FOREST, Va. --- All eyes are on cross country this weekend with the return of the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships on Saturday. As was customary prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ODAC kicks off the weekend by announcing its annual All-ODAC Cross Country Special Awards recipients following a vote of the league's head coaches over the past week.
The University of Lynchburg, which will feature both of its teams in Louisville, Ky., tomorrow in the national championships, collected all six special honors decided this week in addition to the previous accolades announced following the conference championships. Hornets graduate student Stephanie Burnett and senior Max Sparks were tabbed the ODAC Women's and Men's Runners of the Year. Teammates Allison Dell and Sam Llaneza took home the ODAC Women's and Men's Rookie of the Year laurels. Head coach Jake Reed earned both ODAC Coach of the Year plaques from his peers.
The ODAC/Virginia Farm Bureau Insurances Scholar-Athletes --- Burnett and Eastern Mennonite University senior Isaac Alderfer --- were announced along with the All-ODAC First and Second Teams following the ODAC Championships hosted by Bridgewater College earlier this fall. A complete listing of honors is posted below.
The announcement of the ODAC's final cross country awards comes on the eve of the NCAA Division III Championships, which are set for Saturday, November 20, in Louisville, Ky., at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park. Lynchburg teams will both feature in the dual 32-team fields, which are further bolstered by 70 individual qualifiers each for a maximum of 294 runners per competition.
Lynchburg's women are currently ranked 32nd in the country and second in the South Region by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Burnett leads the charge along with ODAC individual champion Kelsey Lagunas. Burnett placed third at the ODAC Championships with a time of 23:51.4 over the six-kilometer course. She improved both her time and placing at the regional championships by finished second in 22:43.8, her fastest 6K time of the season. Burnett is the Hornets all-time 6K record-holder at 21:40.9 set at the 2019 NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regional Championships.
Dell adds further firepower to the Hornets rotation. The ODAC Rookie of the Meet placed fourth at Bridgewater in 24:7.1. Her placing at the regional championships was a bit lower in 11th position, but her 6K time improved 23:24.9. That is just 3.9-seconds short of her season-best mark (23:21.0) at the Inter-Regional Border Battle hosted by Rowan University in mid-October.
Lynchburg traveled with eight runners to Louisville. Seven of those competitors will feature at 12:00 p.m. CT in the women's competition. Those eligible include Burnett, Dell, Sarah James, Lagunas, Lauren Massey, Kodi Payne, Molly Silva, and Jackie Wilson. Of the seven that compete, five will accumulate points towards the Hornets' team score.
Additionally, two individuals from ODAC schools will compete. Shenandoah University senior Erin Atkinson and Washington and Lee University junior Carolyn Todd qualified as individuals following their strong performances at the regional championships.
On the men's side, Sparks is now a two-time ODAC Runner of the Year, combining this award with top honors from 2019. He won both the ODAC title and the South Region crown with eight-kilometer times of 26:28.3 and 25:17.8, respectively. Sparks has experience new and old on the Louisville championship course at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park. He finished 138th at the 2019 national event. Earlier this season, he reset the Lynchburg 8K record at the pre-national championship meet with a time of 24:27.0.
Llaneza, who missed on his first opportunity to compete collegiately last season, backed up his strong 2021 spring track season with a stellar first cross country campaign. He finished fourth at the ODAC Championships in 26:35.1 and then posted a time of 25:37.2 in South Carolina to rank eighth at the regional event.
Lynchburg, which is ranked 24th nationally and second in the South Region by the USTFCCCA, traveled with eight individuals to the national championships. Joining Sparks and Llaneza are ODAC runner-up (and track All-American) Frank Csorba, Bryce Davis, Sam Graham, Corbin Green, Connor McCroy, and Brennan Straits. Seven will toe the start line at first gun at 11:00 a.m. CT with five earning points towards the team score.
Listed below is the entire slate of 2021 ODAC Cross Country Awards. For more information on ODAC Cross Country, visit the websites of any of the participating schools, or go to the ODAC's home on the Internet at www.odaconline.com. Don't forget to become a fan of the ODAC on Facebook at follow @odacathletics on Twitter and Instagram.
|ODAC Men's Runner of the Year
Max Sparks | Sr. | Lynchburg
ODAC Men's Coach of the Year
Jake Reed | Lynchburg
ODAC Men's Rookie of the Year
Sam Llaneza | So. | Lynchburg
Men's ODAC/Farm Bureau Insurance
Isaac Alderfer | Sr. | Eastern Mennonite
|ODAC Women's Runner of the Year
Stephanie Burnett | Gr. | Lynchburg
ODAC Women's Coach of the Year
Jake Reed | Lynchburg
ODAC Women's Rookie of the Year
Allison Dell | Fy. | Lynchburg
Women's ODAC/Farm Bureau Insurance
Stephanie Burnett | Gr. | Lynchburg
|All-ODAC First Team - Men
|All-ODAC First Team - Women
|All-ODAC Second Team - Men
|All-ODAC Second Team - Women
|Men's Runner of the Meet
|Women's Runner of the Meet
|Max Sparks | Sr. | Lynchburg
|Kelsey Lagunas | Jr. | Lynchburg
|Men's Rookie of the Meet
|Women's Rookie of the Meet
|Josh Fingerhut | Fy. | Washington and Lee
|Allison Dell | Fy. | Lynchburg