Excellence In Communications Award: 2020 Track & Field
NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced its four recipients of the Excellence in Communications Award for the 2020 track & field season on Tuesday.
The Excellence in Communications Award recognizes those athletics communications representatives at conferences and/or schools who have committed to outstanding coverage and support of collegiate cross country. Winners were selected by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff after a nomination period.
Here are those deserving individuals: Natalie Uhl of Louisville (NCAA Division I), Wes McKinney of Concord (NCAA Division II), Mark Robertson of Lynchburg (NCAA Division III) and Nicholas Robinson of John Brown University (NAIA).
NCAA DIVISION I
Natalie Uhl, University of Louisville
Commitment and growth: That is the mark of a true professional.
Natalie Uhl continued what she started in her first year as a graduate assistant in charge of social media for the Louisville track & field program and expanded that footprint during her second run with the program in the 2019-20 season.
As a former thrower with the Cardinals, Uhl uses her experience to not only convey a stronger message to the growing following of their social media accounts – up 430% on Instagram followers over the past few years, not to mention notable increases in daily impressions on Twitter – but to connect with the athletes, which allows fans to get a true sense of their personalities through personal touches on graphics or “Athlete Takeovers” on Instagram.
Plus, Uhl maintained a dialogue each department after the seasons were canceled to create material such as the Knoxcathlon, which was a hit on Instagram with 710 views already.
“Uhl built relationships with our student-athletes, coaches and support staff to always bring the most personal coverage possible, while understanding and displaying the program’s overarching narrative,” Louisville assistant coach Brooke Rasnick wrote in Uhl’s nomination. “She displayed wisdom in her professional interactions and had an uncanny ability of never losing sight of the big picture while working on the minute details in front of her.”
NCAA DIVISION II
Wes McKinney, Concord University
The pandemic didn’t slow down Wes McKinney’s coverage of Concord University.
It allowed him to look at new avenues to deliver content that truly gave the fans an in-depth look at the Mountain Lions.
Not long after the indoor season ended and the outdoor season was canceled, McKinney launched a two-part series entitled “Inside the Numbers,” where he took a closer look at each team’s performances during the indoor season. He included numerous marks from a number of athletes in order to give a broad look at the season and not just through the guise of the stars.
All the while, McKinney produced “Senior Spotlight” features on YouTube, where fans can get to know those athletes who helped shape the teams during their careers on campus 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This doesn’t just go for track & field, but all of the other sports, too, as McKinney is the only SID in town.
“Wes has done an incredible job promoting our sport and in this pandemic that we are going through, he has gone above and beyond to promote our sport even more,” Concord head coach Michael Cox said in his nomination for McKinney. “I feel like Wes is very deserving of this award and I hope you strongly consider him.”
NCAA DIVISION III
Mark Robertson, University of Lynchburg
Successful programs are a blessing for an athletic communications staff.
A successful athletic department, however, can be a labor of love – especially if that athletics communications staff is smaller, like it is at many NCAA Division III institutions. That means resources are often spread thin when there is one full-time member and a grad assistant.
Such is the case for Mark Robertson at the University of Lynchburg, who handles SID duties and game-day operations for the entire department, which sees numerous programs excel during the winter and spring, but he doesn’t let the coverage slip as he promotes the track & field programs equally as well as the other 21 sports he oversees. The Hornets have been atop the ODAC during Robertson’s time on campus, winning four conference titles, which includes each of the past two indoor and outdoor crowns on the women’s side as well as a runner-up finish on the men’s side during the 2020 indoor season.
One thing that allows Robertson to stand out from his peers is his background in sports journalism and his knowledge of the conference and programs he covers. Robertson routinely writes in-depth articles on athletes – which increased when the pandemic canceled the NCAA indoor meet and outdoor season – allowing fans to truly get to know the athletes.
Robertson has done such a tremendous job that an SID from a rival school nominated him.
Nicholas Robinson, John Brown University
Very few get to start their coverage from Day 1.
That wasn’t the case for Nicholas Robinson, who detailed the inaugural year of track & field at John Brown University, starting with the 2019-20 indoor track & field season.
“Although our cross country program is established, our track & field program was making a return to campus for the first time in 45 years,” JBU head coach Scott Schochler said in his nomination for Robinson. “Nick has been instrumental in promoting the programs on campus, to our alumni and on our website and social media sites.”
In addition to all of those items, Robinson write in-depth previews and recaps, arranges for a photographer to be present at any meet he is unable to attend and created detailed stats pages for top marks, which will prove critical as the program increases in stature.
Robinson laid a solid foundation to build upon going forward with both programs.