HERKIMER – For the third time in four years the Herkimer County Community College Athletic Program won the NATYCAA Cup. The National Alliance of Two-Year College Athletic Administrators awarded the Generals the top spot for their combined performance throughout the entire athletic program.
The Generals claimed the 2016-17 Cup with a total of 126.5 points, topping Rowan College at Gloucester County of New Jersey, which finished second with 125 points. Herkimer also finished sixth in the standings for the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, which recognizes the top overall two-year colleges in all divisions combined. Both programs recognize excellence in two-year colleges, based on athletic success in championship competitions.
“I’m extremely proud of our student-athletes and coaches for winning this award,” HCCC athletic director Don Dutcher said in a press release. “Our coaches put a lot of time and effort into recruiting the right student-athletes to play for the Generals. When students come to Herkimer they buy into our philosophy and the mission of the athletic department. This award is the ultimate goal of our program since it recognizes the excellence of our program as a whole. To be the best, you have to surround yourself with the best, and I feel we truly have that at Herkimer with our coaches, student-athletes, professors, administration and staff. It is a total institutional effort.”
HCCC athletics has amassed 57 national, 115 regional and 158 conference championships. The Generals were consistently successful in 2016-17, garnering three individual national titles in track and field, while also featuring several national powers in team sports. HCCC finishes third in the country in softball and men’s basketball, fourth in men’s soccer, and fifth in women’s cross country.
Chyanna Bernier (Ilion), Malik Briggs (Herkimer) and Mikayla Blumenstock (Poland) won individual national titles at the NJCAA National Championship Meet in Columbia, Maryland.
Bernier, a freshman, won the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and 3,000 meter steeplechase. Briggs won the men’s high jump, and Blumenstock, who is also on the women’s soccer and basketball teams, won the women’s javelin title in the heptathlon.
Bernier also set a new school record in the 10,000, as her time of 39:40.95 obliterated the previous mark by 10.85 seconds. In addition, Bernier was a dominate force for the cross country and swimming teams. She finished first in every cross country race, and in her first year of competitive swimming, won nearly every race she entered. For all her efforts, Bernier was named Herkimer Generals Female Athlete of the Year for the 2016-17 season.
“It is awesome,” said Bernier, who made the Dean’s List with a 3.31 GPA while studying Criminal Justice. “I know it’s a really big deal. The athletics are amazing and the coaches put a lot of hard work into working with the athletes … and the athletes put in a lot of hard work, too. I knew that they were really good in all sports, and it feels awesome to be a Herkimer General.”
Another athlete with perspective on what HCCC can offer a student/athlete is men’s basketball player Justin Harley, a first-team all-conference and second-team all-region selection. Harley also excelled in the classroom, posting a 3.95 GPA and winning the prestigious SUNY Chancellor Scholar Athlete Award.
“It just goes to show you how good athletics are at HCCC,” said Harley, a Long Island native, who is studying Business Administration and received a full ride to continue on as a student/athlete at NAIA Division 1’s Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.
“It’s just not one program that excels … it’s every one doing their part,” Harley said. “Truthfully, it falls on our AD, Mr. Dutcher being so good at what he does. It has a trickle-down effect to the coaches, and then from the coaches down to us. They just follow his lead.”
The combined success in the classroom and athletic fields is something that reflects greatly on the entire college.
“I commend Don Dutcher and the entire athletic department for their commitment and efforts to sustain an outstanding, nationally-recognized athletic program,” HCCC president Cathleen McColgin said in the press release. “I am also very proud of our student-athletes who dedicate so much time and effort to excel in their respective sports as well their academic programs of study.”
The NATYCAA is professional organization of two-year college athletic administrators dedicated to the continuing growth and development of two-year college athletics and the individuals involved through an exchange of information, monitoring of legislation, promotion of academic excellence, increasing communication between organizations, and encouraging a high degree of integrity in all endeavors.