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Doane Receives NAIA Champions of Character Award

 Champions of Character
 Nate Teten, Brad Higgins
Edwin Ronoh & BJ Lawrence
accept the NAIA Champions of Character Award

Stick around to the end of a Doane track meet and you'll see Tiger athletes picking up lunches, equipment, spike bags and training room supplies.

During the first week of school each fall, it's the seniors on the track team who knock on the door of first-year student dorm rooms, paying a visit to help new students feel like Doane is home.

Each member of the track team spends at least 30 minutes a month volunteering in the middle and elementary schools in Crete, contributing more than 240 hours monthly as a team.

Team members help children walk to school in the morning and the athletes who speak Spanish serve as interpreters during parent-teach conferences where language would otherwise be a roadblock.

Those are just a few examples of why the Doane men's track and field program earned the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Champions of Character Team Award at a banquet prior to the national indoor championships Feb. 29. On the heels of winning their sixth straight conference indoor title, this honor shows that success at Doane is not only measured in competition but through individual character.

The traits and values that earned the men's team national recognition are shared by the entire track program and are embedded in the program's remarkable history. The honor also adds another chapter to Doane's tradition of putting core values at the base of each of its athletic programs and connecting those values with success. The Tiger Athletic Department as a whole received the 2010-11 NAIA Champions of Character Five Star Institution honor.

For the track and field team those core values go back more than 50 years, to the days when Fred Beile was just beginning his stint as head coach of the men's program. Beile added a women's team to the program but made it clear all athletes would be treated equally and all were part of ONE team.

Although track and field is often viewed as an individual sport where an athlete can be judged by his or her successes and failures, Coach Beile made sure that every individual who wore the orange and black knew they were part of one team. Then and now, it didn't matter if you won an event, placed third or didn't score; the efforts of every individual are important to the team's efforts. All individuals come together for a common goal.

He asked each team member to give 100-percent of their efforts and support every day. Beile's teams won two NAIA national championships. Beile won NAIA Coach-Of-The-Year honors, served as president of the NAIA track coaches and was inducted into the NAIA Hall-of-Fame while still an active coach.

Now, 10 years after Coach Beile's retirement, Tiger Head Coach Ed Fye continues to emphasize the values that were in place when he joined the program as a Tiger athlete and assistant coach. Beile's record speaks for itself, Fye said, and Beile remains active in the program, serving as an example for the student-athletes at Doane.

How does Coach Fye continue to implement the values put in place many years ago? He relies on his seniors and what they have learned through servant leadership and integrity.

The seniors are the ones who must lead by example and demonstrate the core values to the underclassmen in order for the tradition to continue. They help build the concept of team from the first practice on. Track athletes help with a local backpack program that serves families in need of food on the weekends. Away from the Crete community, the Tiger athletes who attend the NAIA National Meet will attend the NAIA Champions of Character school visit, giving presentations and interacting with the students at those schools.

Coach Fye says it is important to lead a team who possesses integrity in the classroom in addition to on the track.

"The high standards we have set for our team are carried over into the classroom. While an athlete is in college, it is most important that they lead a life of academic integrity."

The program has been very successful in the classroom, maintaining a 90-percent graduation rate over the last 10 years. There has been more than 30 NAIA Scholar-Athletes in the past three years and athletes have earned the prestigious Academic All-American honor.

Doane captain and senior Edwin Ronoh has been an excellent example of what the Tiger track and field program strives for. He has led by example on the track and off. He has faced his share of adversities in life but has not let it affect him in a negative manner. This past season, he was the GPAC champion in cross country and an event champion at the conference indoor track championships.

When asked to share how character has helped him and his team, Ronoh said: "Good character can be defined as courage, compassion, integrity, fairness, self-control, responsibility, leadership and respect. In other words, it is to do the "right" thing just because it is the right thing to do. It is important to incorporate all these aspects of character into a team in order to succeed. Each individual becomes part of the process because they hold each other accountable for the high standards. Working together as a team with courage and with passion has led us to many victories, both individually and as a team."

Brad Higgins, a junior multi-eventer, says character is essential to the team dynamic.

"It allows for student-athletes to hold themselves and their teammates accountable for their decisions on and off the competition area. This allows for teammates to put trust in one another and develop into a team that works together as one."

Although it is the men's team who received the award from the NAIA this year, it is still a team honor shared with the women's program. Seniors Kelsee Meissner and Natalie Kramer also provided accounts about how character is important and how it helps the team.

"I have always been proud to be a part of the Doane Track Team," Kramer said. "Throughout my college career, my teammates have always been there for me no matter what happened. One of the first things I noticed about our team was how we conducted ourselves at meets. Our team genuinely cares about the success of each person on the team and helps each individual get where they need to be."

Meissner added that the team always prided themselves with the utmost respect for each other and the competition.

"As a team who values character and trust, success does not only pertain on the track but off the track as well. A team that is truly unified can achieve any goal together and I believe that is what propels the Doane Track and Field team to greatness year after year."