October 10, 2007

Lees-McRae Fall Sports Reaching Unprecedented Heights

Banner Elk, NC--Autumn in the mountains is a breathtaking season…and this autumn with the Lees-McRae Bobcats is just as breathtaking as the surroundings. The fall sports teams are racking up wins faster than the wooly worm races to the finish line, accumulating accolades weekly.

From a #1 and a #2 ranking in the nation, to eight players of the week, to over 100 student-athletes recognized on the Conference Carolinas Presidential Honor Roll Lees-McRae continues to pursue a high level of excellence both on and off the field.

From a NCAA standpoint, Lees-McRae College, a small private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and located in the mountains of western North Carolina with a student population of 700, the success is noteworthy.

Of the student body, 53% are athletes competing on one of the 20 teams the college sponsors. Traditionally the beginning of the academic year has given the school the most honored athletic presence.

"I'm not surprised with the success we're currently enjoying. Our fall sports have traditionally competed for conference championships and NCAA National Tournament bids. A lot can happen over the next few weeks of course, but I believe if their seasons ended today, we'd have four teams competing in national post-season tournaments," commented Athletic Director Ried Estus.

There have been 23 conference championships from the fall sports programs the NCAA recognizes at Lees-McRae in the past ten years. In addition, since 2000, Bobcat fall sports athletes have garnered 11 Player of the Year Awards, 7 freshman of the year, and 11 Coach of the Year honors.

This year men's soccer has reached unprecedented heights on the national scene. The current NCAA Division II men's soccer rankings have the Bobcats No. 2 in the country with three of the players listed among the top fifteen in individual statistical categories.

Third year Head Coach Chris Whalley has reconstructed a team among the nation's best. Strong recruiting efforts, player development and timely wins have helped the Bobcats attain national recognition. Lees-McRae has dominated at home this year, defeating opponents by a combined score of 17-3 over seven home games.

The last time Lees-McRae had a sports team or individual reach this level was when Jaco Krueger, a men's tennis player, attained the No. 1 ranking while guiding the team to a #13 national ranking in 2002.

Women's volleyball has won the past nine Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference tournaments (now Conference Carolinas) while competing in the past six NCAA DII national tournaments. They currently sit atop the conference standings.

Jamie Petrick is the program's fourth coach in 10 years and has guided the Bobcats the past three seasons to their own unprecedented heights.

The cross country teams have experience their fair share of success as they have won 10 championships (six for women; four for men) in the past nine years. They, too, have made regional headlines as the women are ranked No. 1 in the Southeast Div II Region, with the men currently ranked 4th. For the women this is the third time in nine years they have reached the No. 1 ranking. Over the last 10 years they have sent two teams and three individuals to the National Championships.

Coach Craig McPhail enters his 10th season at the helm and has reloaded one of the department's most successful programs.

Beyond the many NCAA Conference Carolinas accolades, in rides the Bobcat cycling team. After gaining the Division II Mountain Bike National Title three times in as many years, the team transitioned into the Division I ranks last year. Led by Head Coach Doug Owen, currently they hold the No. 1 ranking among DI cycling programs as recognized by USA Cycling.

They will also take the college to furthered heights by hosting the National Championships for Mountain Biking October 26-28. This marks the first time the National Championships will be held on a college's campus.

And so, as this breathtaking season continues, we can all wait with bated breath, as the country takes notice of the success of another small college from the mountains of North Carolina.