CAMPBELLSVILLE, KY (03/06/2014)(readMedia)– OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For the last five years, Campbellsville University has used the slogan “More Than a Game.” The NAIA recognized that in two of CU’s 25 sports teams on March 5, awarding both the CU women’s and men’s swimming programs as the Buffalo Funds NAIA Champions of Character Team Award for their respective sport.
CU sophomore Shelby Mattingly was also recognized as CU’s individual Champion of Character.
The team award is nominated for by each school and presented annually to one team from each of the NAIA’s 23 championship sports.
“Congratulations to Coach (Casey) Smith and both of her swim teams for being recognized for their character, servant leadership and service to others. This validates that our efforts with the Champions of Character program are being successful. This is a great honor for our swim teams, the athletics department and the entire campus community,” said Rusty Hollingsworth, athletic director.
Campbellsville University’s nomination was lengthy with just some of the many things the swim teams do throughout the year to demonstrate positive character on campus and in the community.
“With a team of mostly freshmen and sophomores, it is particularly exciting for me to see both Swimming Tigers receive this award. They have such a strong desire to reach out not only to each other but also to other student-athletes on Campbellsville University’s campus, swim teams from other schools and the local Campbellsville community,” CU swim coach Casey Smith said. “From moments about honesty of missed classes to the desire to run a marathon to honor God, my athletes have been a wonderful model of what it means to truly be a Champion of Character. Being with them as they show such amazing character reminds me why I love to coach!”
Last April, Smith and freshman Jenna Rueff completed the 26.2 mile Kentucky Derby Marathon as a promise Rueff made with God more than a year and a half prior. Rueff did so after overcoming brain surgery and continuing her swim career. That moment, along with others sprinkled in through the 2012-13 season, built a foundation and desire for character among the returning “Fab Five” of the CU women’s team.
This men’s program, which was reestablished in 2012-13, has a completely new roster this season and also quickly formed together to build character.
“As this is the first full season with our reinstated men’s team, it has been particularly exciting for me to see this group of guys not only bond together, but be willing to catch my vision for the program and incorporate that into their building of the men’s program,” Smith said. “The current roster is a wonderful group of guys who have been working very hard to establish a foundation of positive character traits. They have had to create a healthy and positive atmosphere for each other and in cooperation with the women’s team.”
During the first week of the 2013-14 season, as CU’s athletic department began to emphasis character building more, so did Smith’s swimmers. For the last few seasons, Smith has rewarded Champions of Character swim caps to her swimmers who are displaying positive attitudes and examples. This, along with teachings throughout practice and meetings, expanded in 2013-14 with student-led movements.
In September 2013, both swim team participated with the entire athletic department in the Green River Lake Cleanup, and then also helped host the inaugural CU Tigers Fall Festival for the local community. Also, in the fall, Smith was featured in CU’s Live 5 video series to talk about servant leadership. Each CU head coach will be featured in a Champions of Character video through the 2013-14 academic year.
During each home meet this season, the teams placed a “Change for Change” jar at the front door to help raise money for an organization called Beading to Beat Autism, a non-profit run by a girl in her teens from Louisville, Ky. Even though the regular season is over, the jar remains in the swim office to help Beading to Beat Autism reach its $5 million fund-raising goal.
In November, Mattingly rallied her team around the idea of having a 12-hour dance marathon called Dance Maroon to raise awareness for the St. Baldrick’s organization, which gathers funds and research for pediatric cancer. More than 100 students and community members participated to launch the men’s and women’s teams’ combined goal of raising $5,000 for St. Baldrick’s. Members of both teams will also participate in the annual Color to Conquer 5K on March 15 and the St. Baldrick’s Shave-a-thon on campus March 22.
CU also has been a servant leader in the swim community, by extending a helping hand to other programs. In January, CU invited fellow Mid-South Conference team Bethel University to share in their Senior Day festivities since Bethel did not have any home meets. On Feb. 8, CU opened its doors to host the first high school meet in the community in more than 20 years in Powell Athletic Center. The Tiger and Lady Tiger swimmers worked as life guards, timers, meet managers, staff to aid fans and high school athletes, ticket sales and concessions.
Most recently, Smith arranged a special trip to Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla. CU was scheduled to visit with both schools during the day on March 4 to begin their trip to Oklahoma City, but inclement weather forced the teams to cancel the event with Moore Schools being closed and CU’s bus being stuck on I-40 in Arkansas.
