Cross Country Runner Receives Academy's Most Valuable Male Athlete Award
June 1, 2004
Congratulations, class of 2004. During the fall of 2003, the men's cross country team was the first Academy team to win a Mountain West Conference championship outright. The women's cross country team concluded the season with a fifth consecutive third-place finish. Head coach Mark Stanforth was selected as the MWC coach of the year and six runners on the men's team earned all-MWC. The Falcon men earned a trip to the NCAA Championships after finishing third in the Mountain Region. Third is the highest regional finish for AFA in 11 years, and 2003 was the third time in four years that the Falcons have qualified for the NCAA championships. Three runners earned all-region honors. The women's team finished 14th in the region. Following the regional meet, the AFA men's team was ranked eighth in the national poll. The cross country team ended the season eighth in the country.
The team's most valuable athletes C1Cs Benjamin Payne and Anne Chumlea were the team leaders. Throughout Payne's career he earned three academic all-MWC honors, was a two-time team MVP in both cross country and track, a three-time MWC champion, three-time NCAA cross country competitor, and a three-time MWC athlete of the week.
Chumlea is a four-time academic all-MWC team honoree. In 2003, she was the Academy's top finisher in the Mountain Region with a time of 22 minutes, 55 seconds. In the conference championships race she finished 20th with a time of 23:12. At the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet, she finished with a time of 22:25 and led the women's team to its 27th-place.
The Academy's athletic department honored six of its best and brightest with the Academy's top athletic awards, the Most Valuable Athlete Award was given to C1C Ben Payne, who exemplifies what a cadet, should be.
He is a three-time conference champion on the track, a four-time all-conference performer in cross country, an excellent student and is recognized as a model cadet-athlete. He has maintained a 3.01 GPA in aeronautical engineering. He has competed at the highest level each year, earning all-conference honors in 10 of a possible 12 seasons. No other distance runner in the five-year history of the Mountain West Conference has demonstrated the consistency that Payne has displayed nor has anyone matched his accomplishments. While he aimed for a third consecutive MWC 10,000-meter championship in May, his most significant accomplishments have come as a leader of the Academy's cross country team. He led the Falcons to their first-ever MWC championship last fall and then led the team to an eighth-place NCAA finish, the highest NCAA finish by any Academy team in many years. This followed 16th and 26th place NCAA finishes by the team in 2000 and 2001, respectively.