By Rochelle Black and Matt Green
ROME -- The Shorter Track and Field and Cross Country program announced Monday afternoon the signing of four men for the 2013-14 season. The foursome, which includes two athletes from Georgia and one each from North Carolina and Utah, figure to serve as the foundation for Shorter's ongoing move to NCAA Division II, which is scheduled to conclude at the start of the 2014-15 academic year.
“These guys are a perfect match for our university and program,” said Rochelle Black, Shorter's assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator.
“They possess a great work ethic and are equally committed to academics and athletics," the coach added. "We, as a staff, are confident that they will enhance our program as we continue to make the move to NCAA Division II.”
The class includes Jordan Cross (Ogden, Utah/Ogden Senior HS), Josiah Jenkins (Athens, Ga./Cedar Shoals HS), Brien Lancaster (Wilmington, N.C./Eugene Ashley HS) and Wake Roberds (Bishop, Ga./Oconee HS). The group was offered during the program's first official NCAA Division II signing period, which began on Feb. 6.
“I think we have done a good job with signing these young men here," said Shorter Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Scott Byrd, whose track and field program has won four national championships -- three men's, one women's -- over the past three years. "It is still early in the signing period, and we have our eyes on several other talented student-athletes from across the country and the globe, but these four represent the future of our program.
"Like all programs, we always want to bring in the most talented student-athletes," Byrd added. "However, our goal is always to bring in those that are high in character and strong in their faith. I could not ask for a better group of signees.”
Jordan Cross (Distance); Ogden, Utah/Ogden Senior HS
Jordan Cross comes to Shorter as the No. 1 recruit for the program. After finishing 23rd at the 2012 Nike Cross Country National Championships, Jordan finished fourth in the 3200 meters at the 2013 Simplot Games, the nation’s premier indoor high school track and field event.
Although he resides in Utah, Cross was born in Rome, where his father served as a professor at Shorter. For 10 years, Cross and his family spent time in Ireland doing mission work.
“Jordan is by far the best signee we’ve ever had coming out of high school,” said Byrd. “After meeting him and his father during his visit, we all knew he belonged here. His high character is what we look for in a student-athlete and future leader of the team”
Josiah Jenkins (Distance); Athens, Ga./Athens Christian/Cedar Shoals HS
One of the top distance runners in the state of Georgia, Josiah Jenkins will arrive in the fall after a successful prep career at Athens Christian and, most recently, Cedar Shoals High School.
A consistent all-state performer, Jenkins comes from a family of athletes, with two older siblings competing in track and field at the collegiate level.
“Josiah solidifies our distance team," said Byrd. "He’s been a force in the state for the past four years. He comes from a large Christian family, and they support him 100 percent. He’s another young man who’s character and work ethic is exactly what we are looking to bring here to the team.”
Brien Lancaster (Distance); Wilmington, N.C./Eugene Ashley HS
Brien Lancaster, a North Carolina product, brings an impressive resume of his own to the Hill. Placing 36th at the North Carolina state cross country meet, Lancaster led his team in the mile, and will look to improve a reloaded distance team at Shorter.
“Brien caught the staff’s attention immediatley,” distance coach Martin Hernandez said about Lancaster. “He’s smart and understands that academics are priority. However, he is as aggressive in running as he is in the classroom. I cannot wait to see help him develop into an even greater talent.”
Wake Roberds (400/Hurdles); Bishop, Ga./Oconee County HS
Wake Roberds is regarded as one of the best hurdlers in Georgia. Last year at the Georgia Olympics, the Oconee County High product ran in both the 300 meter hurdles and 400 meter dash. After completing the grueling double, he walked away with all-state honors in both events.
“Wake is the best sprinter we have gotten out of high school," said Byrd. "His hurdle times as a junior are just as fast as former Shorter national champion Nick Dodson. What really impressed me about him was the fact that he has run pretty good times in cross country. That tells me that he’s got a lot in the tank.”