Campbellsville’s student-athletes took advantage of the traffic jam though, finding a way to serve others despite being stuck on the road for 42 hours. CU, which was sharing a bus with the Bethel swim teams, gave away bottled water and offered snacks to the University of the Cumberlands swim team, which was also stuck on I-40 in front of them, and loaned the bus’ bathrooms to other motorists stuck in the traffic jam.
While the list of acts of kindness could go on-and-on, as well as stories of team and personal Bible studies within the team, one thing that stands out about CU’s program is the character building and life changes which occur during the season.
As part of the nomination process, coaches are asked for student-athletes to comment on character.
For the women, sophomore Bailey Foxworth described how she has learned to enjoy her sport once again at CU. Foxworth’s essay described how she used to be focused solely on her result, but has learned to cheer for her teammates once out of the water.
“If swimming isn’t a team-oriented sport, then I don’t know what is,” Foxworth wrote. “I have been swimming competitively since I was 6 years old, and for 13 years I’ve dedicated my life to this sport, but until I started swimming for Campbellsville University, I held fast to my belief in swimming as individual sport.”
Foxworth, who admitted she considered during her first semester in Fall 2012 of transferring at the end of the year to get away from swimming, accepted Christ in Oct. 2012 during a campus revival.
“I finally let Jesus into my heart. I stopped worrying about being the best swimmer on the team, and started to fall in love with swimming again. It was through my teammates, my wonderful coach, and my growing relationship with Christ that I learned sportsmanship, and what it truly means to be a part of a team,” Foxworth said.
In the men’s nomination, freshman Devon Cross admitted the men’s team has had to learn good communication, commitment and accountability this season, even at times when it wasn’t fun to do so.
“We’ve learned the hard way this season, but yet through any trial, it builds more and more character,” Cross said. “Our coach taught us that being on a team, we are one body. It has several different parts that make the whole system operate, some seem small and insignificant, but when you move just one of those parts it cannot work like it used to.”
Smith’s message of her teams being one body comes from 1 Corinthians 12, a passage she has taught throughout the year and placed on her team’s shirts during preseason – a lesson which the teams are now living out and sharing with others.
“I am blessed by my teams and so proud of the way they are learning to serve together. Living and loving like Christ is not an easy lifestyle choice, especially in collegiate athletics, but it is a choice that is much more possible when you have support,” Smith said. “My athletes have been working on supporting one another to live, practice and compete in a way that is not the norm, a way that takes much more effort.
CU women’s and men’s swimming are the third and fourth Campbellsville University sports teams to receive the NAIA Champions of Character Team Award since 2010. CU women’s basketball received the award in March 2010 and CU football received it in December 2010.
The 2013-14 women’s swimming roster includes Lindy Charity of Pretoria, South Africa; Jessica Cook of Tilbury, Ontario; Bailey Foxworth of Georgetown, Ky.; Casey Galyon of Louisivlle, Ky.; Emily Hunter of Newark, Del.; Katylnn Lanham of Owensboro, Ky.; Shelby Mattingly of Versailles, Ky.; Olivia Murphy of Mt. Sterling, Ky.; Jessica Paasch of Valley Springs, Calif.; Kyle Perkins of North Pole, Alaska; Jenna Rueff of Louisville, Ky.; and Rebekah Tilton of Crestview, Fla.
The 2013-14 men’s swimming roster includes Filippo Albertino of Turin, Italy; Brad Clem of Scottsburg, Ind.; Devon Cross of Lewisburg, Ky.; Daniel Fathergill of Lexington, Ky.; Jonathan Kattus of Versailles, Ky.; Tanner Marcum of Frankfort, Ky.; Alex Meade of Paintsville, Ky.; and Tyler Vaughn of Lewisburg, Ky.
Both teams are coached by head coach Casey Smith and graduate assistant Zac Malyon.
Pictured above from left are team members: Front row – Emily Hunter, Casey Galyon, Katlynn Lanham, Kyle Perkins, Jenna Rueff, Bailey Foxworth and Brad Clem. Second row – Head Coach Casey Smith, Rebekah Tilton, Jessica Cook, Shelby Mattingly, Marien Rincon, Olivia Murphy and Jonathan Kattus. Back row — Jessica Paasch, Daniel Fathergill, Tanner Marcum, Alex Meade, Tyler Vaughn, Devon Cross and Assistant Coach Zac Malyon. Not pictured: Lindy Charity and Filippo Albertino. (Campbellsville University Photo by Richard RoBards)