The Danville Area Community College baseball team hit the high-water mark of 28 wins during the 2020-21 season. The DACC softball team was close behind with 24 victories. The Covid-shortened season also saw the improving men’s and women’s basketball teams split a dozen wins. The DACC men’s and women’s cross-country teams and the golf teams showed steady improvement—with DACC’s two-year-old women’s squad celebrating the emergence of Mac-kenzie McCoy to compete in the national-championship golf tournament in Daytona, Florida.
As a measure of individual prowess, 14 DACC student-athletes earned either national, regional, or all-conference recognition. These include basketball player Daylen Davis-Williams of Danville, named a Third Team All-American and to the First Team for Region 24 and the Mid-West Athlet-ic Conference; softball player Hailee Gifford, selected to the First Team for the Region and the Conference; baseball player C.J. Backer, a Second Team All-American and the Mid-West Ath-letic Conference Pitcher of the Year; and along with qualifying for the national tournament, golfer Mackenzie McCoy was named to the All-Region 24 team.
But arguably the year’s biggest achievement didn’t take place on the hardwood floors or in ball-parks or on the links or at the finish line. Where DACC athletes truly excelled were in classrooms and in laboratories and in tutoring sessions. Throughout the year of the pandemic, 19 student-athletes earned recognition on the NJCAA’s All-Academic team in achieving a grade-point aver-age of 3.50 or better. That’s the highest total in the past 15 years or since 2006, which was when the NJCAA first began to recognize student-athletes for this achievement.
Athletic Director Tim Bunton credits the coaching staff for emphasizing A’s and B’s ahead of X’s and O’s. He says, “We have coaches who are thoroughly committed to the mission of a com-munity college. When our athletes receive a scholarship to come to DACC, that scholarship has value only if they leave with what they came for—namely, a college degree. Our coaches work hard to help our athletes succeed as students, first and foremost.”
The 19 all-academic-team student-athletes broke the record of 16 that DACC set last year. Prior to that, only once (2017-18) did the total reach double figures—with 11 in 2017-18.
“A player might miss an occasional layup or a bunt signal,” says Coach Bunton. “But if you miss a class or bomb on a test, our students know that their coaches will swoop right in and straighten them out fast. Our coaches work closely with DACC counselors and very often directly with faculty.”
The athletic director’s son Andy was among those earning academic awards as he graduated with a GPA that was above 3.60 GPA. Leading the way with perfect 4.0 GPA’s were Ethan Barnes of men’s cross country, baseball players Kyle Bartman and Dylan Henning, golfer Nick Pinter, and basketball player Drew Reifsteck.
As for the teams collectively: women’s cross country led all others with a team-wide GPA of 3.60. The baseball team’s GPA was 3.21, women’s golf was 2.99, men’s cross country was 2.78, men’s golf was 3.54, softball was 3.15, women’s basketball was 2.81, and men’s basketball was 2.75.
Of the nearly 100 student-athletes participating on DACC teams this past year, more than half had GPA’s that were a B or better.
As for forging ahead in spite of a pandemic, Coach Bunton says, “It’s been a very different and crazy school year. The hours and commitment that our coaches invest in this institution is incred-ible, and I have learned a lot from them. The adjustments the coaching staff made on the fly dealing with Covid was truly amazing.”