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Christian university coaches select gay athlete for character award

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LGBT sports roundup: Being gay not a negative factor on his team, track athlete Jack Strickland says.

Photo by Lou Alexander

WICHITA, Kansas — About a week before his indoor track and field conference meet, Jack Strickland got a text from his Friends University coach to "come by my office."

Strickland, a junior, arrived to learn he would be the team's male athlete receiving the Champions of Character award at the 2016 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference meet. Each KCAC team's coaches select one athlete to receive the award for having a 3.0 GPA and portraying "respect, responsibility, integrity, sportsmanship, and servant leadership."

"It's a great honor, and I was so happy," says Strickland, who started telling teammates he's gay near the end of his freshman year. "I didn't think I would ever be nominated for it."

The conference meet, which took place Feb. 5 and 6 in Pittsburgh, Kansas, included several highlights for Strickland. His team captured its second consecutive indoor conference title, and Strickland scored points and set personal records in both his events.

He finished second in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.62 seconds and took eighth in triple jump by going 42 feet, 9 inches. His hurdle time ranks 43rd in NAIA this season.

"I'm always really slow out of blocks, but I got a good jump," Strickland says of his hurdle race. "I didn't hit any hurdles, so for me, it was two great races [in prelims and finals]."

Strickland, who is talking publicly about being gay for the first time, says he's had a great experience in the two years since he started coming out to his team.

Madison Behny was Strickland’s first teammate to learn he’s gay. Her boyfriend lived next door to a drag queen, and one night going to see the neighbor perform at a gay club, she saw Strickland with a guy.

"The gig is up," Strickland said of his reaction. "After that, she was just like, ‘Nobody cares. I hope you know that.’ "

Behny proved to be right as Strickland gradually told his other teammates during the next several months.

"On my team, that's not a factor," Strickland says of his sexuality.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Strickland is a native of Wichita, Kansas, which is where Friends University is located. He initially attended the University of Kansas after high school, but the three-sport high school athlete transferred to Friends, a private non-denominational Christian university, after his first semester to resume his athletics career.

"I didn't want to do athletics in college when I got out of high school, because I wanted to come out instead. I didn't think I could come out and be an athlete," Strickland says. "To see where I am now and getting an award from my conference ... it's just one of those things that I'm surprised where I am at in my life, and I'm happy with it."

Names in bold are people that have announced publicly they identify as LGBT.

Division I

Sean Collins (sophomore, Penn men's track and field) took eighth in long jump (21 feet) and 16th in the 60-meter hurdles (10.16 seconds) at the Villanova Invitational on Feb. 6.

Konrad Eiring (freshman, Illinois men's track and field) ran 1 minute, 55.94 seconds for 59th in the 800 meters at Iowa State on Saturday. He also danced to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" on Feb. 9 at Illinois' annual Jack Jams fundraiser.

Taylor Emery (freshman, Tulane women's basketball) helped her team go 2-2 the last two weeks. Emery contributed 11 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in a 59-56 win against Houston on Feb. 6.

Derrick Gordon (senior, Seton Hall men's basketball) scored 13 points and 12 points in wins against Marquette and Georgetown, respectively, but struggled scoring four points Feb. 10 against Butler, which snapped the Pirates' four-game winning streak. Even with Seton Hall (17-7, 7-5 Big East) losing to Butler at home, CBS and ESPN both currently project Seton Hall to make the NCAA tournament. "We talk about it every day in the locker room. We're all hungry for the NCAA Tournament, extremely hungry," Gordon told the Asbury Park Press

Connor Griffin (freshman, Fordham men's swimming) finished second in the 100-yard backstroke (56.63 seconds) in a dual against St. Francis Brooklyn on Feb. 3.

Fred Hartville (senior, Illinois men's gymnastics) competed on floor for the first time this season in a home meet against Illinois-Chicago and Temple on Feb. 6, and he placed fifth (14.450) on floor while in the same meet getting second on vault (14.850). On Saturday in a six-team meet at Minnesota, Hartville tied for sixth on floor (14.900) and finished eighth on vault (14.850).

