Two T-Birds sign for track
Cloud County Community College sophomores Thom Reynders and Murphy Bavinga are very different athletes when it comes to their roles as members of the Thunderbirds' track and field team.
But the duo also share a lot in common.
Each of them came to Concordia —Reynders from the Netherlands and Bavinga from Paris, France — as walk-on athletes. They've since worked their way to becoming scholarship athletes and key contributors on a Cloud County men's team coming off Region VI/KJCCC Championships during the indoor and outdoor seasons.
And on Monday, the two future Biology majors were able to fulfill lifelong goals of becoming NCAA Division I athletes, with Bavinga signing his national letter of intent with Louisiana Tech University and Reynders committing to Southeastern Louisiana University.
"They earned their scholarships here," said Cloud County head coach, Harry Kitchener. "Murphy came in as a triple jumper who was around 46-47 feet and has now jumped over 50 feet, and Thom has become a very good steeplechaser. We're really happy for those kids to earn scholarships here, represent us at the national level on a team ranked in the top three, and have the opportunity to go on to NCAA Division I schools."
Bavinga is a four-time national qualifier in the triple jump. He earned 10th place as a freshman at the 2018 NJCAA Division I Outdoor Championships with a leap of 46-3 1/2.
He took major strides this spring as a sophomore, upping his personal record to 50-1/2 on April 6 to win the event at the Friends University Spring Open. He backed up that performance, currently the ninth-best mark in the country among NJCAA athletes, the following week as he hit 50-1/2 again to take first place at the KT Woodman Classic.
Bavinga said the interest Louisiana Tech has shown him through the long recruiting process was one of the many things that factored into his decision to become a Bulldog.
"There were a lot of things I liked about Louisiana Tech. I got a good offer, I really enjoyed the coach on my visit because he's a great triple jump coach. The weather is nice and the team is very strong in the conference," Bavinga said. "I also chose Louisiana Tech because they started talking to me when I was jumping 47-48 feet. They believed in me before I jumped 50 feet."
Kitchener said he believes there is still plenty of room for Bavinga go grow as he transitions to Conference USA and the NCAA Division I level.
"He's a strong kid and he's got some speed. He's one of our athlete who really benefited a lot from Coach (Ted) Schmitz's running workouts we have our field athletes do," Kitchener said of Bavinga. "If he can get up into the 51-52 feet range, he'll be knocking on the door to be a national qualifier at the Division I level. He's going to be very competitive in that conference."
For Reynders, the distance runner will be heading to Southeastern Louisiana University and the Southland Conference.
"They've given me a great opportunity and a great offer. I'm very happy about it because I never thought this would happen for me to sign with a NCAA Division I school," Reynders said. "This was the best fit for me because the team is very bonded, very close with each other. The coaches are really nice and believe in me."
Reynders, a national qualifier in cross country and a four-time qualifier in track and field, has found his niche in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The first time he ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase as a freshman, Reynders finished with a time of 10:41.26 at the 2018 Arkansas Spring Invitational.
He has shaved that time down to 9:39.74, the 11th fastest time in the country for NJCAA athletes, when he won the event at the Kansas Relays back on April 20.
"Race training has helped Thom a lot. We've gotten to the point where I ask the distance runners to get some morning runs in. I don't set it up or watch them do it, but I can see them doing it when I am coming up to the college," Kitchener said. "Thom has bought in to doing those secondary runs, the 2-3 mile runs a couple times a week, and it's really benefited him. He was in the 10-minute range in the steeplechase last year and has really come around, cutting his time down to 9:39.74. He's been gaining a lot of confidence and keeps getting stronger in his events."