ROCK HILL, S.C. (TheSAC.com) – The South Atlantic Conference announced it's 2017-18 Women and Man of the Year Awards on Monday (July 16). Wingate cross country and track and field runner Valerie Griesche was named SAC Woman of the Year, while Lenoir-Rhyne track and field athlete Haylea Salamon was named the SAC International Woman of the Year. In addition, Mars Hill baseball player Zac Brown was named the SAC Man of the Year.
Griesche, a senior biology major from Ingolstadt, Germany, graduated in May with a 4.0 grade point average. With the SAC Woman of the Year Award, she adds to her impressive list of accolades, having been named the SAC President's Award winner for 2017-18. Griesche also earned CoSIDA academic honors in both cross country and track and field during her career. In 2017, she was named the Women's Cross Country Elite 20 award winner, as she posted the highest GPA at the SAC Cross Country Championship.
In cross country, Griesche was a three-time All-SAC selection and All-Freshman team honoree in cross country. She was honorable mention All-SAC in 2016 in cross country with her 5K time of 19:29 and she was a second team All-SAC at the 2014 with her time of 19:31. Griesche was also a member of two SAC Championship teams, and she qualified for the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championship during her first three seasons.
On the track, Griesche placed fifth in the mile and sixth in the 3000 meter at the first-ever SAC Indoor Track and Field Championship this season. She also finished second in the steeplechase during the SAC Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Griesche placed all four years in the steeplechase, as well as helping her team to two SAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Not just a student-athlete, Griesche is also extremely active in the community. For three semesters, she has been working with Dr. Melissa Fox on a cancer research project. Using various experimental methods, she studied the role of the metabolic regulator AMPKa2 in cancer cells and its potential as a treatment method. Currently, Griesche is working on her senior honors project, which involves wound healing assays and uses fluorescence to investigate the activity of various proteins involved in migration of breast cancer cells.
Griesche as also served the community through events like "One Day One Dog," Xcel 2 Fitness, Special Olympics, The Boys and Girls Club, United Way Day of Caring and more. She has also worked as an academic peer tutor at Wingate for the past four years, helping countless student excel.
Salamon, a native of Saskatchewan, Canada, graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne in May with a degree in Health and Exercise Science, while earning a 3.95 grade point average. A two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, Salamon was the top graduate for the College of Health Science at Lenoir-Rhyne, earning Summa Cum Laude honors and was the Student government Associate President's Award winner.
In addition to her academic prowess, Salamon was exceptional on the track, earning SAC Female Field Athlete of the Year honors in 2015 and 2016. She was also named Female Freshman of the Year in 2015. She won three SAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the discus, while placing in the top 10 in the shot put, javelin and hammer throw all four years. She earned U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Region honors for the shot put and discus in both indoor and outdoor track and field five times and was a NCAA Division II second team All-American in the discus in 2015. Thanks to her leadership, she helped lead the Bears to third place finishes at the SAC Championships three of her four years.
An active member of the Lenoir-Rhyne and Hickory communities, Salamon was the senior class president, a resident assistant and a peer mentor. She also helped establish the Clyde Campbell Elementary School Boys Running Club, was the president of the Chi Alpha Sigma Athlete Honor Society and was treasurer of the Chi Beta Phi Math and Science Honor Society. She spent time working in the Lenoir-Rhyne athletic department and was a volunteer at the Sherbrooke Senior Center in Saskatoon, Saskatewan.
Brown, a senior mathematics major from Albemarle, N.C. graduated from Mars Hill with a 3.75 GPA. A four-time SAC Commissioner's Honor Roll and Mars Hill Dean's List selection, Brown was a Mars Hill Marshall in 2017 and was named the University's Man of the Year in 2017-18.
On the diamond, Brown was a two-time All-SAC selection, earning All-Defensive team honors in 2017 and 2018. He was named to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings Gold Glove Team as the only Division II selection in 2017. He finished the 2018 season ranked fifth in the SAC in ERA (3.93) and strikeouts (63). He also holds the Mars Hill records for innings pitched, pitching decisions, pickoffs, season strikeouts, career strikeouts and is second in win/loss percentage.
Brown was also very active off the field serving as the president of the Mars Hill Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a math tutor and a member of the Faculty Athletics Committee. He also volunteered with the Lord's Harvest Program at Mars Hill Baptist Church, was a member of the Forge Men's Bible Study and volunteered for several projects with Mars Hill Elementary.
Griesche and Salamon will move forward as the Conference's nominees for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.