UMO athletic department nominated for national award

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INDIANAPOLIS – The University of Mount Olive athletics department was named the Conference Carolina nominee for the NCAA Division II Award of Excellence, it was announced by the NCAA. 

This marks the fifth time UMO was named the conference nominee.

The university submitted men’s and women’s track and field’s annual town clean-up event for the award. The town clean-up event was held on Oct. 16 from 9 a.m.-noon. 

Over 100 student-athletes participated in the activity. This marked the fourth year the teams have done a clean-up day.

“This project was initiated by the track & field team as a way of helping the local community several years ago, and it was so successful that they have made it an annual event,” said Jeff Eisen, UMO interim director of athletics.

“Congratulations to the coaches and student-athletes for developing a project that epitomizes the NCAA DII approach to community engagement.”

In 2017, the UMO track and field coaching staff reached out to town of Mount Olive officials about doing a special clean-up project for the entire town, not just the UMO campus. The coaching staff coordinated with the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) to secure all the necessary supplies; gloves, safety vests and trash bags. 

The coaches worked with the mayor and town manager to develop a game plan for the clean-up, and this plan has been followed all four years.

UMO identified 10 primary entry points where they could drop off groups of student-athletes and have them collect trash while walking through town back to campus. Coaches and town officials take the groups to their starting points via vans and then drove around, monitoring the groups and making sure they had water or extra bags.

Student-athletes filled approximately 200 bags of trash and set them on the side of the road for town officials to collect this year. While walking through town, the student-athletes did more than just pick up trash and remove tree limbs from roads; they connected and met people in the community who appreciated their hard work. Once the student-athletes all returned to campus, the town provided them with pizza and Gatorade as a thanks. 

The team was then able to relax and talk about the day and the impact their clean-up efforts had on the local community.

Each active Division II school and conference is eligible to submit its best community engagement activity and/or event that promotes student-athletes giving back and serving as leaders within their communities. 

Monetary prizes are given for first ($2,500), second ($1,250) and third place ($1,000); and a $500 prize is given to one winner in each of the 23 Division II conferences, one winner representing independent institutions and at-large honorees. All prize money is to be used toward future community engagement initiatives.

The Award of Excellence began as the Division II Community Engagement Award in 2008, and it was accompanied by a Division II Game Environment Award in 2010. At the 2014 convention, Division II combined the two awards to allow the division to give larger prizes and prestige to those member conferences or institutions that participated.

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