By Colby Gable
After Moving up from 21st place to 13th, Lees-McRae earned a top spot in the AORE Campus Challenge that encourages colleges across the U.S. to get outdoors and active. The ranking meant that not only did the college become the highest-ranked school among peer institutions in North Carolina, but also the smallest school in the Division 1 top 15.
The AORE, or The Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, is a premier organization made for serving the needs of recreation and education professionals among non-profit settings. Through AORE, members have a way to connect with and impact decisions made by public land managers as well as the human powered outdoor recreation industry. Their mission as stated, “is to provide opportunities for professionals and students in the field of outdoor recreation and education to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military, and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs.”
The Campus Challenge initiated by the Association The challenge “is a Mother-Nature-meets-March-Madness competition with 98 schools from across the country going head-to-head for four weeks to see who can get the most people outside and active,” according to the AORE Campus Challenge website. Participants were asked to download the Campus Challenge app and track their activities for points. The school with the most logged outdoor activities (points) won the title of National Outdoor Champion. Other recognitions and prizes included Outsider of the Year, regional winners, recognition awards, and free gear.
In order to accomplish the achievement, 1,116 entries from Lees-McRae were logged over the course of the month, college members ran, biked, hiked, swam, and explored their way to the top from Monday, Sept. 16 through Sunday, Oct. 13. Other North Carolina Universities that followed Lees-McRae include East Carolina University at #16, North Carolina State at #26, and UNC Asheville at #31.
Katie Wall, Program Coordinator for Outdoor Recreation Management at Lees-McRae, commented a little about what the national ranking means for the school and the school’s ascension to a top spot in the AORE challenge, saying, “Students, faculty, and staff were thrilled that we’ve been awarded the rank of #13 among colleges and universities in the country, as a National Outdoor Champion. In 2018, we were awarded the Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s Top Adventure College, so having another outdoor ranking only helps solidify what so many of us here at Lees-McRae know and feel… outdoors is what makes us so unique!”
She went on to say, “Our college motto, ‘In, of, for the mountains’ is a point of pride for us. From our mountain biking trails to the Elk River for fly fishing running through the heart of campus, to our wildlife biology and rehabilitation programs, and new academic programs like ski industry business & instruction wilderness medicine, outdoors is at the heart of so many things we do at Lees-McRae.”
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Lees-McRae College is a private, four-year college offering diverse baccalaureate and graduate degrees, strong athletic programs and outstanding faculty. Field-specific career preparation and hands-on learning enhance the broad core curriculum. The college holds a wide-variety of Outdoor Programs, and education meshed with a true interaction with the outdoors has been a foundational part of the school’s identity. Some of these programs include making available outdoor equipment rentals for students, faculty, and staff. Some of these items include: Mountain bikes, fly fishing rods, boots and waders for fishing, stand-up paddle board, bouldering pads, climbing shoes, climbing helmets, backpacks (day and weekend), tents (2 and 3 person tents), sleeping pads, stoves, backcountry kitchen equipment and more. A beautiful 9-course disc golf course and an open climbing wall is also available for students, faculty, and staff, as well as a Competitive Climbing Team, which the Program describes as a club which, “offers students training sessions at the Lees-McRae College indoor rock climbing wall located in the Arthur Student Recreation Complex. Students who are serious about training for and competing in rock climbing events have the opportunity to travel to area climbing competitions and compete as a team. The team also hosts a showing of the annual REEL ROCK Film Tour as a fall fundraising event.”
The school itself has also come to be renowned for outdoor-based athletics such as their Cycling Program, as of October coming off its 13th straight Southeastern College Cycling Conference (SECCC) Varsity Championship at Lindsey Wilson College, will be making the long trip to California this weekend to compete in the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships. The Championships will take place Friday through Sunday in Big Bear Lake, California.
For more information, please visit www.lmc.edu or call 828.898.5241, and to learn more about the AORE Campus Challenge and to see entries during the challenge, visit http://oncampuschallenge.org/entries