MOUNT BERRY, Ga. — Berry College head track and field coach Luke Syverson in addition to head cross country coach Paul Deaton have announced the nine newcomers to their programs for the upcoming season.
The class is expected to provide added depth to the men's cross country team that finished third and the track squad that earned a fourth place finish at this year's Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Championship meets.
"Our men's class is a good mix that adds depth in both distance and jumps," Syverson said. "We lost a few key men this year in our distance group and points in our jumps group so it was important to try to fill those holes. We have also been working on setting the foundation to add a few more men to the team from current Berry students that should help us in the sprints and throws next year."
Below are brief summaries of each of the new Vikings:
(Powder Springs, Ga., Hillgrove High School)
PR's: 4:32.12 1600m/9:38.40 3200m/16:48 5k XC
Bensley was a 2016 GHSA Cross Country (XC) State Championship qualifier and also competed in the Georgia XC Meet of Champions this past year after a break-through season. He continued into the spring, finishing 14th in the 3,200m at the 2017 GHSA 7A State Track & Field Championships. He was a team captain of both the XC and track teams and holds Hillgrove school records in both the 3,200m and DMR. He will compete on both the XC and Track teams at Berry. Bensley is also an accomplished student as he is a member of the National Honors Society, named a Marrietta Daily Journal Scholar-Athlete, graduated with honors, and was in the top 10% of his class at Hillgrove. He is the son of Danny and Traci Bensley and intends to major in Engineering.
"Cameron has tremendous upside as he has seen his times drop significantly in the last year. We are excited to see him take the opportunity to compete for a top seven spot as a freshman this fall and adds some much needed depth to our men's distance group." -Luke Syverson
(Milton, Ga., Milton High School)
PR's: 4:54.21 1600m/17:38.72 5k XC
Butzow was a four-year letterman for the Milton XC team and was the team captain for track & field in 2017. He was also a scholar athlete and was awarded Most Improved in XC during his sophomore year. He will compete in both XC and Track at Berry. He is the son of Darrin and Angie Butzow and intends to major in Creative Technologies at Berry.
"Andy comes from a strong high school program and shows a lot of promise. He will be a strong academic fit for our team and is the type of runner that often see great improvement in Coach Deaton's training and system." -Luke Syverson
(Brentwood, Tenn., Ravenwood High School)
PR's: 16:59.73 5k XC
Jackson was a four-year member of the Ravenwood XC team and was a 2015 TSSAA XC State Championship qualifier. Fairly new to track & field, Jackson was a standout wrestler for Ravenwood. In addition to athletics, he succeeded in the classroom as well earning a Williamson County honors diploma. He is the son of Wade and Karen Jackson and intends to major in Engineering at Berry.
"Everett comes from a great program in Tennessee and has a lot of potential as he has only had two years on the track. His main focus was cross country and getting in shape for wrestling so we are looking forward to what he can do with a narrowed focus on distance running." -Luke Syverson
(Pensacola, Fla., Booker T. Washington High School, Arkansas Baptist College)
PR's: 11.57 100m/23.82 200m/6.30m LJ/1.88m HJ
O'Brien comes to Berry after competing in both football and track at Arkansas Baptist College. A 2015 graduate from Booker T. Washington High School, O'Brien was a three sport athlete competing in football, basketball, and track. He was active in ROTC, FCA, and was named to the President's List three times while at Arkansas Baptist. He is the son of Sean and Jennifer O'Brien and has eight siblings. He intends to major in Biochemistry while at Berry.
"Abner is a great addition to our program and will help in the short sprints and jumps. At 6-2, 238, his size is a bit deceiving but he can move and has great explosive power. I look forward to what will be his best event here at Berry." -Luke Syverson
(Flowery Branch, Ga., West Hall High School)
PR's: 51.86 400m/2:09.80 800m
Oliver is a two time GHSA State Track and Field Championships qualifier in the relays. He helped lead his 2015 4x400 relay team to a 7th place finish in 2015 and also ran on the same relay in 2016. He was a member of the West Hall football team that reached the GHSA State Playoffs all four years that he was on the team. Oliver was also a three-year team captain for both his football and track teams as well as earning Scholar Athlete honors. He is a member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society and was named the Georgia BEST Student of the Year. He is the son of Rocky and Debbie Oliver and intends to major in Biology while at Berry.
"Tommy comes to us highly regarded by coaches Catrett and Parnell at West Hall. He gives some needed depth in the 400m and has a lot of potential. We like that he has experienced success and leadership in more than one sport also. He will be a solid addition to our 400m group and relays." -Luke Syverson
(Rome, Ga., Unity Christian High School)
PR's: 11.91 100m/5'10 HJ
Competing in his first year of track & field, Patel went on to win the 2017 GIACC State Championship title in the High Jump and placed 9th in the 100m. While at Unity, he also competed in basketball, baseball, and football. He is the son of Sam and Buffy Patel and intends to major in Business and Human Resources while at Berry.
"Nish was a late addition to our recruiting class but one of the most welcomed. Since this was the first year of Unity having a track team, he was kind of off our radar. One of the best parts of Nish is that he chose Berry first which tells me he will be a great fit and teammate. He has only had the chance to practice the high jump about four times so for him to jump essentially 6' means he has a lot of upside." -Luke Syverson
(Rome, Ga., Rome High School)
PR's: 12'6 PV
Shaw was the team captain of both the XC and swim teams at Rome. He also was awarded the Coaches Award for both sports. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Leadership & Student Councils, and graduated with honors. He is the son of Vic and Julie Shaw and intends to major in Religion while at Berry.
"Ryan is completely new to vaulting and started late in the season. However, after getting on the right pole one week after the season ended, he has already PR'd by over two feet in practice since. He is very athletic and will see some dramatic improvement here at Berry." -Luke Syverson
(Leesburg, Ga., Lee County High School)
PR's: 14'6 PV
Smith won both the 6A Region I Championships and the Sectional title this past year en route to taking 3rd at the 2017 GHSA 6A State Championships. He is the son of Sammy and Sheri Smith and intends on majoring in Civil Engineering.
"Tucker had an outstanding senior year after not competing at all his 10th and 11th grade years. He already has a higher high school PR than our two returners who took 2nd and 3rd at SAA's this past season so we are really excited about what his career will look like here at Berry" -Luke Syverson
(Mount Holly Springs, Pa., Boiling Springs High School)
Event: Pole Vault