Friday, February 24, 2012

Mercer's Kacie Niemann Goes the Extra Mile With SAAC

One of the top Mercer University cross country runners in school history, junior Kacie Niemann was an A-Sun second team all-conference selection in 2011, as well as in 2009. Additionally, she was an A-Sun All-Freshman Team selection in 2009. Niemann owns the MU school records in both 5K and 6K races, and has seven of the top-10 Mercer 5K times in school history.

In her career, Niemann has been the MU team’s top finisher in 16 of 17 races. A cross country co-captain, she ran the second-fastest six kilometer time in school history to pace the women’s cross country team at the NCAA South Regionals in 2011. Niemann’s time of 22:42.70 was good for 84th overall out of the 191 entered runners and was second only to her own school-record time of 22:13.95 for the 6K (set at last year’s NCAA South Regional).

In the classroom, Niemann has been named to the A-Sun All-Scholastic Team twice (2010, 2009), was a member of Mercer’s USTFCCCA 2010 NCAA Division I All-Academic Team and a three-time Mercer President & Dean’s List honoree. She has twice earned the President’s Scholastic Award (2009, 2010). Her academic honors include Organic Chemistry Student Award (2011), an invitation to Alpha Epsilon Delta, pre-medical Honor Society (2010), an invitation to Phi Eta Sigma academic Honor Society (2010) and recipient of the Citi Group Academic Scholarship (2009).

She has also served as the secretary for the A-Sun Student-Athletes Advisory Council, and discusses her involvement with SAAC as well the role of SAAC on campus and in the community.

A-Sun: Why do you work with SAAC?
KN: I originally got involved because I was one of the only qualified people on my team to represent it in SAAC, but I have become more involved to improve policies that would benefit student-athletes and enhance Mercer’s athletic department.

A-Sun: What is SAAC’s role on campus?
KN: We had a big push this year to increase attendance at games, to raise money for the American Cancer Society and to volunteer with the Salvation Army. Our biggest role on campus, though, is to give the student-athletes a voice in the athletic department so that administrative decisions are not being made without our input.

A-Sun: Why did you choose to attend Mercer and to play for an A-Sun team?
KN: I chose Mercer primarily because they have an excellent Physician Assistant program here, and I was given the opportunity to continue competing athletically since I recruited to run cross-country for the university. Although the Women’s Cross-Country program was being rebuilt when I first came in as a freshman, I have had the opportunity to see it grow and have been able to serve as Captain, help with recruiting, and personally contribute to developing the team.

A-Sun: What is a typical day for you as a Bear entail?
KN: I spend early mornings going to practice, then rushing to work at a doctor’s office so that I can get the necessary experience for PA school. I have classes and homework until practice in the afternoons (which usually last about three hours), then I spend the evenings either catching up on homework, tutoring, working at the University Center, or helping with a children’s ministry at my church (on Wednesdays).

A-Sun: How do you envision SAAC’s role in the Macon community in the future?
KN: I would hope that we can become more visible to non-student athletes and would work closer with our Student Government to possibly implement service projects that use athletics, but that athletes and non-athletes can participate in. Additionally, I would hope that SAAC would take initiatives to improve the experience for students that attend athletic events to give them an incentive to come to more games and events.

A-Sun: Can you talk about your top-20 finishes at three A-Sun Cross Country Championships?
KN: It gets harder every year to place well because the A-Sun continues to recruit talented runners and improve returning runners. If I were running for myself, I never would have achieved such high placement in the conference races. But I have a very knowledgeable coach that does everything he can to ensure that all of his athletes are competing to the best of their ability, and his training has prepared me physically to race while the increasing unity of our team has prepared me mentally to gut out a tough race. The unity of our team also provides me with the mental toughness I need to finish a race.

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