ODAC men's runner of the year Sparks ready for national stage

White and red NCAA national qualifier graphic with at left photo of Max Sparks running. Text: Max Sparks NCAA men's cross country national qualifier

Louisville, Ky. -- Last year, it was the cold.

This year, Max Sparks has to be ready to get muddy.

The University of Lynchburg sophomore will return to the NCAA Division III championship meet this weekend, ready to run in the steady rain forecast in Louisville, Ky.

But Sparks is used to less-than-ideal conditions at the national meet. In 2018, with the November meet in Winneconne, Wis., runners took off at the gun in 20-degree temperatures.

"Being from New England, I'm used to the cold," the Canton, Conn., native said. "Once it starts to rain, it becomes muddy, and there's always the risk of falling."

But it also levels the playing field. Sparks, who enters the race seeded on the cusp of All-America (top 40 finishers) honors, knows the uncertain footing could help him toward the front of the pack or farther toward the back.

Any way the race goes, Lynchburg's national qualifier has already reaped the benefits of a fantastic 2019 season. Sparks was named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference men's runner of the year Friday, along with the announcement of the league's full cross country awards slate.

Sparks will race in the men's 8k championship, scheduled for 10:45 a.m., at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville. Junior Stephanie Burnett will follow an hour later, representing the Hornets in the 6k women's race.

RELATED: 2019 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships Website

Last year, Sparks leapt onto the region's cross country scene, qualifying for the national meet as a freshman and finishing 172nd.

This season, he took a huge leap forward, winning the Old Dominion Athletic Conference title in near-record-setting fashion, 24:44.1, less than a second off former national champion Ricky Flynn's program record.

Now, he is the 28th men's runner in program history to become a multi-time national qualifier and will try to become Lynchburg men's cross country's seventh All-American.

"He is one of the most talented distance runners in the history of our program," Lynchburg head cross country coach Jake Reed said.

Sparks would be the first to admit he didn't do everything he could to succeed in running as a freshman. He didn't train well in the summer prior to his first year of college, but talent took over for the freshman, helping him get to nationals. He took a break from training again over winter break but came back to finish all-conference and all-region in distance events during the indoor track & field season.

But something switched in Sparks this summer, and he returned to Lynchburg in August in tip-top shape.

"It's been an incredible maturation process," Reed said. "Max really dedicated himself to training this summer."

For Sparks, the answer was easy; he set a goal.

"At the start of the year, I wanted to get back to nationals," he said, "and then to get a shot to be All-American. And I think with a good race, this is possible."

So does his coach, and Reed said he expects his sophomore star to make a run at the top 40 places.

"He's peaking at the right time," Reed said.

 

2019 ODAC CROSS COUNTRY AWARDS

ODAC Men's Runner of the Year

Max Sparks | So. | Lynchburg


ODAC Men's Coach of the Year

Brandon Spalding | Washington and Lee


ODAC Men's Rookie of the Year

Connor Verrett | Fy. | Washington and Lee


Men's ODAC/Farm Bureau Insurance

Scholar-Athlete

Shawn Gmurek | Sr. | Lynchburg

 

ODAC Women's Runner of the Year

Sara Stephenson | So. | Washington and Lee


ODAC Women's Coach of the Year

Michael Dager | Washington and Lee


ODAC Women's Rookie of the Year

Sara Stephenson | So. | Washington and Lee


Women's ODAC/Farm Bureau Insurance

Scholar-Athlete

Calista Ariel | Sr. | Bridgewater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All-ODAC First Team - Men

 

All-ODAC First Team - Women

Max Sparks

LYN

24:44.1

 

Sara Stephenson

W&L

22:00.4

Daniel Cope

W&L

24:59.2

 

Julia Moody

W&L

22:01.8

Skyler Lattuca

VWU

25:03.1

 

Katie Harris

W&L

22:07.3

Shawn Gmurek

LYN

25:14.7

 

Stephanie Burnett

LYN

22:12.5

Drew Woodfolk

W&L

25:19.1

 

