NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Stephen F. Austin track and field team signed six athletes to National Letters of Intent head coach Phil Olson announced Monday afternoon. High school standouts Becca Blubaugh (Bossier City, La.), Laurie Byrd (LaGrange, Texas), Kristen Knox (Waco, Texas), Corwin Lewis (Mansfield, Texas), Chelsea Stephen (Houston, Texas) and Amanda Walters (Wallis, Texas) will continue their education at SFA.
"This is a very good start for our cross country and track and field programs," said Olson. "I say start because this is not a final day of the signing period but a beginning in the recruiting process for SFA cross country and track and field. Coaches (Lou) Snelling, (Laceé) Carmon, and (Sean) Lonergan have performed wonderfully in identifying several outstanding student-athletes who should come in and immediately impact our teams. All the credit goes to their hard work and focus on recruiting top-level individuals who are also impressive students and athletes. We still have a few slots to fill in due to areas left vacant by graduation, but this class could line up to be our best ever, and make SFA not only a top notch Southland Conference program, but one with national aspirations."
The current class consists of three distance runners, a sprinter, a hurdler and a jumper.
Blubaugh is a three-time Louisiana 5A state champion who has recorded titles in cross country (18:45.6), and in the 1,600 (5:07.26) and 3,200 (11:04.39) meters in the past year. A consistent runner throughout her career, Blubaugh posted top-three finishes in all three events the year before.
One of the top runners in the state of Texas over the course of the past three seasons, Byrd has recorded five 1A state titles for Round Top Carmine High School. She won the 2009 state cross country title with a time of 11:29.10, while posting bests of 5:17.28 in the 1,600 meters and 11:18.88 in the 3,200 meters.
Walters just missed a state title this past season with her sixth-place overall finish at the 2A state meet. A 2009 2A cross country all-district and all-region selection, Walters won the 2A-District 26 title, and recorded a runner-up finish at the Region IV meet.
"We are very excited about the additions of Becca, Laurie and Amanda," said distance coach Lou Snelling. "Becca has balanced cross country, soccer, track, and her academics quite successfully. She is both a multiple-time state champion and will be valedictorian of her class. Becca has a tremendous upside athletically, only having scratched the surface of her potential. Laurie has had a very accomplished high school career, having won a ton of state titles in track and cross country. She did this while also playing volleyball, basketball, and golf for her high school. We are excited to have her solely focus on being a distance athlete while having the opportunity to be a part of a great training and team environment. Amanda has a tremendous work ethic, which is reflected in her athletic and academic success. We look for her to come in and develop into a competitive Southland Conference athlete.
"All three of these student-athletes are driven to exceed on the track and in the classroom. I look for them all to do exciting things in the near future," added Snelling.
Lewis, the lone Lumberjack signee in the class, is a talented speedster from Mansfield Timberview who has recorded personal best times of 48.95 in the 400 meters and 1:56.50 in the 800. One of the state's top 800-meter runners, Lewis will be expected to come in and help SFA in both the event areas.
Stephen comes to SFA after a decorated career at perennial powerhouse Hightower High School. A top-10 hurdler in the state, Stephen has clocked personal bests of 14.30 in the 100 hurdles, and 44.30 in the 300 hurdles. Stephen strengthens not only the Ladyjack hurdles squad, but will also be looked at in the relays as well.
"Lewis is a tall, athletic student-athlete from the track hotbed at Mainsfield Timberview," said Lonergan. "I really believe his best days are ahead of him, and he will be a great addition to our program.
"We look for Chelsea to come in and have an immediate impact in the hurdles next year. She is a great fit for our program and we are extremely excited to have her join us."
Knox is a horizontal jumps specialist, who also has experience in the short sprints. A 3A state qualifier in the long jump and triple jump, Knox helped Connally High claim a share of the 2009 state title. Knox recorded a seventh-place finish in the long and triple jump at the state meet, while helping the 400-meter and 800-meter relay teams post top-five finishes. A four-time district champion, Knox has set three school records, and has been selected as a member of the TGCA All-State track and field team.
"With an extensive amount of athletic accolades behind her name, we look forward to Kirsten having an immediate impact at SFA," said Carmon. "Not only is she hard working and dedicated to success, she also possesses a team leadership mentality that shows she will be a great addition to the Ladyjack squad."
Knox has posted a personal best of 18-5.00 in the long jump, and 38-7.00 in the triple jump. She has also recorded a time of 11.98 in the 100-meter dash.