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A Sporting Chance: Celebrating 5 Years of Carroll’s Athletics Program

Lacrosse player at Carroll Community College

Who says you can’t take community college athletics seriously?

When Carroll’s chair of Social Sciences, Sharon Brunner, convinced science professor Bill Kelvey to propose an athletics program at the College in early 2017, the pair was encouraged to turn their brainchild into a report on its feasibility. The paper that emerged from their collaboration presented an intercollegiate athletics program that would both increase average student credit loads and bolster degree completion rates.

These incentives led to the program being given the green light by College leadership. The ensuing marketing blitz installed the Lynx as Carroll’s mascot, with the aim of solidifying brand recognition and raising school spirit. Kelvey himself volunteered for the position of Athletic Director.

Kelvey points out that attending Carroll allows student-athletes to develop their skills here, both academically and athletically, while also saving them a lot of money. Afterwards, they can be recruited by four-year schools to finish their bachelor’s degrees. “The ability to have athletics,” Kelvey says, “can help get some of those guys and girls who maybe weren’t thinking of college [come to Carroll].”

Carroll provides a local opportunity for the younger generations to see the next level of play, and picture themselves playing on that field too.

Jen Snyder Student Engagement Carroll Community College
Jen Synder Senior Director of Student Engagement

Fit Additions

The College has since seen five years of intercollegiate athletic competition. The Athletics program initially boasted two sports—cross county and soccer—later adding track & field and lacrosse, then golf and finally volleyball.

Because of its expansion, boosted by sales of Lynx merchandise, Carroll has been able to hire its first full-time Athletics program employee. Athletics Coordinator Hunter Privette, who played lacrosse at CCBC-Essex, brings with him familiarity with Carroll’s NJCAA Region 20 landscape.

To Privette, the immediate goal is to foster skills growth with the College’s current teams. “First and foremost,” he says, “we need to keep Carroll County kids inside the county . . . because there’s a lot of good talent in this county athletically. We need to be a better option than the community colleges around us. I think that’s doable.”

Recruiting for a Competitive Edge

Carroll’s coaches have worked hard developing relationships with the athletic directors at county high schools, traveling to high school competitions to talk with and entice potential incoming first-years and enlisting current Carroll athletes to persuade their younger counterparts. “It’s about 80% recruiting and 20% is the actual coaching, because you can’t do it without the right athletes,” explains Kelvey.

Accordingly, the Athletics program hiring committee of Kelvey, Privette and Senior Director of Student Engagement, Jen Snyder, unanimously pinpoints athlete recruitment as one of the hardest parts of running an Athletics program. But Carroll has an edge.

The overriding factors for students in choosing this school are its overall number-one state ranking and having the opportunity to actually play from the outset of joining the team. “Carroll provides plenty of playing opportunities rather than sitting on the bench,” Kelvey adds.

Highlight Reel

Over the past five years, Carroll has witnessed numerous successes in its Athletics program. Although COVID sought to put a damper on the College’s fledgling teams early on, their student-athletes still managed to practice and play. The cross country team could be seen running drills while other schools cancelled their seasons, and Carroll even hosted the first Lynx Invitational Meet on its campus, which resulted in the men’s team finishing in 4th place and the women’s team in 6th place.

Soccer Players at Carroll Community College
Men’s soccer team at Carroll during their inaugural game in 2019

The inaugural track & field and men’s lacrosse seasons took place in the Spring of 2021, while men’s soccer moved into its second season. With an overall GPA of 3.33, the men’s soccer team was named a 2020-2021 NJCAA Men’s Soccer Academic Team of the Year. Likewise, the women’s track & field team, with their combined GPA of 3.73—the highest GPA of any women’s track & field team in the nation— earned a 2020-2021 NJCAA Academic Team of the Year honor for track & field.

The third year of competition saw as many seasons of consecutive varsity men’s soccer offerings, and men’s lacrosse tallied its first program win. Additionally, cross country finished 4th at the regional meet, placing a runner in the All-Region category.

