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Two University of the Cumberlands Patriot athletes completely exemplify this as recently, they were announced as award winners on the highest stage of the NAIA.
Junior Danielle Hoop, a graduate of Owen County High School, and senior Darcy Mascotti of Bellbrook, Ohio were announced as the NAIA Collegiate Student-Athletes of the Year Award winners.
This is one of the highest honors that an individual athlete can receive while competing in the NAIA.
The NAIA Champions of Character program provides training for student-athletes and professional development for coaches and staff. The values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership are put into play and accounted for at all NAIA schools.
Hoop and Mascotti have competed with one another for three years on the UC Cross Country team as well as UC’s Track and Field team.
According to a statement from the university, it was their shameless act of integrity on Nov. 3, 2012 that marked what being a Patriot is all about.
At the Mid-South Conference Cross Country Championships in Rio Grande, Ohio, Mascotti and Hoop were in second- and third-place respectively trailing Lindsey Wilson’s Sharon Ronoh in the race with just over 500-meters remaining.
As Mascotti and Hoop made their round on a turn, they were told by their assistant coach to stay strong in the final stretch. Once they came out of the turn, they noticed that Ronoh, who was over 15 seconds ahead of the pair, was nowhere to be found. Both Hoop and Mascotti thought to themselves that something was definitely wrong.
As they came down the final stretch, they noticed that they were actually in first- and second-place respectively and knew that something wrong had happened.
As Mascotti crossed the finish line in first place with Hoop just behind in second place, they immediately went to the race officials and coaches and told them that they could not accept the first- and second-place finishes.
They knew that Ronoh, who was clearly ahead of them, somehow was taken off path in the race.
Although Ronoh did cross the finish line in third place, Mascotti and Hoop, who have ran competitively against Ronoh many times, went to her and exclaimed that they would find out what happened.
Mascotti said, “I went to Sharon and you could see the tears in her eyes. I told her that it was ok and that we were going to make it right.”
“Sharon is one of the nicest competitors that we have ever gone up against,” Hoop said. “You never wanted anything bad to happen to her. She was always that girl that had the smile on her face, whether she won or lost, even though most of the time she was winning.”
After going to the officials and coaches, the conference decided to award the win to Sharon, who unfortunately was taken off course due to a course rope not being moved in time. Her excitement was unmatched as she thanked both Hoop and Mascotti for what they did.
“I want to applaud all those individuals involved for their efforts to make things right after an honest mistake on the course,” Steve Baker, the commissioner of the Mid-South Conference at the time, said. “Our member institutions firmly believe in the five core values of the NAIA’s Champions of Character program and this was a true Champions of Character moment. I compliment the willingness to correct the mistake, especially from Darcy and Danielle. I would hope we could all follow their great example of how sports ought to be kept in the proper perspective. I would like to congratulate all three women for their contribution to the Mid-South Conference and their respective institutions.”
UC Cross Country Head Coach Floyd Stroud added, “The program I have tried to lead here at the University of the Cumberlands is one with athletes of high character and class. These two great athletes have been a staple of what we try to do here. They always attempt to do everything right and never take any shortcuts. I firmly believed in what these young ladies did that day and applaud them for their willingness to come forward and attempt to make this right. They are true champions and will continue to be throughout the rest of their careers here as well as in life.”
Hoop and Mascotti said the wanted to thank God for everything.
The runners said they wanted to thank their parents, their coaches, and their teammates for contributing to their success.
Hoop said she wanted to thank her seventh-grade art teacher for pushing her to run cross country.
“He said I could never sit still in class so he went to the cross-country coach and said that he had the perfect addition for his team,” Hoops said. “So I have to thank him for helping push me to want to run cross country.”
Both Mascotti and Hoop will be presented with their awards on Nov. 5 at the Inaugural Champions of Character Foundation Awards Luncheon at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Mo.
This luncheon celebrates the character values of those who make a difference in the culture of sport and in the community. Tom Osborne, an NAIA alumnus and former University of Nebraska coach and administrator, will provide a keynote address on character as well.