Griffin Hay (junior, Portland men's track and field) grabbed sixth place in the 3,000 meters Feb. 4 at the Portland Indoor Invitational in 8 minutes, 33.7 seconds.

Bree Horrocks (sophomore, Purdue women's basketball) missed a game after suffering a MCL injury. She returned and played at least 12 minutes the last three games, including a start at No. 7 Maryland on Feb. 11. However, Purdue (16-9 overall, 7-7 Big Ten) went 0-4 the last two weeks.

Alex Obendorf (sophomore, West Virginia men's diving) finished second on 3-meter springboard (318.15) and third on 1-meter (304.70) during the James Madison Invitational on Feb. 6. (Video: https://youtu.be/Iv-BylTpzdM)

Jazmine Sosa (senior, UCLA softball) did not play in the team's first five games. Kirk Walker (assistant coach, UCLA softball) helped guide the No. 7-ranked Bruins to a 4-1 start to the year.

Gavin Studner (senior, Lafayette men's tennis) lost his singles and doubles match Feb. 6 against St. Francis (Pa.) to open the spring season. On Friday at St. Joseph's, Studner lost twice in his team's 7-0 loss.

Tanner Williams (senior, Oklahoma men's track and field) cleared 16 feet, 11 1/2 inches for a personal record and eighth-place finish Friday at the Don Kirby Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Simon Thibodeau (head coach, UC Santa Barbara women's tennis) earned his 200th career victory Sunday when his team beat UC Davis 4-0. The milestone came after his team split its matches Saturday, winning against Memphis 4-0 and losing to Washington State 4-3. Thibodeau is in his fourth season at UC Santa Barbara after nine seasons leading Fresno State.

Chris Burns (assistant coach, Bryant men's basketball) experienced his team going 0-4 the last two weeks to extend their losing streak to nine games. Bryant is 7-20 overall.

Galen Dodd (assistant coach, Southern California men's volleyball) went through a 1-3 span the last two weeks. The Trojans (2-10 overall) beat UC San Diego 3-1 on Feb. 6.

Patrick Jeffrey (diving coach, Stanford men's and women's diving) took his men's divers against Southern California on Feb. 6, and the best finish was third on 1-meter springboard. Cardinal women's diver Gracia Leydon-Mahoney won on both springboards in a dual meet Saturday against California.

Randy Lane (assistant coach, UCLA women's gymnastics) helped his No. 7-ranked team go 2-1 the past two weeks with wins against Oregon State and Utah.

Lee-J Mirasolo (assistant coach, Harvard women's hockey) went through a busy two weeks where her team went 3-1-2, beating Yale, Boston University, and Union. The Crimson are 15-9-3 overall entering the final week of the regular season.

Ryan Mizner (assistant coach, Central Michigan men's basketball) watched his team win Feb. 2 against Kent State then lose three consecutive games. Central Michigan (13-12 overall, 6-6 MAC) sits tied for third in the Mid-American Conference's West Division.

Division II

Alanna Carvalho (sophomore, Erskine College women's lacrosse) scored all three goals in a season-opening 19-3 loss at Tusculum on Feb. 6. The team lost 21-3 on Saturday to Young Harris, but stats were not available.

LeQuan Chapman (senior, Shippensburg men's track and field) won the long jump (23 feet, 4 inches) at the Crusader Classic on Feb. 6 in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. He achieved NCAA Division II provisional qualifying marks Saturday in long jump (third place, 23-10) and triple jump (second place, 47-11) at Boston University.

Ian Davies (freshman, Shippensburg men's track and field) opened his indoor season with a 13th-place finish Friday in the 3,000 meters (9:23.62) at the Bucknell Tune-Up.

