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Beale, Long to Receive Prestigious Christenberry Award

May 9, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Madi Long and Natalie Beale have earned the Christenberry Award.

Madi Long and Natalie Beale have earned the Christenberry Award.

Two Liberty student-athletes have earned the Big South Conference's prestigious George A. Christenberry Award for Academic Excellence. Natalie Beale and Madi Long, both from the swimming & diving team, will be presented the award next month.

The Christenberry Award is given annually to the male and female student-athlete who attain the highest GPA during their college careers. Each recipient of the Christenberry Award this year has attained a 4.0 GPA for four straight years.

Beale, competing for Liberty swimming & diving, will graduate with a degree in exercise science: pre-professional. Long, who has spent the past two years as a diver for the Lady Flames, is majoring in business marketing.

The other members of this year's Christenberry Award class include Campbell softball player Victoria Griffin, Gardner-Webb swimmer Nathan Lile, High Point women's soccer player Amy Burch, High Point men's soccer player Brandon Sloan and Presbyterian men's soccer player Thomas Valentine.

The conference will formally present the awards on June 2 at The Marriott Resort in Hilton Head, S.C., as part of the league's spring meetings and Hall of Fame Dinner.

The conference honor is named for George A. Christenberry, the former President of Augusta College (now Georgia Regents University-Augusta) and one of the founders of the Big South Conference. A member of the Big South Hall of Fame, Christenberry served as the league's first president from 1983-86. This is the third straight year that a record seven student-athletes have received the Christenberry Award.

"The Christenberry Award is the highest academic honor awarded to Big South student-athletes," said Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander. "It is incredible to think that a record-tying seven individuals completed their undergraduate academic career with perfect GPAs, especially with the demands placed on them as student-athletes. We congratulate Natalie, Amy, Tori, Nathan, Madi, Brandon and Thomas for their accomplishments in the classroom and on the field of play.  Their academic careers truly exemplify the highest ideals of the Big South Conference."

Liberty's male nominee for the Christenberry Award was track & field student-athlete David Scouten, a two-time Big South champion and 11-time all-conference performer. He was named the 2015 Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men's outdoor track & field, while also being voted to the 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-District team.

With this year's two honorees, Liberty has now had a Big South-record 20 student-athletes all-time receive the Christenberry Award.

2016 George A. Christenberry Award Winner bios
Provided by the Big South Conference

Beale (Baltimore, Md.) concluded her career as an All-CCSA performer in the 200 freestyle while helping the Lady Flames to back-to-back CCSA runner-up finishes. She had a breakout meet at the 2016 CCSA Championships as she set a program record while placing second in the 200 freestyle with an NCAA B cut time of 1:47.97. She additionally earned fourth-place finishes in the 100 butterfly and 200 backstroke.  Named to the CCSA's All-Academic Team as a junior and senior, Beale will receive CSCAA Scholar All-America honorable mention recognition this year. A transfer from Army West Point, she still holds Army's program records in the 100 and 200 backstroke.

Burch (Boiling Springs, N.C.) is a 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-District selection, a two-time Big South All-Academic Team member, a four-time Millis Scholar-Athlete and a four-time Big South Presidential Honor Roll selection. She played in 84 games with 77 starts over four seasons and was named All-Big South Honorable Mention as a senior. Burch captained a defense that set the Big South single-season record with a 0.46 goals-against average in 2015.  The defender helped HPU record 32 shutouts over four seasons and leaves HPU with four goals and two assists.  She played 7,203 career minutes on the pitch -- third-most in Big South history.

Griffin (Claxton, Tenn.) has not played this season due to an injury. She appeared in 34 contests as a junior in 2015 and recorded two hits -- including a home run in the Camels' 16-5 win at Radford. Griffin posted a .400 on-base percentage and a .455 slugging percentage a year ago. She was 4-of-5 in stolen bases and drew three walks during the 2015 campaign. Off the field, she earned the Clara Booth Byrd Award for Creative Writing, the Presidential Transfer Scholarship and placed second in the Lyricist Student Prose Competition during her time in Buies Creek. In addition, Griffin has more than 30 fiction publications, presented two academic papers at Wiggins Academic Symposiums and had academic research published in Sonder Magazine.

Lile (Waynesville, N.C.) became the first men's swimmer in school history to qualify for the NCAA Division I Swimming & Diving Championships, as he competed in the preliminaries of the 50 free, 100 free and 100 fly. He was also honored with the NCAA Elite 90 Award, which is presented annually to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average competing at the finals' site of each of the NCAA's 90 championships. Lile is the most decorated male swimmer in Gardner-Webb history, as he earned All-CCSA honors 21 times over his four seasons and won six individual CCSA championships -- including three in 2016.  He was named CCSA Most Outstanding Male Swimmer two seasons in a row and holds numerous school and conference records. Lile has also been recognized with Gardner-Webb's Computer Science Award, M. Vann Murrell Bible Award and Philosophy & Theology Award, and is a "Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges." He was named the CCSA's Male Swimmer of the Year and Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year last week.

Long (Kernersville, N.C.) completed her undergraduate career in just two years. She competed for the Lady Flames at the 2015 and 2016 CCSA Championships, helping Liberty to back-to-back runner-up placings.  Long is a two-time member of the CCSA All-Academic Team, and helped her team to its highest-ever GPA during the fall 2015 semester.  She scored 47 points at the 2016 CCSA Championships as she placed sixth in the 1-meter springboard (217.15) and seventh in 3-meter springboard. Upon graduation, her top diving marks both rank third in program history.

Sloan (Oakland, Mich.) is a three-time Millis Scholar-Athlete and Big South Presidential Honor Roll selection who is graduating in three years. He has played in 21 games in three seasons with the Panthers and recorded four points on two goals. Sloan has helped the Panthers record three-straight seasons of .500 or better, including a 10-win season in 2014.

Valente (Bristol, Tenn.) appeared in 22 games for the Blue Hose with nine starts. He tallied 909 minutes of action, including a career-high 730 in 2015. This past season he appeared in a career-best 14 games and started eight contests. Valente missed nearly two seasons with an injury, as he sat out his junior season of 2014 after sustaining a season-ending injury in his first career start on Sept. 6, 2013 as a sophomore against UNC Wilmington. Inducted into the PC chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society, in 2014, the midfielder was the 2015 Big South Men's Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year and conducted a 10-week urological research study at Johns Hopkins Brady Urological Institute in the summer of 2015.  Valente conducted prostate cancer research on tumor biopsies on patients with metastatic castration. He totaled 168 hours during a medical observation internship of shadowing orthopedic surgeons and took an eight-day medical mission trip to Peru in 2013.