By Graham Lucas
Ohio Wesleyan athletics are closing in on DePauw University for first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) All-Sports trophy race.
DePauw leads the race with 52 points, followed by OWU with 50 points and Denison with 45 points. DePauw field hockey captured their first conference title in history, which highlighted their fall sports season. OWU men’s soccer won their fifth consecutive conference title, and football earned their first share of a conference title in 24 years.
Head football coach, Tom Watts, said the team had specific goals this past season.
“Our offseason goals were to win a conference championship and become a complete team,” Watts said.
OWU tallied five top-five finishes during NCAC fall athletics.
Men’s basketball ranks second in the conference, only two games behind Wooster. Men’s indoor track currently ranks second in conference, while the women’s team is in position to win their fourth consecutive title.
“Recruiting is key, and once they arrive, hard work and training takes over,” said Seth McGuffin, assistant track and field coach.
OWU men’s lacrosse, men’s baseball and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field are all favorites to finish in the top three in the conference during the spring.
Athletic Director Roger Ingles said one sport alone cannot win the trophy for the school.
“To win the all-sports program takes a balanced program,” he said. “You have to treat all sports equally. You will annually have different results but the consistency of the programs and the development of staff who buy into a balanced approach are critical.”
OWU has won 135 team championships, amassing nine All-Sports trophies in the conference’s 29-year history. The All-Sports trophy is given to the NCAC School who performs the best in all 22 sports. In 2010, the trophy was re-named the Dennis M. Collins Award, after the late NCAC executive director. Collins was the first and only executive director since the conference’s creation in 1983.
In tribute to Collins, the award also judges academic success, something he saw took priority over athletics. He also served as a member of the NCAA council, NCAA Interpretations Committee and Division III Nominating Committee.
“Well-liked and respected by everyone, he helped start a new league in 1984 and saw it grow into one of the most respected and competitive Division III conferences in the nation,” Ingles said. “It was Dennis’ vision and drive that helped the NCAC as a national leader in Division III.”
OWU won the trophy in 2007 and 2008, and shared the honor with Denison in 2009.
“Success across sports helps us attract talented student athletes in each of our athletic programs,” University President Rock Jones said.
Improved recruiting has resulted in five of the last eight winners of the NCAC Student Athlete Award being Battling Bishops.