Student-athletes excelled this spring, extending the seasons for several Pfeiffer University teams into championship play. Some highlights:
The men’s lacrosse team, in its first year of eligibility, secured a berth in the NCAA Division III Men’s Championship.
- Tevin Colson ’21 won the USA South title in the 400m hurdles at the USA South Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Kevin Burris ’23 became the first Pfeiffer golfer to qualify for an NCAA Championship event at the Division III level.
Tiffany Bartholomew ’20 was named the USA South Female Field Athlete of the Year after winning the league title in the hammer throw and finishing second in the javelin and discus, fourth in the shot put and fifth in the high jump.
Brina Bentley ’21 also won the USA South title in the 200m dash.
Colson, a Sports Management major from New London, N.C., came into the USA South meet as the fastest seed and defended his rank through the preliminary races and the finals.
He ran a 57.50 to capture the title and improve upon his runner-up finish in 2019.
Unfortunately, on May 7, Colson and select members of the Falcons’ track & field team competed in the Montreat Last Chance Meet in Black Mountain, N.C., fell short in their last opportunity to qualify for the NCAA DIII championships.
Bartholomew, who’s from Raleigh, N.C., scored 55 points at the USA South Track & Field Championships, helping the Falcons to a third-place finish.
Bentley, in addition to her 200m title, finished fourth in the 400m dash. She hails from Chester, Va.
The NCAA golf championships take the top six individuals who are not a part of a qualifying team. Burris, a Sports Management major from Norwood, N.C., was ranked in the top 5 of this group all season, and he was the top-ranked golfer for several weeks throughout the spring.
At the DIII tournament, Burris shot a two-day total of 152 (82-70), and he missed the cut. However, he finished the season ranked 69th in DIII men’s golf with an adjusted scoring average of 71.56, and Pfeiffer finished the season ranked 57th in the division, which has 231 teams.
As for the men’s lacrosse team, it can look back on an outstanding season. The Falcons won the USA South East Division title in a victory over Greensboro College. After that, the team won the USA South title by defeating Piedmont College -- and gaining an automatic bid to the DIII tournament.
The team, which posted a 12-1 record before the tournament, benefited from the stellar play of current graduate student Jared Nelson ’19, an attackman who broke two NCAA career all-division records: one for assists during the aforementioned game against Greensboro and the other for points in Pfeiffer’s first-round loss to the University of Lynchburg (Va.) at the DIII tournament.
Coach Tucker Nelson and multiple players cited several non-quantifiable factors to explain the success of men’s lacrosse this season.
One was the smart way they handled the threat posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Players were vigilant about staying away from people outside of the team bubble.
Just two players tested positive during the regular season; when that happened, the whole team was quarantined for several days before a March 7 game against Ferrum College, which Pfeiffer won easily -- despite the fact that they practiced on the field for just one day before the game.
Then, in the days leading up to the conference championship game, eight players, including several starters, needed to be isolated after a non-athlete on their residence hall floor contracted Covid. Despite the lack of practice time, the isolated players didn’t let the layoff affect them. Each made a positive contribution to the victory over Piedmont College.
“Our guys were always ready to go, no matter what,” Coach Nelson said. “They never made excuses.”
Another factor for the success of men’s lacrosse this season has its roots in a unique, pandemic-related wrinkle: After halting play in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted another year of eligibility to any student-athlete pursuing a degree full-time. The waiver enabled Jared Nelson and several other players to rejoin the team after enrolling in University graduate programs.
The result: men’s lacrosse benefited from the experience and maturity of veterans who knew all about the no-nonsense culture of Coach Nelson’s program and how to uphold it.
One of the returning players was John Allen ’19, a former Sport Management major who rejoined the team after enrolling in Pfeiffer’s Master of Business Administration program. He was motivated by the chance to compete for a NCAA tournament berth, noting that such an opportunity wasn’t possible during his first stint at Pfeiffer because the University was still transitioning to DIII. He praised his team’s hunger to compete.
“Nobody ever took their foot off the gas,” he said. “My teammates made up one of the hardest-working groups of guys I’ve seen.”
Tom Romanik ’20, also in Pfeiffer’s MBA program, quit his job to play one more season on the men’s lacrosse team. He played backup goalie and served as a captain.
He had long lamented that his final year on the men’s lacrosse team had been cut short because of the pandemic. So, when the chance to play again presented itself, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I really didn’t get a senior season,” he said. “I would have hated to miss out on what we accomplished this year.”
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.