Excellence In Communications For 2019 Cross Country Season

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced the four recipients of the Excellence In Communications Award for the 2019 cross country season on Friday.

Here are those deserving individuals: Andy Jobanek of Portland State (NCAA Division I), Craig Craker of Northwest Nazarene (NCAA Division II), Chris Lindeke of UW-Whitewater (NCAA Division III) and Haley Gimre of Taylor (NAIA).

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.

NCAA DIVISION I – Andy Jobanek, Portland State

Andy Jobanek is an absolute workhorse.

That is not lost Portland State assistant coach Josh Seitz, who nominated Jobanek, or those who follow the Vikings.

“He goes above and beyond when it comes to promoting our teams and sport,” said Seitz, who is also the West Region representative on the NCAA Division I Cross Country Executive Committee. “He is able to capture the essence of our team’s journey in a narrative form, while making it reader-friendly, educational and entertaining. Every single meet this season, I had at least one parent, coach or supporter mention something positive about Andy’s articles.”

As Seitz said, those in-depth articles – 21 of which he wrote during the cross country season alone – aren’t just reserved for big meets since Jobanek covers Portland State’s trek religiously throughout the season. A preview for the midseason Bronco Invitational and Warner Pacific Classic came in at 1356 words, while the preview of the Big Sky Cross Country Championships topped out at 1517 words, among others.

Jobanek also worked with team captain and aspiring sportswriter Cody Jones for a series entitled “Inside XC With Cody.” Those five articles were an opportunity for Portland State fans to get an inside look at the program and for Jobanek to thrive in the role of mentor.

NCAA DIVISION II – Craig Craker, Northwest Nazarene

It’s one thing when a school’s faithful enjoy a great local story, but it’s another when a colleague takes notice. That’s how impressive Craig Craker’s thorough coverage of the Northwest Nazarene women’s cross country team was this past fall.

Craker paid close attention to the team – just one of 13 sports he oversees as the school’s sports information director. And when Northwest Nazarene made history at the West Regionals, he made sure the significance wasn’t lost as the unranked Nighthawks had just qualified for the national championships for the first time in school history.

The country had a new team to pay attention to and Craker made sure the squad got proper coverage. Pictures were up promptly on Twitter and Instagram, the latter gaining 450 likes and 12 comments, which dwarfed the number from other posts on the same page.

Among those impressed with the story were Danny Barnts, the Assistant Athletic Director for Communications at Point Loma Nazarene. It was Barnts who took the time to nominate Craker, noting that “The excitement of the team and himself was felt throughout his work. It was a highlight moment he brought to life for Northwest Nazarene.”

NCAA DIVISION III – Chris Lindeke, UW-Whitewater

Fall and spring are busy seasons for anybody involved in athletics communications, especially for those who do it all at NCAA Division III institutions like UW-Whitewater.

Double that when an institution has perennial conference and national powers like football, soccer and volleyball. It might allow a sport like cross country to fall through the cracks.

That’s not the case at UW-Whitewater as Chris Lindeke works tirelessly to give the Warhawk cross country teams the coverage they deserve.

Lindeke went into overdrive this year as UW-Whitewater’s squads put together strong seasons. Not only did the men’s and women’s teams post their best regional finishes this decade, David Fassbender qualified as an individual for NCAAs and finished sixth overall.

In addition to strong and timely articles about the various meets, Lindeke made sure to have a hand in updating the sport-centric Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages that he created for the teams several years ago as well as giving fans a new look at home cross country meets using a drone.

“Chris has taken our programs to new heights with his dedication to the improvement of content across the University, he has an unwavering commitment to see all of our student athletes have exposure at the highest level,” UW-Whitewater assistant coach R.J. Soderman said in the nomination form. “He would make an outstanding nominee for this award as he continues to promote the greatest that our sports to offer, while keeping all of our sports current on the latest social media avenues to reach as many parents and alumni as possible.”

NAIA – Haley Gimre, Taylor

Pardon the pun, but Haley Gimre truly hit the ground running in her first year taking over the social media accounts for the Taylor University cross country programs.

It is through Gimre’s work that “If one were to look at @TaylorXCTF’s social media, they would think it was a big time DI program.” That’s what Taylor head coach Quinn White wrote in the nomination form and after perusing the feeds, especially Instagram, we tend to agree.

Gimre provided daily updates with unique looks to each post, which included Athlete of the Week honors on Monday, a Senior Spotlight on Tuesday, Facebook Live coverage information on Wednesday, NAIA rankings on Thursday and Meet Day graphics on Friday and Saturday.

Oh, yeah.

We don’t want to sweep this one under the rug: Gimre initiated coverage of Facebook Live on four different occasions to give fans another option to follow the program when they might not be able to otherwise.

“Haley has done an outstanding job of promoting our program in just her first year,” White said. “We are fortunate to have someone so invested in sharing the hard work and dedication of our athletes.”