DOBSON — Two of Surry Community College’s standout athletes have shown they are no slouches in the classroom, either.
Gatlin Hiatt and Kelsie Griffin, who recently finished their sophomore years, have earned the NJCAA Exemplary Academic Achievement Award.
Hiatt and Griffin finished in the top 3.31 percent academically, as the National Junior College Athletic Association recently announced the recipients of the 2014-2015 Academic Student-Athlete Awards for both individuals and teams. They are the cream of the crop out of 58,531 student-athletes that competed on 3,461 teams in 28 different sports.
Griffin and Hiatt each earned the NJCAA Exemplary Academic Achievement Award by obtaining a grade point average of better than 3.60 with a minimum accumulation of 45 semester hours.
In addition to the individual awards, 591 teams were honored for academic excellence by achieving an overall grade point average better than 3.0.
The SCC women’s golf team, comprised of Hiatt and teammate Kasie Tolbert, was named a National Junior College All-Academic Team with an overall grade point average of 3.52.
The Lady Knights finished with the highest team grade point average in Region X in any sport, which consists of 145 teams throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. The Surry women’s golf team also finished third in the nation academically out of 86 women’s golf teams.
Griffin, a sophomore from Lenoir, helped lead the Lady Knights’ softball team to a Region X championship and the program’s first berth in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Clinton, Mississippi.
Griffin garnered first-team All-Region accolades while also earning the Marucci Elite Hitter Award, which recognizes the top hitter from each district. She belted a school-record 13 home runs to go along with 52 RBIs, finishing the season with a .435 batting average.
“It means a lot. It just shows that hard work and perseverance has paid off through the years,” Griffin said of the academic award. “I never thought I would get that award, but it is a really big honor.”
Griffin is studying business and plans to get an associate’s degree from Surry.
Hiatt, a sophomore from Lowgap, qualified for the NJCAA National Golf Tournament in each of her two years at Surry. She finished 54th out of the 106 golfers that competed in this year’s event. In addition, she earned All-Region seasons while also receiving the coach’s award from SCC coach Tom Pendergraft.
Tolbert, a sophomore from Mount Airy, earned All-Region accolades in each of her two seasons at Surry, finishing as overall medalist her freshman year before earning a runner-up finish this past year in Region X. At the national tournament this past spring in Mesa, Arizona, Tolbert finished 28th overall out of 106 national qualifiers.
“I think that is amazing. I never thought that would happen,” Hiatt said of finishing third in nation for golfers.
“That is awesome to know that we worked so hard and it paid off. Kasie and I have known each other since the ninth grade (at North Surry). It’s been a good run and awesome to play together. Our coach is pretty adamant about us making good grades. I think that was top on his list and top on my list. I am in the work world now and had to buckle down and get good grades.”
Hiatt just began a job as a part-time graphic designer with Rogers Realty of Mount Airy. She hopes to get a bachelor’s degree, possibly in marketing.
Of the NJCAA Exemplary Academic Achievement Award, Hiatt said, “It is really a high achievement. It’s really cool to have that and be able to say I was a student-athlete. I made some goals, and to have achieved them, it feels really good.”
Last year, Surry had five individuals recognized for academic excellence along with three teams (women’s golf, men’s golf, and softball). Each led Region X in overall awards.
“I’m extremely proud of these student-athletes,” said SCC athletic director Mark Tucker. “Along with Sandhills Community College, we were the only North Carolina community college recognized for earning both team and individual academic excellence awards. In addition, we were also one of only six North Carolina community colleges to have a student-athlete earn an academic excellence award.”