MARTINEZ, Ga. - The Georgia College & State University women's cross country team and head coach Joe Samprone continue to have one of their best seasons in program history, adding the accolade of a league-best seven harriers on the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Women's Cross Country All-Academic Teams.
The seven positions are the most of any of the 11 teams in the PBC, as Flagler College is second with six. The Bobcats picked up two first-team selections, also the most of any team.
Seniors Bonnie Nikelin (Blairsville, Ga.) and Heather Raines (Lawrenceville, Ga.) both earned first-team selections. Nikelin owns a lofty 3.81 GPA in physical education, the highest of the Bobcat runners, and third-highest among the six first team selections. A two-time PBC Runner of the Week, Raines owns a 3.57 in mass communication.
Junior 2007 All-PBC selection Dani Destiche (Snellville, Ga.) has a 3.63 in outdoor education, good for second team honors. Joining her is senior Alycia Hayes (Cumming, Ga.), who posted a 3.80 GPA in health education.
On the third team are senior Virginia Balkcom (Fayetteville, Ga.), and sophomores Sarah Balkcom (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Victoria Dobson (New Hamburg, Ontario). Virginia Balkcom earned a spot on the All-PBC Second Team for taking 10th at the championships, but it was her 3.22 in health education that got her on this list. Sister Sarah Balkcom has a 3.25 in the same major, while Dobson owns a 3.46 in English.
The seven listed is a boost up from four being selected last season from Georgia College. Nikelin, Raines and Destiche all make return appearances on the list, and for Nikelin it marks the second time in as many years as a first-team selection.
The team is part of a season-long program recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of PBC student-athletes in the classroom as well as on the field. To be eligible for the All-Academic team, a student-athlete must 1) participate in at least half of his/her team's events and be either a starter or significant contributor; 2) achieved a 3.20 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and 3) completed at least one full academic year at his or her current institution. The Peach Belt Conference Sports Information Directors oversee and select the teams.
The GCSU Department of Athletics, winners of the 2008-09 PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, GCSU prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at Twitter.com username GCSUSID for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCSUBobcats.com to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame.