BRISTOL, Tenn. – Starting this year, Conference Carolinas started handing out the Elite 23 award, which is an award giving to the student-athlete at the championship site with the highest GPA for each respective sport. In the fall, two Tornado earned the Elite 23 award, Sam Mburu of the men's soccer team and Kaitlin Rivera of the women's cross country team.
"I was pleasantly surprised to receive the Elite 23 award," Rivera said. "As a student-athlete, I try to do my best for God's glory both on the course and in the classroom. Athletics are important to me but I am at King first and foremost for the academics. Receiving this award is hard work getting paid off."
Rivera, a junior from Knoxville, Tenn., is majoring in Music and English, carrying a 3.93 GPA. Upon graduation, she would like to teach music and voice and has aspirations for owning her own studio. While at King her favorite classes have been music history or music theory as she loves analyzing music and learning where pieces came from. At the Conference Carolinas Championship, Rivera finished 17th with a 6k time of 24:36.0.
"Kaitlin Rivera is an outstanding athlete and an even better student," head cross country coach Desmond Pierce said. "Since she stepped foot on this campus and put on a King uniform she has strived for perfection. What she does in the classroom overflows onto the course and track and it has been a blessing getting to coach her these past three years. She is a great example of our mission statement of leading, serving, and achieving!"
"To win the award, it wouldn't have been possible without my professors and to my coaches for being on top of us to get our academics right because it's as important as soccer, and to my parents for always pushing me to work hard," Mburu said.
Mburu, a senior from London, England carries a 3.98 GPA while majoring in Information Technology with a minor in Business. Mburu is focusing on cybersecurity and hopes to land a job as a cybersecurity analyst upon graduation. His favorite class at King has been Pepsi Boyer's Cyber Security class. Mburu and the Tornado soccer team qualified for the Conference Carolinas Men's Soccer Championship semifinal for the first time in program history, falling at 19th-ranked Limestone College.
"I am very pleased that Sam has received this recognition," men's soccer head coach Richie Rose said. "It is our goal, as a program, that all of our student-athletes achieve and maintain high academic standards. Sam has chosen to take ownership of his future and lead the way to academic success. His personal time management skills, establishing an optimal study environment, and making a commitment to learning will serve him well in his future. I would like to congratulate Sam on his achievement and thank all of the professors here at King for motivating and inspiring our students to achieve high academic standards."
The Conference Carolinas Elite 23 award is modeled after the NCAA's Elite 90 award, recognizing the student-athlete with the highest GPA at their respective championship site.