CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Players from each of Northeast Mississippi Community College's competitive athletic programs are gaining additional rewards for their commitment in the classroom.
Sixteen total young men and women that competed for Northeast during the 2018-19 school year were acknowledged with Academic Student-Athlete Awards from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
Three Tigers captured NJCAA All-Academic First Team laurels for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA). Eight earned second team honors with GPAs between 3.8 and 3.99 while five others gained third team distinction for holding a GPA between 3.6 and 3.79.
Northeast recently tied a school record after 40 players were named to the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) Academic All-State team as well.
The softball program led the way by obtaining NJCAA All-Academic Team status for the sixth consecutive season and the seventh time in the last eight years for accumulating an overall GPA of 3.42 on a 4.0 scale.
Softball also had the most individual honorees for the second year in a row with 10. Pearl River Central High School's Taylor Harris and Austyn Holden of Magnolia Heights School topped that lineup with identical 3.91 GPAs for second team accolades.
Joining Harris and Holden on the second team are freshmen Karlie Bolden and Alexis McGreger plus sophomores Callie Frazier, Kelsie Gerhart, Rebecca Sheffield and Caleigh Wallace.
Myrtle's Bolden boasted a 3.9 GPA while fellow Union County natives Frazier and Sheffield, who both graduated from East Union High School, had GPAs of 3.87 and 3.82. The trio Gerhart of New Hope High School, Wallace from Killen, Ala., and Marshall Academy's McGreger recorded GPAs of 3.89, 3.85 and 3.8, respectively.
Mackenzie Denton of South Pontotoc High School and Breanna Tarpley from Athens, Ala., round out the list of acclaimed softball players with third team prestige. The two members of Northeast's pitching staff had similar 3.63 and 3.6 GPAs.
"Athletics is going to be over one of these days, but getting an education and preparing them for life is all part of our process," said Tigers headman Jody Long. "We stress this and it's a key component in being successful in our program."
Northwest Rankin High School alumnus Carson Banks and Calhoun City's Taylor Liles put the Northeast football team in elite company once again after piecing together 4.0 GPAs.
The Tigers are one of just four programs in the entire country to have two or more NJCAA All-Academic First Team recipients, including Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Iowa Western Community College and Navarro (Texas) College.
"This is a great accomplishment for both young men that have dedicated their lives to academic and athletic success," Northeast head coach Greg Davis said. "Hard work pays off when you work diligently and prepare yourself for the future."
Grady Gardner of Nettleton and Daryl McElrath from Decaturville, Tenn., who are both freshmen guards on Northeast's men's basketball squad, accrued third team acknowledgement with 3.75 and 3.65 GPAs.
"These awards are really special," said Tigers head coach Cord Wright. "It obviously takes a lot of time and hard work to manage both on-the-floor and off-the-floor responsibilities. It's something that we're very proud of."
Huntsville, Ala., product Jake Christa was not only one of the aces on Northeast's pitching staff. He also topped the baseball version of the Tigers in the scholastic realm as well with a flawless 4.0 GPA and first team recognition for the second straight year.
"Jake is what a true student-athlete looks like," Northeast headman Richy Harrelson said. "His dream is to play professional baseball and he may get the chance to do that, but if he doesn't he's going to law school. He's very grounded and knows what he wants to do with his life."
Haley Vick, who hails from nearby Pine Grove High School, represents the tradition-rich women's basketball program on the NJCAA All-Academic Third Team with a solid 3.78 GPA.
"Haley is a true example of the title student-athlete," said Lady Tigers head coach Brenda Mayes. "She puts as much work into the academics as she does athletics. It proves she is working on her future after sports."
The NJCAA had an all-time high of 6,656 athletes that won awards for their educational efforts. Freshmen of sophomores with at least 24 hours of completed coursework were eligible for these prizes.
Sports Information Director
Northeast Mississippi Community College