Austin Olivares (junior, Lindenwood men's swimming), who has qualified for NCAA Division II Nationals, swam five events Feb. 10-13 at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships without tapering for the meet. He competed in the 1,000-yard freestyle (13th place, 9:50.40), 200 freestyle (20th, 1:45.14), 500 freestyle (21st, 4:51.98), 100 freestyle (23rd, 47.72 seconds), and the 800 freestyle relay (disqualified).

Austin Shupp (sophomore, Shippensburg men's track and field) took sixth in the 400 meters (51.97 seconds) and was on the winning 4x400-meter relay Feb. 6 at the Crusader Classic.

Division III

Greg Arther (sophomore, Wisconsin-Platteville men's track and field) finished 21st in the mile (4:42.33) and ran on the seventh-place 4x400 relay Saturday at the UW-Platteville Invitational.

Ryan Beene (junior, Texas Lutheran men's tennis) opened the season going 1-4 playing No. 1 singles and 3-2 in doubles. His singles win came in the Feb. 7 opening match against Sul Ross State in straight sets.

Michael Drougas (sophomore, Oberlin men's tennis) went 3-1 in singles matches and 3-1 in doubles matches the last two weeks as his team went 3-2. He received the North Coast Athletic Conference men's tennis player of the week award Feb. 8 for winning both his singles matches and his doubles match the previous Saturday.

Max Korten (senior, Moravian men's track & field) came in 38th in the mile (5:08.65) at the Crusader Classic on Feb. 6. He took 10th in the 5,000 meters (17:46.86) on Saturday at Monmouth University.

Mark Kroll (senior, Coe men's tennis) helped his team string together four consecutive 9-0 wins the past two weekends. He played in two of the matches, winning 8-1 at No. 1 doubles on Feb. 6 against Dubuque and winning 8-2 at No. 2 doubles Saturday vs. Cornell.

Michael Martin (freshman, Wilson men's volleyball) decided to join the school's new men's volleyball team, which is 0-4 to start the season. Martin played his best match Saturday in a 0-3 loss to Lancaster Bible College, when he had two kills, two blocks and one dig.

T.J. Greggs (head coach, Agnes Scott women's tennis) guided his team to back-to-back 8-1 wins over Point University and Columbia (S.C.) College to start the season 2-0.

NAIA

Andres Bustani (senior, Lewis-Clark men's tennis) went 2-1 in singles matches and 1-1 in doubles matches as his team went 3-0 during a busy Saturday and Sunday. Bustani played No. 3 singles in all three matches.

David Gilbert (junior, Lewis-Clark men's track and field) continues to recover from an ankle injury, which has sidelined him the entire indoor season.

Jesse Taylor (redshirt sophomore, Dakota Wesleyan men's basketball) did not play as his team went 2-1 the last two weeks.

Nick Clark (head coach, Clarke men's volleyball) led his team to a 6-1 record the last two weeks. The No. 3-ranked Crusaders are 11-1 overall.

Upcoming televised competitions involving LGBT college athletes and coaches that have announced their sexuality publicly. (All times are Eastern.)

Wednesday, Feb. 17

Derrick Gordon, Seton Hall men's basketball at Georgetown; Washington, D.C., 9 p.m. (FS1)

Sunday, Feb. 21

Derrick Gordon, Seton Hall men's basketball at St. John's; New York, N.Y., Noon (FS1)

Thursday, Feb. 25, 16

Derrick Gordon, Seton Hall men's basketball vs. Providence; Newark, N.J., 7 p.m. (FS1)

Sunday, Feb. 28, 16

Derrick Gordon, Seton Hall men's basketball vs. Xavier; Newark, N.J., 12:30 p.m. (FS1)

Jack Strickland can be reached via email at jack_strickland@student.friends.edu or on Twitter or Instagram using @ThaJackAttak

Erik Hall can be reached via email at hallerik7@gmail.com or on Twitter @HallErik or on Facebook. If you are an out LGBT athlete or coach and want your accomplishments recognized, email Erik.