SoCon announces January athletes of the month
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 02/04/2019
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Mercer's Amanda Thompson
Courtesy: Judy Stapleton/Mercer Athletics

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Southern Conference announced its January athletes of the month for men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, rifle and wrestling Monday, highlighting excellence among student-athletes during the month.

Fletcher, Wofford, Sr., G
Wofford guard Fletcher Magee helped the Terriers to an 8-0 month as they continued their school-record start to the season. The senior from Orlando, Florida, averaged 21.5 points per game in January, eclipsing 20 points in seven of his eight contests. He also made 37 3-pointers in the month, becoming the SoCon’s career leader and moving from No. 13 to No. 4 all-time in NCAA Division I history. After opening the month with 24 points and six 3s in a win over The Citadel, Magee hit five triples in a 20-point effort against Mercer to pass former Davidson star Stephen Curry for the SoCon career record, doing so in 43 fewer attempts than Curry took in his career. Magee hit at least four 3-pointers in six games in the month, including seven in a 107-106 overtime win against Samford in which he scored a season-high 31 points. For the month, he shot 44.4 percent from the floor (55-for-124), 41.1 percent from 3-point range (37-for-90) and 92.6 percent from the free-throw line (25-for-27) and averaged 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

Others nominated: Lew Stallworth (The Citadel), Jeromy Rodriguez (ETSU), Matt Rafferty (Furman), Ross Cummings (Mercer), Isaiah Miller (UNCG), Josh Sharkey (Samford), Kevin Easley (Chattanooga), Garrett Gilkeson (VMI) and Kameron Gibson (Western Carolina).

Amanda Thompson, Mercer, Sr., F
Mercer senior forward Amanda Thompson repeated as player of the month after helping the Bears to a 6-2 overall mark and a 6-0 SoCon record in January. Thompson got off to a hot start, rattling off four straight double-doubles in losses to Jacksonville and Columbia and wins over Samford and Western Carolina, which started a six-game win streak for the Bears. She netted 16 points and 11 rebounds against Jacksonville and followed that up with 18 points and 11 rebounds against Columbia, earning SoCon player of the week honors. In a win over Samford on Jan. 12, the senior scored a career-high 24 points and added 11 rebounds. Thompson, a native of Hayesville, North Carolina, pushed her double-double streak to six straight games, dating back to December, by totaling 10 points and 16 rebounds against Western Carolina before the streak came to an end against UNCG when she scored 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds. She concluded the month with a three-game double-double steak, beginning with 11 points and 12 rebounds against Chattanooga. After recording 14 points and 12 rebounds against ETSU, she ended the month with a 21-point, 16-rebound showing at Wofford to keep the Bears perfect in conference play and alone atop the standings. She averaged 16.8 points and 12.6 rebounds per contest on the month.

Others nominated: Erica Haynes-Overton (ETSU), Nadine Soliman (UNCG), Natalie Armstrong (Samford), Lakelyn Bouldin (Chattanooga) and Jewel Smalls (Western Carolina).

Ben Varghese, ETSU, So.
ETSU’s Ben Varghese posted the top SoCon times in the mile and the 3,000-meter run and won all three events he entered in January. At the ETSU Track & Field Invitational to open the month, Varghese turned in a personal-best time of 8:16.53 to win the 3,000 meters by more than 23 seconds. The sophomore from Kingsport, Tennessee, earned SoCon track athlete of the week and General Shale SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week honors after that performance. Varghese won the event again the following week, clocking 8:17.07 to claim the 3,000 meters at the Gamecock Inaugural in Columbia, South Carolina. Varghese capped his month with a win in the mile at the VMI Team Challenge, posting a personal-best time of 4:09.74 to win by more than 4 seconds.

Ben Johnson, ETSU, R-Sr.
ETSU thrower Ben Johnson posted conference-leading throws in the shot put and weight throw in January. The redshirt senior from Nashville, Tennessee, made his season debut at the Gamecock Inaugural, winning the weight throw with a heave of 21.13 meters (69 feet, 4 inches) to win by nearly 2.5 meters. That distance is good for 13th on the NCAA Division I performance list. Johnson also threw the shot put 15.62 meters (51 feet, 3 inches), which was the top mark in the SoCon at the time, and earned SoCon field athlete of the week honors. The following week at the VMI Team Challenge, Johnson claimed both events, winning the shot with a personal-best throw of 16.32 meters (53 feet, 6 1/2 inches) and the weight throw with a toss of 20.17 meters (66 feet, 2 1/4 inches).

