Support your local college athletics

Published 12:53 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Living in a small town doesn’t always satisfy the thirst for a major sporting event. Growing up in Tazewell, I always wanted to go to a Tennessee football game. The sounds of the cheering crowds, the larger than life athletes and a stadium that was rich in history and felt like the size of three states to this 12-year-old boy was what I wanted to experience.

It’s true that most sports fans grow up rooting for major college or professional sports programs. Whether it’s Tennessee or Kentucky at the collegiate level or the Miami Dolphin or L.A. Lakers professionally, we tend to grow a strong bond with these teams.

Now, as a 28-year-old adult, it’s starting to click just how important local collegiate sports are to a community. Sure, the likelihood of 23,500 fans filling up Tex Turner Arena is doubtful, but that doesn’t make it any less important to root on the Railsplitters.

Take a step back and look at the colleges that have sports teams in our area — LMU, Union College, the University of the Cumberlands and Pikeville to name a few. These are all schools in our backyard that we can spend an afternoon enjoying a sporting event without breaking the bank.

In addition to that, we are helping out local communities in areas that actually need it.

Local colleges also give us a chance to enjoy seeing our area athletes excel at the next level. Between the three closest colleges — LMU, Union, and the Cumberlands — there are at least 100 student-athletes that graduated from a school within the region.

Included in the aforementioned total are schools from Bell, Harlan, Whitley, Knox and Laurel counties — as well as schools in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

That number can be narrowed down to 22 athletes that graduated from a school in Bell or Harlan counties. That is a good number of students especially considering the small amounts of athletes that get the chance to compete at the next level.

These are kids that made a name for themselves and helped some of their high school teams be successful. The last thing we need to do is forget about them because they didn’t go to a D-I school.

So, go out and support your local college athletic programs and the athletes participating this school year. It’s a lot cheaper that spending hundreds of dollars at a D-I or professional sporting event.

Just to get the names out there, below is a list of athletes who either played or will play at Union, Cumberlands or LMU next season from schools in the coverage area (according to current available rosters):

Union College

Baseball

Will Adams — Pineville

Andrew Saylor — Harlan

Football

Hunter Hurst — Bell County

Nehemiah Huffaker — Harlan County

Men’s Golf

Austin Caldwell — Bell County

Jordan Smith — Bell County

Samuel Moore — Harlan

Women’s Basketball

Katrina Johnson — Bell County

Morgan Garnett — Bell County

Softball

Farren Clark — Harlan County

Cheerleading

Deborah Bowman — Harlan County

Tabitha Kilgore — Harlan

University of the Cumberlands

Football

Scotty Bailey — Harlan County

Jacob Sutton — Bell County

Nathan Murray — Bell County

Men’s Cross Country

Mitchell Miracle — Bell County

Women’s Basketball

Kaylea Gross — Harlan

Women’s Cross Country

Laura Creech — Harlan County

Women’s Tennis

Hannah Warren — Middlesboro

Cheerleading

Stacey Huff — Harlan County

Lincoln Memorial University

Baseball

Joe Faulkner — Cumberland Gap

Tanner Acuff — J. Frank White Academy

Men’s Golf

Garrett Tucker — Cumberland Gap

Gavin Burns — Cumberland Gap

Track and Field

Aaron Reed — Claiborne

Women’s Cross Country

Eva Dunn — J. Frank White Academy (also on track team)

Women’s Golf

Hannah Wilford — Middlesboro

Women’s Track and Field

Syann Buis — Claiborne

Ronda Capps — Middlesboro

Whitney Elliott — Cumberland Gap

Cheer

Sarah Hoskins — Bell County

Hannah Price — Cumberland Gap

Lauren Sweet — Cumberland Gap