The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association released the 2017 NAIA Indoor Regional Awards on Thursday, and Carroll College earned three of four West Regional Athlete of the Year honors. Head coach Harry Clark and distance coach David Morris were also recognized.
"Our goal is to be the best program in the NAIA, and it is clear that we are on our way," Clark said. "These honors are well deserved and were earned with a lot of hard work and dedication from both our athletes and our staff."
Leah Esposito won her second consecutive Women's West Region Track Athlete of the Year Award after earning Top 5 rankings in the mile and the 1,000. She is the defending indoor mile national champion and won the 1,000 title in 2015. Esposito is currently second in the the 1,000 with a time of 2:54.16 and fourth in the mile with a time of 4:58.17.
"Leah is a person that has helped us establish this program and done tremendous things both on the track and in the classroom," Clark said. "Her legacy will have an impact on this program for years. Another exciting thing is that we could have nominated two or three other athletes that would have won track athlete of the year."
Crystal Schmidt is the NAIA leader in the pentathlon. She scored a school-record 3,404 points in the Mountain States Games in Pocatello, Idaho, and was named the NAIA Field Athlete of the Week after her performance. She also hit the NAIA qualifying standard in the high jump. For her efforts this season, she was named the Women's West Region Field Athlete of the Year.
"Crystal is fulfilling the expectations that we have had in her since she arrived on campus," Clark said. "She is on another level athletically, and I am excited to see what she does next week at nationals."
Chance Hyatt earned NAIA qualifying marks in the mile and in the 800. He is currently ranked sixth in the mile with a time of 4:14.45. He was named the Men's West Region Track Athlete of the Year.
"Chance continues to improve and impress," Morris said. "We know he has a national title or two in the wings if he can continue to improve over his final two years."
Clark was named the West Region Women's Head Coach of the Year. The Saints achieved their highest ranking in program history last week, picking up a No. 2 ranking. The Saints are taking more athletes to the NAIA Championship than in any season in school history.
Morris received his second consecutive West Region Assistant Coach of the Year honor. The Carroll women own six Top 10 times in the NAIA in distance events this season.
"The coaching honors are a direct reflection of what our kids have accomplished on the the track," Clark said. "These athletes continue to improve and exceed our expectations and the honors and awards that we receive as a program come from their hard work and dedication on and off of the track, and I couldn't be more proud of what they have accomplished."
The Saints travel to Johnson City, Tenn. Next week for the NAIA Indoor National Championship at David E. Walker Track at Gentry Field on the campus of East Tennessee State University.