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ASU Sweeps Sun Belt’s Top Academic Awards


Appalachian State University swept the Sun Belt Conference’s most prestigious individual academic awards on Wednesday when women’s soccer’s Sam Childress (Kernersville, N.C./East Forsyth) and football’s Cody McKinney (Vilas, N.C./Watauga) were named Sun Belt’s Male and Female Postgraduate Scholar-Athletes of the Year, respectively.

The awards include $6,500 apiece for Childress and McKinney to pursue further education. Scholarship funding comes from the Sun Belt Conference’s 2015-16 bowl partners — the R+L Carriers New Orleans, the GoDaddy.com Bowl, the Raycom Camellia Bowl and the AutoNation Cure Bowl.

A key component of Appalachian State’s women’s soccer program over the last four years. Childress scored 25 goals, including 11 game-winners, over 73 matches as a Mountaineer. She made 64 starts during her four-year career, including all 20 games as a senior in 2015.

The forward ranks among the top 10 in App State history in several offensive statistical categories, including career goals (25, t-2nd), career points (54, 6th), and career shots (156, 6th).

In the classroom, Childress maintained a 3.95 cumulative grade point average and was a member of the Appalachian State Chancellor’s list. She graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in appropriate technology. She was awarded a postgraduate scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in environmental management at Duke University.

In addition to being a standout on the field and in the classroom, Childress took part in many community service initiatives, including installing solar projects in Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2014.

A four-year football student-athlete, McKinney arrived at Appalachian State as a walk-on in 2012 and worked his way into a key role as a special-teams contributor for the Mountaineers.

On the field, McKinney served primarily on Appalachian State’s kickoff-return unit but also made two career tackles as a linebacker. Off the field, he served as one of the emotional and spiritual leaders for a team that won a Sun Belt Conference-record 11 games in 2015.

McKinney graduated from Appalachian State in May with a 3.96 cumulative grade point average in accounting. He earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average six times in his final seven collegiate semesters.

He will continue his education at App State this fall when he begins work towards a master’s degree.

Also as part of its end-of-year award announcements, the Sun Belt identified the members of  Leadership Team, which includes one representative from each member institution. Appalachian State’s representative is women’s cross country/track and field’s Tristin Van Ord (Chapel Hill, N.C./Chapel Hill).

In just three years, Van Ord has already established herself as one of the most academically and athletically accomplished student-athletes in Appalachian State history.

A member of Appalachian State’s women’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams, Van Ord is a seven-time Sun Belt Conference individual champion. She won four Sun Belt titles in 2015-16 alone, with victories in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters at the indoor conference championships and the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the league’s outdoor championships. She is also a two-time runner-up at the Sun Belt cross country championships (2014 and 2015).

Thanks to her wins in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races, she contributed 20 of the 101.5 points that Appalachian State needed to win the 2016 Sun Belt Indoor Track and Field title by just two points. The championship was the first Sun Belt title ever claimed by the Mountaineers.

In the classroom, Van Ord carries a 3.87 cumulative grade point average in one of Appalachian State’s most demanding majors – sustainability development. She also minors in Spanish.