Reinhardt could not quite defend the Appalachian Athletic Conference’s Duard Walker All-Sports Trophy, but the Eagles did keep their place among the conference’s top athletic programs with a runner-up finish.
Just one season removed from ending Tennessee Wesleyan’s three-year reign atop the conference, the Eagles could not quite catch the Bulldogs this year, though they did claim the top spot in the men’s standings.
Reinhardt also claimed an individual award at the ceremony, as Joe Mullins was named the AAC’s Faculty Athletic Representative of the Year.
“It was the closest race we had in the last couple years for the overall trophy,” Reinhardt athletic director Bill Popp said. “We got clipped a little bit there by Tennessee Wesleyan. They had a fantastic year and deserved it. We feel like we almost met our goal, getting half of it done, but we didn’t quite meet our full goal this year.”
As close as the standings were, Popp said he was monitoring the standings the entire time.
Reinhardt entered the spring season in second place, and while it was able to catch the leader at the time in Milligan, Tennessee Wesleyan’s strong finish in the women’s sports made the difference.
“We track it throughout the season,” Popp said. “It can be hard sometimes with the way certain things are scored with ties. When you're in the hunt, you’re going to look at it. We knew it was going to be close the entire year. We just missed out in a few spots.”
Teams were awarded 50 points for a regular season or tournament title and descending points for each lower place.
The Eagles got 100 points from the wrestling team that swept both conference titles. Men’s soccer, lacrosse and tennis also each won tournament titles, while the track and field team won the conference meet.
“There were a couple spots that were great this year,” Popp said. “We had some traditional ones you expect like track and lacrosse, but one of the biggest surprises was volleyball. We’re hoping we can take all of those teams having success and keep moving forward with those. All of our teams are competing well. We think we’re going in the right direction. We just need to get a few of those other sports over the hump, and we have a chance to get it back.”
Like the wrestling team, Reinhardt’s volleyball team also provided 100 points on the women’s side by sweeping the conference titles.
The turnaround came in coach Brian Goodhind’s second season. Jonathan Burton will be entering his second season as the baseball coach, while Justin Newton and Toby Wagoner are set to take over the men’s and women’s basketball teams next year, and Popp said he expects all three changes to improve Reinhardt’s chances of retaking the top spot.
“We talk about fit a lot,” he said. “We feel like it can bring some new energy. We look at culture a lot. Most of the time we don’t need a change, just a new energy. I think we’re going to see a new style on the men’s side but still look pretty similar on the women’s side in basketball. Baseball was close in a lot of games this year, so we feel like all the new hires have been good so far.”