May 29, 2014

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MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin cross country coach Gordon Sanders has announced the addition of seven runners to the 2014 recruiting class. The addition of the seven commits to the 2014 class will mark the largest cross country team in school history with an 18-member women’s squad and 11-member men’s team.

Sanders announced the commitments of Kiana Hope (Fillmore, Calif.), Taylor Connett (Erlanger, Ky.), Chelsea Bear (LaGrange, Ky.), Stone Fagan (Cookeville, Tenn.), Grant Iverson (Paxton, Ill.), Sheyenne Nelson (Medina, Tenn.) and Kelsey Hartnett (Spring Hill, Tenn.). The five female and two male commits span four states, including California, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois.

Kiana Hope, Fr., Fillmore, Calif. (Fillmore High School)

Hope finished her senior year with personal bests of 5:19 in the mile, 11:15 in the 2 mile run, 17:58 in the 3 mile run, and was a cross-country state finalist.  These performances capped off an athletic career that earned cross first team All-Southern honors, three years of cross all-conference honors and a multi-year league champion sweep in the 800, 1600, and 3200 meter track runs. All of this followed with the corresponding league, team and distance most valuable player accolades in both track and cross country, as well as multiple team captain honors.  Ranked third in her graduating class, she comes to UT Martin as a Dean’s Scholarship recipient.

“Kiana is the fastest lady recruit in 14 years, and has hit her performances with just moderate workloads,” said Sanders. “Her senior year improvement will only continue here as she will be pushing for the top team spot from the get go. Joining four other recruits on the team from the southwest, we are thrilled of her decision to come east for university.”

Taylor Connett, Fr., Erlanger, Ky. (Saint Henry District High School)

Connett comes to UT Martin after becoming the Kentucky Outdoor state champion in the 800 meter run and the 4x800 relay for the third time. These titles combine for eight all-state titles that she contributed to her team membership as a cross state champions the last two seasons and then track and field state champions the past three seasons.  She has also been heavily involved in dozens of community events and organizations like Future Business Leaders of America and Crusaders for Life.  Honors received are the “Best and Brightest” award from the Kentucky National Guard, Crusader of the Year award and is a recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship at UT Martin.

“Taylor’s range from 2:19 for the 800 meter run to 19:34 for 5K will allow her a wider range of training options,” said Sanders. “With only two years of cross country experience, she has quite a bit of untapped potential.  Coming to UTM where she may balance that range, with the range of school and community involvement that she enjoys, made us a perfect fit.”

Chelsea Bear, Fr., LaGrange, Ky. (Oldham County High School)

Bear has been a scorer with a top-5 team finish at the state cross championships for the last three years. She has also been academic all-state in cross-country and/or track for the past seven years. She comes to UT Martin as a Dean’s Scholarship recipient.  Her leadership has earned her the team Cross Country Captain award and Cross Country Coach’s award while also being the Ambassador and President of her Girl Scout troop.

“With personal bests of 19:49 in the 5K and 11:59 in the 3200m run as well as being her school record holder in the 2K steeplechase, Chelsea is expected to continue her years as a scorer starting her freshman year here,” said Sanders. “She is a pure long distance lady and will be well suited for the longer college events. Her team leadership will also fit in well with the ladies”

Stone Fagan, Fr., Cookeville, Tenn. (Cookeville High School)

Fagan finished his senior season with all-midstate and multiple state honor of All-South region team.  This was done while maintaining his four years of Honor Roll with IB and AP classes to graduate in the top-5 percent of his class.  He joins UT Martin as a Chancellor’s Award recipient.  Besides his leadership roles as team captain during all of his high school years were his roles as church youth group Leadership Team, town newspaper Layout Editor Team and multiple community clubs involvement.

“Stone did not show signs at the beginning of the year of becoming All-South region, but his end of season finish is indicative of the improvement some normal workloads will bring.  Of course we are proud to get such an academic and community leader at UTM as well,” said Sanders.

Grant Iverson, Fr., Paxton, Ill. (Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School)

Iverson has been a scorer for his sectional cross qualifying team for the last three years since starting cross country in sixth grade and recently was a Sectional champion in the 3200 meter event.  He is Student Council President, FBLA President, Link Crew Freshman Mentor, Big Brother Mentor, Math Team state medalist in geometry, Leadership-in-Residence Scholarship recipient, and UT Martin Dean’s Scholarship recipient.

"Grant has been communicating with the team for two years,” said Sanders. “Applying his leadership and initiative to his passion for distance running has certainly paid off.  I have enjoyed following his progress during these past years.  Grant has fit this in with all of his academic success and time in leadership roles off the track. This is the level of character that is a perfect fit for UTM.  Grant will be an integral part of our distance team."

Sheyenne Nelson, So., Medina, Tenn. (Freed-Hardeman University)

Nelson transfers in from the Freed-Hardeman University cross country team with top academic marks. A transplant from Florida prior to finishing her prep career at South Gibson High School, she started in the sport only two years ago and was a scorer in her freshman year of college.

“Sheyenne is so new to distance running that a solid year of training will see good development,” said Sanders. “I am looking forward to seeing what she can do on a year round basis. Of course her excellent academics will add to the high marks the team gets every semester.”

Kelsey Hartnett, Fr., Spring Hill, Tenn. (Summit Hill High School)

Hartnett has been running since sixth grade and is part of a District championship cross country team at Summit Hill High School.  A National Honor Society member, she also qualified for a Dean’s Scholarship at UT Martin.

“We have been communicating for quite some time,” said Sanders. “Kelsey loves to run and has a terrific attitude.  As another of our many Dean’s Scholar’s, she will also be contributing to the academic success of our teams.”

As a team, the Skyhawk men’s cross country squad posted a team grade point average of 3.2 during the fall semester before raising the team average to 3.3 in the spring term in 2013-14. The women’s squad continued to hold the bar high, posting a team average of 3.5 in the fall while tallying a 3.4 GPA during the spring.The Skyhawks had eight athletes notch perfect 4.0 GPAs this past season.

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