Surry student athletes earn academic awards

At Surry Community College, sophomores Gatlin Hiatt and Kelsie Griffin reached the pinnacle of their respective sports on the playing field in 2015. Now, the two Knights' athletes have followed it up in the classroom as both have been 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. Of the over 58,531 student-athletes that competed on 3,461 teams in 28 different sports, only 3.31 percent achieved academic excellence. In addition, 591 teams were honored for academic excellence by achieving an overall grade point average above a 3.0.

Hiatt and Griffin

Griffin and Hiatt each earned the NJCAA Exemplary Academic Achievement Award by obtaining a grade point average of over 3.60 with a minimum accumulation of 45 semester hours. Meanwhile, the women's golf team of Hiatt and teammate Kasey Tolbert was named a National Junior College All-Academic Team with an overall grade point average of 3.52. The Lady Knights' golfers 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 earning the Coach's Award.

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. Academically, the duo finished third in the nation among all women's golf teams.

"I think that is amazing. I never thought that would happen," Hiatt said. "That is awesome to know that we work so hard and it paid off. Kasey 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 work as a part-time graphic designer with Rogers Realty of Mount Airy. She hopes to get a bachelor's degree, possibly in marketing. Along with Griffin, she was one of just two Surry athletes to receive the NJCAA Exemplary Academic Achievement Award.

"It is really a high achievement," Hiatt said. "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) recognized as All-Academic. Each led Region X in overall awards.

"I'm extremely proud of these student-athletes," said Surry Athletics 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."


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