More preseason football watch list action and academic honors for the track and field and cross country teams.
The preseason watch lists are being announced one-by-one as the college football season is quickly approaching and one Jaguar offensive lineman just picked up his second watch list announcement on Tuesday.
Joseph Scelfo, a junior, was selected to the Rimington Trophy Fall Watch List last week and has been selected for the Watch List for the 2015 Rotary Lombardi Award.
The Rotary Lombardi Award is eligible for linemen only, both of offense and defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deel from the line of scrimmage.
Scelfo was one of only two Jaguar offensive linemen who started all 13 games last season and earn the coaches’ weekly award on more than one occasion. In 2014, his first season as a starter for USA, he had a season-high grading of 88 percent in the Jags win over Troy as well as an 87 percent grade against Bowling Green in USA’s firt-ever bowl game. He also graded better than 80 percent agaisnt both South Carolina and Mississippi State with grades of 83 and 81 respectively.
He helped the Jaguars become the fastest NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision school to play in a postseason bowl game after receiving their first invite to the inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in only their second season of full FBS membership.
The Rimington Award honors the most oustanding center in NCAA Division I-A college football at the end of the year. In addition to the two watch lists, Scelfo was selected to the First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference by Phil Steele Publications and preseason Second-Team All-League by Athlon Sports.
Track and Field/Cross Country
The Sun Belt Conference released the 2014-15 Team GPA award winners on Tuesday with USA men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams claiming honors in both the fall and spring semesters.
The men posted a combined cumulative GPA of 3.19 to earn honors in cross country in addition to winning the league title at the Sun Belt Championships in Mobile on November 2 at Battleship Memorial Park.
The women’s cross country team posted a 3.67 GPA during the last year to be honored as well.
Both programs received the Team GPA award in track and field as the men had a 3.17 GPA over the last two semesters. This made USA the only male track team in the conference to finish with a group average over 3.00. The women posted a GPA of 3.41.
This marks the second year in a row that USA has earned the Team GPA award in men’s and women’s cross country as well as the second consecutive season that USA also earned the honor in track.
Individually 26 women and 22 men from the two programs had a 3.0 GPA or higher last semester with a combined 28 team members earning spots on the Dean’s List.
The 2015 South Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame class will include three former Jaguars as announced on Monday. The class includes the school’s All-Time winningest Men’s Basketball coach Ronnie Arrow and a pair of track and field members who competed at the NCAA Championships in Olga Mencnarowska and Tonny Okello.
Arrow guided the Jag basketball program the first time from 1988-1995 and then again from 2008-2012 for a total of 12 full seasons plus two partial seasons. He led the Jaguars to a 211-161 record overall and 126-48 in Sun Belt play. In addition to holding the most total and conference wins in school history, he also held the conference record for wins at the time of his retirement.
He was selected SBC Coach of the Year on three occasions. He led the Jaguars to a 23-9 record in 1988-89 following the only NCAA Tournament win in program history, an 86-84 win over Alabama. He led the Jaguars to the tournament again in 2007-2008 when USA received it first-ever at-large berth the NCAA Tournament after winning a school record 26 games which included a 16-2 record in conference play.
Arrow led the program to two SBC regular-season championships, two conference tournament titles and a regular season division title. He had 13 players earn All-Sun Belt honors on 18 occasions.
Mencnarowska lettered for the Jaguar Women’s Track and Field team from 1996-1999 and helped the Jags to win its first-ever league title at the Sun Belt Indoor and Outdoor Championships as a senior. In addition to becoming the first female in USA history to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she was selected the Outstanding Meet Performing and earned top-scoring honors at the 1999 SBC Outdoor Championships after winning the heptathlon and long jump, finishing third in javelin and tying for fourth in the 100-meter hurdles before moving on to the national championships in the latter event.
She ended her career with a conference record in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.35 seconds, still a school record in the race, and remains among the top 10 in USA history in the heptathlon, 60-meter hurdles, javelin and long jump.
She earned all-conference honors a total of eight times while being selected to the Sun Belt’s 30th Anniversary All-Time Women’s Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Teams. She was also voted third-team CoSIDA All-American in 1998.
