USTFCCCA Honors Three For Excellence In Communications For XC

USTFCCCA Honors Three For Excellence In Communications For XC

NEW ORLEANS — For the sport of collegiate cross country to continue to grow, it relies heavily on a team effort, just like the sport does. Often times, those behind the scenes — like those from the athletics communications staffs — are overlooked.

Rest assured that won’t happen on our watch.

That’s why we’re pleased to announce the recipients of our USTFCCCA Excellence in Communications Award for the 2016 cross country season: AJ Harrison of Wisconsin (NCAA Division I), Gregory Ruff or Trevecca Nazarene (NCAA Division II) and Jim Naprstek of Loras College (NCAA Division III).

The USTFCCCA Excellence in Communications Award recognizes those athletics communications representatives at schools and conferences who have committed to excellent coverage and support of collegiate cross country. Winners were selected by the communications staff at the USTFCCCA National Office.

NCAA DIVISION I — AJ Harrison, Wisconsin

If a new athletic communications representative was assigned to cover cross country and wanted a template on how to do so, he or she would want to look at what AJ Harrison did at Wisconsin this past season as a template.

Harrison used the total package and his coverage stood out from the rest.

Whether it was his in-depth previews and recaps or adept use of social media, Harrison kept fans and the media abreast of the Badgers’ happenings. He also did well to portray the storyline of a season of redemption for the Wisconsin men after they missed NCAAs for the first time in a while two seasons ago.

Harrison’s work at the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships solidified this honor. He provided well-received, on-course updates using social media, used video to augment the coverage and churned out top-notch graphics about the Badgers right after the meet ended.

NCAA DIVISION II — Gregory Ruff, Trevecca Nazarene

Gregory Ruff has been coordinating the publicity efforts for Trevecca Nazarene cross country since the school revived the program for the 2010 season, so it is only fitting that he would have a key role in another milestone.

Trevecca Nazarene hosted its first-ever home meet this past fall, bringing in strong teams from throughout the eastern United States for the NCAA Division II Showcase Invitational. Ruff promoted the meet early and often, and was a model of efficiency and quality in his coverage on competition day with results, photos and recaps distributed quickly after the completion of the races.

“I have never seen a D2 school, much less their size, do such a good job of hosting, and it was his first one,” a nomination for Ruff read.

Not only did he take photos for TNU during the meet — riding his bike from location to location for the best variety of shots — but he also served as an overall meet photographer, snapping photos of as many runners as possible and sending them to the competing teams’ sports information departments.

That level of dedication to quality coverage for the cross country program — only one of his many responsibilities as the director of communications and broadcasting, a role he has held since 1998 — was evident throughout the entire season. He hosted preview videos with members of the team and coaching staff prior to competition weekends, and posted highlight videos and recap interviews post-race. His photographs from meets were posted and tagged on Facebook, where he also utilized Facebook Live streaming.

NCAA DIVISION III — Jim Naprstek, Loras College

When a nomination begins, “There isn’t anyone I know that deserves this award more than Loras College’s Jim Naprstek,” we listen — especially if it’s from outside the world of NCAA Division III cross country. That means Naprstek’s work transcended the borders in which it was supposed to be contained.

Naprstek documented the Duhawks’ breakout season every step of the way and with more eyes on the program than usual, kept them there. Loras College had the NCAA DIII individual runner-up on the women’s side (Audrey Miller) and the 10th-place men’s team, which was the highest finish in program history.

He wrote in-depth stories on Loras’ website and used social media to reach a broader audience. His strong use of Facebook and especially Facebook Live (interviews with top-finishing Duhawks as well as a stream of the team about to leave for NCAAs) put him over the top.