ENMU selects top academic athletes

Staff report

Eastern New Mexico University has selected Kyle Lantz of the men’s basketball team and Taylor Smith of the women’s rodeo team as its academic athletes of the year.

At the end of each season, an academic athlete of the year is nominated from each sports team. They were voted on by ENMU coaches and athletic administrators.

Lantz, a senior biology major, concluded his career as a four-time LSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll honoree. As a senior, he played in all 26 games for the Greyhounds while starting nine of them. Lantz averaged 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game and made 27 three-pointers. He earned his third consecutive selection to the Lone Star Conference All-Academic team and was the first Greyhound to receive the LSC Academic Player of the Year Award since it was established in 2005.

Smith, a junior marketing major, will be headed to the College National Finals Rodeo, next month after taking third in the Southwest region in breakaway roping. Her performance helped the women’s rodeo team to win eight of the year’s 10 rodeos. Smith won the all-around at the Howard Junior College Rodeo.

Blake, Cooper earn regional honors — ENMU juniors Blake Cooper and Matthew Burks were selected for South Central Region honors by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

Burks, a first-team selection, finished the season leading the Greyhounds in batting average (.384), hits (71), runs (50), home runs (10) and total bases (116) while driving in 32 runs. His 10 homers were the most by an Eastern player since 2000.

Cooper, an honorable mention choice, ended the year with a team-high 39 RBIs and tied for the third-most walks in a season in program history with 38. He made 30 appearances in the outfield and 12 at first base,  batting .307 with 14 doubles and eight home runs.

The Lone Star Conference had 14 players selected to the all-region team, with five each coming from Texas A&M-Kingsville and West Texas A&M.
Austin Kaiser of Colorado Mesa was selected the Player of the Year as he hit .511 with 97 hits, 11 homers, 56 RBI and 27 stolen bases, while St. Edward’s Brannon Easterling was tabbed the pitcher of the year after going 11-4 with a 0.98 ERA,105 strikeouts, one save and 15 complete games in 15 starts.

Coach of the year went to CMU’s Chris Hanks as the Mavericks went 40-10, won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles and will host this weekend’s South Central Regional tournament.

Also, Burks was named to the Daktronics South Central first team, one of 18 LSC players selected to either the first or second all-region squads.