Katie Bearup

W&L

22:17.8

Andrew Johnson

LYN

25:22.2

 

English Jackson

BC

22:26.4

Ethan Bernstein

W&L

25:23.1

 

Calista Ariel

BC

22:33.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All-ODAC Second Team - Men

 

All-ODAC Second Team - Women

Freddie Marx

W&L

25:32.4

 

Emily Miller

SU

22:35.0

Austin Kinne

W&L

25:33.6

 

Avery Schiffman

W&L

22:38.0

Conor White

E&H

25:49.1

 

Didi Pace

W&L

22:45.0

Connor Verrett

W&L

25:52.0

 

Michela Cholak

LYN

22:47.9

Brennan Straits

LYN

25:58.5

 

Sarah Mann

SU

22:50.0

Kyle Clarke

W&L

26:00.8

 

Jacqueline Clardy-Josephs

RAND

23:00.4

Peter Smith

RC

26:03.8

 

Nina Gallagher

W&L

23:02.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Men's Runner of the Meet

 

Women's Runner of the Meet

Max Sparks | So. | Lynchburg

 

Sarah Stephenson | So. | Washington and Lee

 

 

 

Men's Rookie of the Meet

 

Women's Rookie of the Meet

Conor White | Jr. | Emory & Henry

 

Sarah Stephenson | So. | Washington and Lee

--LYN--

Fri Dec 20
4:00 PM
Hood
vs. Lynchburg
@ Daytona Beach, Fla. Daytona Beach Shootout
Sat Dec 21
4:00 PM
Lynchburg
vs. Marymount (Va.)
@ Daytona Beach, Fla. Daytona Beach Shootout
Wed Jan 01
2:00 PM
William Peace
vs. Lynchburg
Thu Jan 02
7:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Randolph-Macon
Sat Jan 04
2:00 PM
Va. Wesleyan
vs. Lynchburg
Sat Jan 04
4:30 PM
Johns Hopkins
vs. Lynchburg
Tue Jan 07
7:00 PM
Guilford
vs. Lynchburg
Wed Jan 08
7:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Randolph
Sat Jan 11
2:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Shenandoah
Wed Jan 15
5:00 PM
Washington and Lee
vs. Lynchburg
View Full Schedule
No events to show.
No Event
No Event
No Event
No Event
Fri Nov 08
Final
87 Lynchburg
78 vs. Albertus Magnus
@ Hood College, Frederick, Md. MMI Tip-Off Tournament
Sat Nov 09
Final
62 Lynchburg
75 at Hood
MMI Tip-Off Championship
Wed Nov 13
Final
88 Lynchburg
68 at N.C. Wesleyan
Sat Nov 16
Final
69 Hampden-Sydney
74 vs. Methodist
@ Lynchburg, Va. Wayne Proffitt Classic -- Game 1
Sat Nov 16
Final
80 Pfeiffer
91 vs. Lynchburg
Wayne Proffitt Classic -- Game 2
Sun Nov 17
Final
99 Hampden-Sydney
108 vs. Pfeiffer
@ Lynchburg, Va. Wayne Proffitt Classic -- Game 3
Sun Nov 17
Final
69 Methodist
93 vs. Lynchburg
Wayne Proffitt Classic -- Game 4
Fri Nov 22
Final
84 Lynchburg
88 vs. Mary Washington
@ Newport News, Va. CAC/ODAC Challenge - Game 1
Sat Nov 23
Final
77 Lynchburg
79 at No. 9 Chris. Newport
CAC/ODAC Challenge - Game 4
Sun Dec 01
Final
81 Lynchburg
68 at Bridgewater (Va.)
Wed Dec 04
Final
73 Lynchburg
78 at Ferrum
Sat Dec 07
Final
51 East. Mennonite
90 vs. Lynchburg
Wed Dec 11
Final
61 Lynchburg
42 at Averett
Wed Jan 01
2:00 PM
William Peace
vs. Lynchburg
Sat Jan 04
2:00 PM
Va. Wesleyan
