Park notebook: Davis earns NAIA All-American honors

Sophomore Cirr Davis capped a strong season with the Park University track and field program on the final day of the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships on May 25 in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Davis claimed his first All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in the men’s triple jump. 

Davis’ jump of 48 feet, 3/4 inches on his fourth of seven attempts was just enough for All-America recognition. Freshman Malik Crandle of William Carey won the event with a 51-6 1/4 mark.

Davis was the AMC outdoor triple jump winner and was the league’s newcomer of the year during the indoor season. 

Davis, a Kansas City product and Barton County CC transfer, was one of five Park national meet participants.

Junior Imani Hutchinson competed in two events, the 200 and 100. The Pittsburg State transfer finished in 15th in the 100 with a time of 11.96, while taking 16th in the 200 (24.96). 

PARK ATHLETICS  Park sophomore Cirr Davis earned All-American honors at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last month in Alabama.

PARK ATHLETICS

Park sophomore Cirr Davis earned All-American honors at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last month in Alabama.

Freshman Bailey Turner also participated in two events, the long and triple jumps. The Olathe, Kan., native placed 11th in the long jump with a mark of 18-5, finishing two spots away from the finals. She then took 14th in the triple jump, posting a 38-0 mark.

Aaliyah Brown capped her Park career with a 14th-place finish in the shot put after a series-best heave of 42-10 3/4.

Despite taking part in his second national marathon race, senior Gregory Vasquez did not finish this particular race.

WALL OF HONOR

Park University has revealed the 2019 class of the decorated Wall of Honor, as announced via press release on Thursday, May 30.

The new class consists of women’s volleyball player Wendy Romero, men’s basketball player Jon Meriweather, athletics director and soccer coach Ben Popoola and current assistant to the athletic director Pat Fayard.

The individuals will be honored at the Wall of Honor Banquet at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 in the Park Distance Learning Conference Center. 

“We are very excited to announce our 2019 Wall of Honor class that includes four exemplary individuals,” Park University director of athletics Claude English said in a press release. “Each has made an everlasting impact on our university on the court as athletes, in coaching prowess and in meritorious service. We are proud to place them in our Wall of Honor for their incredible accomplishments.” 

Romero, a 2017 graduate, helped the Park women’s volleyball team to a NAIA title with a 40-0 record in 2014. She was named the tourney’s MVP and a first team All-American.

Romero, of San Carlos, Venezuela, was also a part of the Pirates’ national semifinal team in 2014 and was named the NAIA Player of the Year in that same season.

“Wendy was a dominant force on the volleyball court and was undoubtedly one of the best volleyball players in the country in her two seasons at Park,” English said of Romero, who holds program records in kills in a season, aces in a season and kills per set. 

Meriweather, a 2010 graduate, totaled 1,244 career points and garnered four All-America honors — two second team and one third team honor from multiple different publications — during his four-year playing career from 2006-09.

Meriweather, the son of former NBA player Joe C. Meriweather and former Park women’s coach from 1997-2010, averaged more than 20 points per game as an upperclassman. 

“Jon was an outstanding basketball player for us in his three seasons and was a force on the floor leading our program to national prowess. His success didn’t go unnoticed with several All-America accolades,” English said. 

Popoola, who started the Park women’s program in 1988, holds an impressive coaching resume, as he compiled a 504-194-31 record across 25 years of coaching men’s and women’s soccer. He reached the NAIA women’s title game in 1994, but his Pirates fell to Lynn University. That Park team was inducted into the Wall of Honor in 2015. 

Popoola also enjoyed a successful playing career, collegiately at Clemson and professionally for the Kansas City Comets and two other indoor soccer teams. He also spent time with the Nigerian men’s soccer national team.

“Coach Popoola was a visionary figure on our campus from the beginning, starting our women’s soccer program and serving as director of athletics,” English said. “He supplied the vision for a program that is now one of the premier women’s soccer teams in the NAIA. He is very worthy of this honor and we are excited to bring him back to campus in September.”

Fayard has been employed at Park for 34 years, serving in numerous roles from cheerleading coach to secretary of the academic support center and secretary of the food service department. 

Since 2000, Fayard has assisted the athletic teams with gameday operations, travel and budgeting. 

“Park athletics would not be where it is today without Pat Fayard,” English said. “Her love of the university shines through daily and she has touched so many lives in a positive way across campus for decades. She is the epitome of loyalty and meritorious service and so deserving of her induction into our Wall of Honor.”

FIRST TIME

Wes Buntenbach became the first Park men’s golfer to earn the Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete award, it was recently announced.

Buntenbach, of Klemme, Iowa, was one of 186 NAIA men’s golfers who earned this academic honor. To be nominated, one has to earn at least a 3.5 GPA among other requirements.

Buntenbach, the 2019 AMC Golfer of the Year, placed 10th at the AMC event after a first-place finish in 2018.

The Pirates, who took second at conference, finished the season ranked No. 24 in the NAIA Top 25 coaches’ poll and No. 21 in the Golfstat rankings.

2-AND-OUT

The eighth-seeded Park Pirates went two-and-out at the AMC Baseball Tournament Championships on May 1-2 at Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin, Missouri.

The Pirates drew Freed-Hardeman, the eventual conference champions, in the opening round, but fell 11-4 after a strong start in the contest. 

Park jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, thanks in part to Zackary Keller’s three-run homer. But that’s all the Pirates’ offense could muster. 

Meanwhile, the Lions scored three in the third and four more in the fourth to gain a 7-4 lead. The rest was insurance for the then-ranked No. 7 Lions.

Lyon officially ended the Pirates’ season the following day, earning a 13-3 victory in seven innings. Park committed four errors and Lyon collected 16 hits to Park’s six.

Senior Jackson Longhofer got the loss in his final appearance at Park, allowing nine runs — three earned — on 11 hits, two walks while striking out five across 4 2/3 innings. 

Ian Torres also tossed his final game as a Pirate, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits, three walks in 3 1/3 innings against Freed-Hardeman.

The Lions went on to claim their second straight AMC tournament title and advance all the way to the NAIA Baseball World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, where they fell to Southeastern 10-2 in a rematch of the 2018 title game.