Okello was a four-time All-American and collected all-region honors each of his three years running cross country. He would also be voted to the SBC 30th Anniversary All-Time Men’s Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Teams. He earned All-American honors in cross country in 2004 and ’05, he also finished 41st at the national meet as a senior, as well as in the 5,000 meters in 2006 and ’07 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Okello earned seven individual SBC titles while earning all-conference recognition a total of 18 times over three seasons. In cross country he won the conference championship his first time at the meet, finishing as the runner-up each of the next two years. He was chosen the most outstanding track performer and top point scorer at the 2005 Sun Belt Indoor Championships after winning the mile, 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter runs and helping the Jags to the team crown. In addition to receiving the same honor that spring in the SBC Outdoor Championships, he helped USA win a share of the conference indoor title his final season by placing in the top three in the mile, 3,000- and 5,000-meter races.
The induction ceremony for the three inductees is scheduled for September 26 at the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center on campus. The three will also be recognized that day at halftime of the Jaguars football game against North Carolina State at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Win the induction of these three honorees, it will bring the total number of former student-athletes, coaches and administrators in the USA Athletic Hall of Fame to 71.
The Sun Belt Conference named 11-year-old Colby Sawyer the Honorary Sun Belt Football Player of the Week on Monday. Sawyer, an inspiration to the Jaguar football team, signed his National Letter of Intent with the program a week ago and joined head coach Joey Jones for his weekly press conference, made his first appearance with the team on Saturday against Texas State.
Sawyer signed with the Jags as part of Team Impact which helps match kids with chronic or life-threatening illnesses to teams. He was diagnosed in June of 2012 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and had over a year of chemotherapy treatments as a patient at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
After signing with the Jags he received his own locker, jersey and other USA team items. He was with the team during their bus trip to the stadium, through pregame warm-ups, and when Coach Jones was addressing the team. He was also led the team out onto the field. And he was also on the sidelines when the Jaguars rallied from 10 points down and held on in the final seconds to defeat Texas State to earn bowl eligibility and most likely their first bowl invitation.
Derek Westbrook, who is a member of the student athlete advisory committee (SAAC), had a part in helping to make this possible. The senior attended the Sun Belt’s SAAC conference this past summer in New Orleans as a representative from South Alabama. He was also recognized during halftime recently as being a member of the South Alabama Cross Country team who won the SBC Title this season.
“Colby has impressed all of us throughout the Sun Belt with his spirit for the Jags and his inspiration to the team,” Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said. “Colby is unquestionably deserving of this award and all of the recognition that he has received.”
Team IMPACT’s mission is to match kids facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses with teams throughout the United States. So far they have placed 560 kids with 280 schools in 37 states, one of their latest being Sawyer.
The University of South Alabama men’s cross country team won the Sun Belt Conference Championship on Sunday. Christoph Graf and Michael Pienaar finished first and second in the 8k race held at Battleship Memorial Park.
This is first conference title for the Jaguars since 2006 and their eighth overall for the program.
The women finished 7th place in the team competition in the 5k held earlier in the day.
In addition to the conference championship, the Jags picked up several awards. Graf was named the meet’s Most oustanding Performer, Pienaar was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year. Coach David Barnett was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year.
The men’s race was close throughout the entire 8k with Graf and Pienaar both in the lead pack during the race. Graf’s victory was his second of the season, his first was at the Azalea City Classic in his Jaguar debut on September 13. He finished with a time of 24:26.6.
Pienaar posted his third top-5 in as many races and less than three seconds behind Graf.
Both Graf and Pienaar were honored with first-team all-conference honors.
Patrick Rohr finished 13th with a time of 25:16.5 which was good for third-team all-SBC honors, his third consecutive year to earn all-conference honors for the Junior.
Robert Mann and Joe Gratton finished 18th and 19th place respectively with Mann finishing with a time of 25:38.3 and Gratton finishing one second later. Justin Housley (28th), Daniel Carter (30th) and Buddy Soto (38th) also competed for the Jaguars.
Nicole Durham led the lady Jaguars as she finished 19th with a time of 17:50.5. Ivy Chastain finished 28th with a time of 18:19.2. Ashley Heitling (41st), Alivia Bryars (44th), Joanna McCoy (45th), Shannen Weyer (47th), Kayla Wheeler (54th) and Kristin Parry (64th) also competed for the Jaguars.
The postseason will continue on November 14 with the NCAA South Region Championships that will be hosted at Florida State University in Tallahassee.