vs. Lynchburg
Wed Jan 08
7:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Randolph
Wed Jan 15
7:30 PM
Hampden-Sydney
vs. Lynchburg
Sat Jan 18
2:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Emory & Henry
Wed Jan 22
7:00 PM
Ferrum
vs. Lynchburg
Coaches vs. Cancer Week
Sat Jan 25
2:00 PM
Washington and Lee
vs. Lynchburg
Alumni Day | Coaches vs. Cancer Week
Wed Jan 29
7:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Roanoke
View Full Schedule
No Event
No Event
No Event
No Event
Sun Nov 10
Final
60 Meredith
81 vs. Lynchburg
Tue Nov 12
Final
39 Lynchburg
70 at Averett
Fri Nov 15
Final
39 Lynchburg
52 at Emory
Emory Holiday Inn Tip Off Classic (Game Played at Agnes Scott)
Sat Nov 16
Final
64 Colorado Col.
76 vs. Lynchburg
@ Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Ga. Emory Holiday Inn Tip Off Classic
Wed Nov 20
Final
73 Lynchburg
60 at Hollins
Mon Nov 25
Final
61 East. Mennonite
82 vs. Lynchburg
Wed Dec 04
Final
58 Lynchburg
49 at Randolph
Sat Dec 07
Final
67 Emory & Henry
56 vs. Lynchburg
CODE RED Game
Fri Dec 20
4:00 PM
Hood
vs. Lynchburg
@ Daytona Beach, Fla. Daytona Beach Shootout
Sat Dec 21
4:00 PM
Lynchburg
vs. Marymount (Va.)
@ Daytona Beach, Fla. Daytona Beach Shootout
Thu Jan 02
7:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Randolph-Macon
Sat Jan 04
4:30 PM
Johns Hopkins
vs. Lynchburg
Tue Jan 07
7:00 PM
Guilford
vs. Lynchburg
Sat Jan 11
2:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Shenandoah
Wed Jan 15
5:00 PM
Washington and Lee
vs. Lynchburg
Sat Jan 18
2:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Va. Wesleyan
Wed Jan 22
7:00 PM
Lynchburg
at Ferrum
Sat Jan 25
4:30 PM
Bridgewater (Va.)
vs. Lynchburg
Alumnae Day
Wed Jan 29
7:00 PM
Hollins
vs. Lynchburg
No Event
No Event
View Full Schedule
No events to show.
No events to show.
No Event
No Event
No Event
No Event
Wed Oct 23
Final
1 Shenandoah
4 vs. Lynchburg
Sat Oct 26
Final
3 Lynchburg
1 at Va. Wesleyan
Tue Oct 29
Final - OT
0 Guilford
1 vs. Lynchburg
Senior Night
Sun Nov 03
Final
0 Randolph-Macon
2 vs. Lynchburg
Match 3 - ODAC Quarterfinal
Fri Nov 08
Final - PK Away
2 Lynchburg
2 at Hampden-Sydney
Match 6 - ODAC Semifinal
Sat Nov 09
Final
0 Lynchburg
1 vs. No. 11 Washington and Lee
@ Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden Sydney, Va. Match 8 - ODAC Championship
View Full Schedule
No Event
No Event
No Event
No Event
Thu Oct 24
Final
3 Lynchburg
4 at No. 15 Randolph-Macon
Moved from Oct. 23
Sun Oct 27
Final
1 Lynchburg
2 at Shenandoah
Wed Oct 30
Final
2 Lynchburg
1 at Guilford
Sat Nov 02
Final - OT
2 Va. Wesleyan
1 vs. Lynchburg
Senior Night | CODE RED Match
Mon Nov 04
Final
0 East. Mennonite
4 vs. Lynchburg
Match 1 - ODAC First Round
Wed Nov 06
Final
1 Lynchburg
4 at No. 14 Randolph-Macon
Match 2 - ODAC Quarterfinals
View Full Schedule