015–16, which brings the total to 22, counting four from cross country.
The sports represented most recently are men’s and women’s basketball and competitive cheer.
With eight student-athletes, the Bethel women’s basketball team is in a three-way tie for the most selections with Bethel College, Mishawaka, Indiana, and Mount Marty College, Yankton, South Dakota.
The women’s players honored are Mekale Chapple, Jones, Oklahoma, Cayla Lawless, Burlingame, Trista Rich, Junction City, Kylee Schunn, Whitewater, Kendra Scott, Newton, Rachael Terbush, Castle Rock, Colorado, Jaime Tschetter, Freeman, South Dakota, and Lauren Ulrich, Walnut, California.
With six student-athletes, cheer tied for third most selections with Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa.
In cheer, the Bethel students are Sondra Buller, Henderson, Nebraska, Will Chao, Taichung City, Taiwan, Mikayla Hiebert, Peabody, Joshua Janzen, Henderson, Nebraska, Renae Stucky, Moundridge, and Amy Wedel, Peabody.
Men’s basketball All-America Scholar-Athletes are Daniel Ratzlaff, Moundridge, Jenson Kingsley, Newton, Jacob Miller, Westmoreland, and Kyle Regier, Whitewater.
To be named to the NAIA Daktronics All-America Scholar-Athlete Team, a student must be nominated by her/his coach or sports information director, must hold a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale and must be at least a junior in academic standing.
Earlier, Bethel also had four cross-country runners named All-America Scholar-Athletes: Grace Bradfield, Derby, Olivia Gehring, Manhattan, Laird Goertzen, Goessel, and Erin Regier, Newton.
On Feb. 29, at the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) basketball championship, both Bethel basketball teams were named Team of Character in their respective sport.
The KCAC Team of Character award is based on the NAIA Champions of Character award and recognizes a school in each sport, as voted on by their peer coaches.
“We talk daily about all five sub-headings in the [Champions of Character] ‘Integrity Core,’” said women’s head coach Mark Fox. “But I think the resiliency factor is very high for us this year in light of our losses.”
These were not only from a win/loss standpoint, as the team struggled throughout the season, but even more importantly from what Fox called “a personal/personnel standpoint.”
“This team endured many downfalls this season, but most challenging of all was one of our freshmen being killed in a car accident [Qadrey Tolliver, Oct. 20, 2015, in Texas],” Fox said.
“These losses have forced us to be resilient, talk about the big picture of life, improve our daily living habits and appreciate the day God has given us because we’re not guaranteed another. These student-athletes, upon that death, immediately went to their churches to see if we could raise money so the team could travel to Texas to support the family at the funeral.”
Campus service included both basketball teams working on Service Day to clean and paint the Goering Hall weight room. The women are signed up to help with Step up for KIDS, the signature fundraising event for the Kansas Infant Death and SIDS Network, to be held later this spring at Wichita State University.
For the last five years, Bethel teams, including women’s basketball, have participated in Operation Christmas Child, an outreach to underprivileged youth.
One Bethel women’s player is in charge of College Buddies, which pairs Bethel students with community members with intellectual disabilities. They meet monthly to play games and for other activities. The pairs include several members of the women’s basketball team.
Individual team members volunteer as tutors in local schools, in the Mennonite Central Committee Central States office, at the MCC relief sale each spring, in the Red Cross blood drives held on campus each semester and at nearby Kidron Bethel Village, including with the facility’s annual Senior Olympics.
The Bethel College men’s basketball team members were active on and off the court this season, noted Head Coach Tony Hoops, including achieving a significant increase in their first-semester GPA, from 2.78 in fall 2014 to 3.08 in fall 2015.
Two team captains are co-chairs of the Bethel chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Seven members of the team have been part of one or more of the weekly chapel services this school year.
“As we focused on our team goals this year, we also created team goals for each of the five [Champions of Character] core values,” Hoops said. “Our two most successful were responsibility and respect. We aimed to leave our bench – home or away – locker room and van cleaner than we found it, while also respecting our opponents and officials on and off the floor.
“We also wanted to respect the commitment other Bethel students have to their individual sports and activities by being visible at all school events to create a better campus atmosphere.”
Community-wide, several players are involved with area church organizations and have volunteered at local events, including Special Olympics. The team made presentations to community groups such as the Kiwanis Club to promote the program and Bethel College, and hosted a local Boy Scout group for a weekend, talking to them about leadership, teamwork and setting life goals.
“While we are [not] perfect in our efforts to achieve the high standards we set for our young men,” Hoops continued, “I feel this group has made considerable strides to better represent our program and the college as a whole.”