In its fourth full year of competition, the Athletics program ran its first ever golf team, landing two 2nd place finishes alongside two individual All-MD JUCO honors, while men’s soccer continued to impress with two All-Region 20 selections. Rounding things out in the running arena, track & field set eight new records, and cross county participated in five meets against four-year schools.

Volleyball Carroll Community College
Women’s volleyball team at Carroll

Finally, volleyball coach Teri Leatherwood was instrumental in drumming up extensive community support for her team through her previous interactions with the county’s volleyball community. Its first ever competition this past Fall drew more than 300 spectators and finished the season with a very respectable 7-9 first year record.

In the Spotlight

Nothing speaks to the program’s success better than its individual athletes. Runner Amanda Donndelinger not only won first place in the women’s Region 20 cross country meet, but also achieved All-Academic First Team honors. “My experience at Carroll would not have been the same without the Cross Country and Track & Field teams,” Amanda said. “They made me feel welcome and became an instant group of friends for me when I was finding my footing. Even though I only knew some of my teammates for a season, I’ll never forget them.”

In volleyball, freshman Karley Badorf was named a 2nd team selection for Region Twenty. Staying close to her family and friends was important for her in choosing a school, as was the cost factor, but it was the ability to keep playing the sport she loved here that sealed the deal. The fact that she also received an athletics scholarship was the icing on the cake. “Carroll allowed me to play my sport while investing in my interests at an affordable price,” Karley explained. “All of the girls [on my team] were so sweet, and I enjoyed my time playing with them. [The program] met my expectations for some things and exceeded them in others!”

Cross Country Cameron Selmar Carroll Community College
Cameron Selmar running cross country

Another student-athlete standout, Cameron Selmer, was active in cross country or track across all four semesters he attended Carroll, even doubling up on the golf team in his last term. Coming to Carroll was an easy choice for him. Cost was a major deciding factor, but he was also bolstered by the dream of following in the footsteps of all the former running talent who had come through Carroll. “For me, sports are just a part of who I am,” Cameron said, “so having it offered at Carroll just made it perfect for me.”

Hot Prospects

It is clear this new Athletics program is looking toward the future. Foremost on its radar is the development of first-rate facilities that will rival those found at many 4-year institutions.

The biggest venture in this arena remains the construction of a new stadium at the “bowl” field on Carroll’s campus, adding to the allure of the recently installed scoreboard. With $2.4 million earmarked for the placement of a turf field, bleachers and nighttime lighting, the College is banking on being able to draw a crowd.

Overall, there are two phases to this Athletics program expansion project, for which the first half of the funding was committed by the end of 2023. The College hopes to reach or surpass the remaining fundraising goal and begin construction by the beginning of 2025.

Carroll has already hosted sporting events like the Carroll County Public School high school cross country championship race on its campus, and having expanded facilities and amenities for athletic events will further elevate the College’s visibility in the region.

“Carroll provides a local opportunity for the younger generations to see the next level of play, and picture themselves playing on that field too,” Snyder shared. A new stadium would certainly cultivate envisioning Carroll as an exciting place to play competitive collegiate sports.

A Hometown Fan Base

The success of Carroll’s Athletics program could not have happened without the help of very generous donors from the community. According to Karen Pelton, Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving and Grants Management, both seed money and ongoing support has been provided by the Kahlert Foundation. Other sponsors include First Financial Credit Union, the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, Pepsi, Battery Warehouse, Haghgoo Realty and ACNB Insurance Services.

While much of this funding will be applied to the Athletics program, Pelton noted that a portion of each of these sponsors’ contributions goes directly towards student-athlete scholarships. “These scholarships not only open the doors to education,” Pelton said, “but also empower individuals to follow their passion for sports, granting them the opportunity to excel both in the classroom and on the field.”

Jen Snyder points out how intrepid Carroll’s new program has been despite being the second-to-last member of Maryland’s sixteen community colleges to adopt sports. “We just appreciate folks trusting in us and believing in our athletes and our staff and our program,” she said. “It is quite amazing what we’ve been able to do without facilities and without a full-time staff. It’s amazing how far we’ve come!”

With continuing diehard support from students, faculty, staff, donors and the greater community, it’s not hard to imagine how much farther Carroll’s Athletics program can go. GO LYNX!

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