Karisa Nelson, Samford, R-Sr.
Samford’s Karisa Nelson was a three-time indoor track athlete of the week in January. The redshirt senior from Brewton, Alabama, leads the SoCon performance list in three events so far this season, posting the top times in the 3,000-meter run, the 800-meter run and the mile in consecutive weeks in January. Nelson opened her season at the UAB Blazer Invitational on Jan. 11, winning the 3,000 meters by nearly 20 seconds with a time of 9:22.32, which is 22nd on the NCAA Division I performance list so far this season. She followed that by winning the 800 meters in a meet-record time of 2:05.47 at the Samford Invite on Jan. 18 and ranks eighth on the NCAA performance list in the event. Nelson closed her month at the Dr. Sander Invitational in New York on Jan. 26, collecting a pair of top-three finishes in a field that included collegiate and professional athletes. She took third in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:16.20 before taking second in the mile in 4:34.81, which is eighth in the NCAA this season.

Victoria Solheim, Western Carolina, Fr.
Western Carolina freshman thrower Victoria Solheim made her collegiate debut at the VMI Team Challenge on Jan. 26, turning in a pair of top-five finishes to help the Catamounts to a second-place team showing. The rookie from Dallas, Georgia, placed third in the weight throw with a SoCon-best mark of 17.27 meters (56 feet, 8 inches). Solheim was also fifth in the shot put with a mark of 12.76 meters (41 feet, 10 1/2 inches). She was named the SoCon field athlete of the week for her efforts.

Tobin Sanctuary, North Georgia, Jr.
North Georgia’s Tobin Sanctuary had a strong month of January. During his first match of the month at the Georgia State Championships against Georgia Southern and Georgia Military College, he fired a 571, his average score, landing him second on the team and third overall in the discipline. His efforts helped the Nighthawks to win their sixth consecutive State Championship title. In his second competition of the month, he fired a season-high 578 in a match featuring No. 3 Kentucky, No. 5 Murray State, No. 8 Memphis, No. 10 Jacksonville State, No. 25 UAB and UT Martin, tying him for first on the team.

Others nominated: Jordan Blankenship (UAB), Izzie Blystone (The Citadel) and Courtney Weekley (Georgia Southern).

Air rifle
Rosemary Kramer, Georgia Southern, Sr.
Georgia Southern’s Rosemary Kramer placed first in air rifle in all three of her matches in January. She now owns the six highest air rifle scores in school history. Her score of 595 on Jan. 12 at the Georgia State Championships is tied for third-best and her score of 593 on Jan. 26 against The Citadel and VMI is tied for fifth-best. Her aggregate score on Jan. 12 against North Georgia and Georgia Military is now tied for the 10th-highest. The Culloden, Georgia, native is only one of 11 NCAA competitors this year to shoot a 598 or higher and she is averaging 593.111 in air rifle this season, ninth-best in the NCAA.

Others nominated: Jordan Blankenship (UAB), Izzie Blystone (The Citadel) and Ricky Medina (North Georgia).

Neal Richards, VMI, R-Jr., 174 pounds
VMI’s Neal Richards posted a perfect 8-0 overall record in January, going 2-0 in conference matches and 3-0 in duals overall, including four wins by pins and two by technical fall. The South Chesterfield, Virginia, native was named the All-Academy Championship’s Most Outstanding Wrestler after capturing the 174-pound title at the All-Academy Championship, punctuated by pinning 18th-ranked Spencer Carey of Navy in the final in just 1:42. Richards won his two conference matches in January in a combined six minutes, one by pin and one by technical fall. He was recognized during the week of Jan. 28 by The Open Mat in its Top Ten Performances of the Week, coming in at No. 7. Richards is currently ranked No. 19 by Intermat at 174 pounds and his 15-match win streak has his overall record at 22-3. The redshirt junior won back-to-back Southern Conference Wrestler of the Week honors in January and has earned three total on the season.

Others nominated: Randall Diabe (Appalachian State), Sawyer Root (The Citadel), Alonzo Allen (Chattanooga), Kyle Gorant (Davidson) and Tyler Marinelli (Gardner-Webb).

Southern Conference January Athletes of the Month

Men’s basketball                                        Fletcher Magee, Wofford
Women’s basketball                                   Amanda Thompson, Mercer
Men’s indoor track and field – track           Ben Varghese, ETSU
Men’s indoor track and field – field            Ben Johnson, ETSU
Women’s indoor track and field – track      Karisa Nelson, Samford
Women’s indoor track and field – field       Victoria Solheim, Western Carolina
Rifle – smallbore                                        Tobin Sanctuary, North Georgia
Rifle – air rifle                                             Rosemary Kramer, Georgia Southern
Wrestling                                                    Neal Richards, VMI

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