More Than Just a Law School: MC Law makes Princeton Review List / Caroline Hunt

The Mississippi College School of Law recently was featured on the Princeton Review’s Best Law Schools List for 2022. The Princeton Review is a college admissions resource for potential law students, helping future lawyers find their perfect fit for post-undergrad since 1981. 

Kristian Gautier is an Assistant Director of Admissions for the Mississippi College School of Law. He spoke in an interview about the law school making an appearance on the Review’s 2022 list.

“This is a mark, a stamp of credibility. It assures our students that they are getting a high-quality education, they will be able to get a job after graduation, and they can pass their bar exam,” said Gautier, who’s also an MC alumnus. 

MC Law is among big names like Yale, Harvard, and Columbia Schools of Law on the list featuring over 160 other law schools in the nation. This accolade means something special to the people of MC Law, especially the admissions office. 

“Here, you will not just be another number. You’re going to be a big fish in a small pond. Our faculty has an open-door policy. They know their students by name. They have a relationship with them,” said Gautier. “An institution, an education, and the quality of it, that’s more than just academia. The culture you’re immersed in, the environment you’re surrounded [by], that’s a major part of a law student’s success.” 

Peyton Pope, a second-year law student at the institution and the MC Law Admissions Student Director of Dean Ambassadors also remarked how this recognition will affect recruiting opportunities for her office.  

“This third-party validation is incredibly valuable for recruiting. At Admissions, we can sit here and say that MC is a great place to study law, but to have something so big and notable as the Princeton Review come out and support what we’ve been saying, really backs up all the claims we’re making,” said Pope.

MC Law was also featured on a top 10 list for the Review for the most conservative students on campus. Mississippi College ranked #9 after law schools like Brigham Young University School of Law and Louisiana State University Law School. 

While some may concede that a largely conservative student population limits the opportunity for inclusivity and diversity, MC staff doesn’t think so. 

“A major part of our law school is promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion. We want our students to know they are getting more than just education here,” said Gautier. “They are, in essence, getting a mindset change and a community with that degree.”

Speaking on the many qualifications MC Law brings to the table, John Pyles, Vice President of the Student Body at the law school, outlined numerous unique features of MC Law. Among those he mentioned were MC Law’s dedication to community service and authentic faculty/staff-student relationships.

“There’s a tangible difference in how they [professors] view people. The faculty really cares. That sense of relationship comes out of the Christian background of MC Law,” Pyles said. “That’s different from a lot of law schools. You won’t feel that same warmth from professors and the administration. This is a culture of caring for others and of love that is rooted in Christ.” 

The main role of Pyles’s student body office is to serve the community and implement opportunities for outreach for students to be of use to the area they may be practicing law in later in their careers.

“In the past year, our law school has partnered with the Jackson Public Schools, and I think we’ve made an impact there. We also collaborate with the Barack Obama Magnet School,” said Pyles, who’s a second-year law student. “Now, every Friday we participate in what is called the Helping Hands Program. We do volunteer work like reading books in classrooms, grounds maintenance, unloading U-Haul palettes full of water, and anything else they need from us.”  

The Jackson Public School partnership with MC Law’s student body garnered an award for itself. The Mississippi Association in Partners of Education (MAPE) announced in early March that the JPS-MC Law relationship was recognized as one of 14 recipients to receive the 2022 Mississippi Governor’s Office Awards for school-community partnerships. 

Factors that influence the Princeton Review’s selection process for the Best Law Schools list include student success after graduating. A strong alumni network and the location of MC Law allow for students to network themselves and set up professional connections early on in their law school careers. 

“Because MC Law is at the heart of Jackson, students get to work a lot with the state legislature, in courtroom settings, etc. Even our adjunct professors at the school are practicing lawyers and judges, actual law professionals in the community,” said Pope.

The downtown Jackson location of Mississippi College Law is integral for their law students to have important employment opportunities and personal networking. 

“We are the only law school located in the capital of Mississippi, which means we are in the legal hub of the state. In a two-square-mile radius, over 48% of the practicing attorneys or people who work in the legal field in Mississippi occupy our surrounding area,” Gautier said. “A lot of our students walk out of the front of our building down the sidewalk to their internships for that afternoon or to the job they work after class.”

While notoriety of the institution, like the Princeton Review list, is warmly welcomed, MC Law isn’t necessarily just after that sort of buzz. On an institutional level, the consensus is not actually about chasing a “legacy of excellence” or striving for awards or accolades. It’s simply doing honest work driven by a passion to serve others through the law. 

“The faculty and staff at MC Law … [encourage] just doing a good job, loving what you do, doing it the right way, and then that legacy of excellence will follow,” said Pope. “Titles and awards are exciting, but their goal is just to do right by the students, make sure they are actually learning and can go out into the world to become good people and, subsequently, good lawyers.”

Having many varying perspectives on the “grayness” of American law, as cited by Pyles as a benefit of diversified teaching staff, has enabled many students to leave with a well-rounded education and a more empathetic view of humanity.

“We have an extraordinary thing here. You wouldn’t think it from a little building in downtown Jackson, Mississippi,” said Pyles.

The diversity in perspective and professional experience of the staff, a rich emphasis on community service, and overall academic success all play a role in the cadence of rhythms that reverberate from a law school in Mississippi to the Princeton Review headquarters in New York City.

“When a law student graduates from Mississippi College School of Law they will know that [their degree] is a significant achievement,” said Gautier. 

Criminal Justice Club Returns / Evan Espinoza

Once upon a time, the AJU (Administration of Justice) department at Mississippi College had its own criminal justice club full of eager young men and women looking to stay involved in their field of study and future career path. However, there was a point when the club’s activity began to diminish, and a global pandemic did not necessarily keep the club afloat. This year, the club finally got a much-needed revival, and it has been brought back to life thanks to the help of a few new eager students and professors.

Dr. Godfrey Garner is one of the many people responsible for helping the club get back on its feet and oversees and caters to it from the outlook of a faculty member. “We just got together with the students who want to be involved and had them elect three officers,” said Garner. The club elected students into the office of president (Yanez Newsome), vice president (James Pierce), and secretary/treasurer (Catherine Bell). 

“The club primarily exists as a social club to raise awareness and fundraise, as well as a networking tool,” explained Garner. “The students will put on events like a barbecue and career day, and raise money to go to the Criminal Justice Student Association conference.” 

Garner and Dr. Harry Porter (head of the AJU department) have been integral in helping the students navigate the ins and outs of running the club. Garner hopes that the club can this time sustain itself under the leadership of the new officers and participating members. “At a point the club won’t need me or Dr. Porter to tell them to do this or that,” said Garner. “The members will take most of everything upon themselves and it will be more self-perpetuating.”

Garner’s hope that the members will take on full responsibility of the club might just come true sooner rather than later under Yanez Newsome’s leadership, alongside fellow officers James Pierce and Catherine Bell. All three of them have worked together and with others to make the events happen and create opportunities for the club. 

“Our first big project is setting up the career day, which is on April 22,” commented Pierce on current goals of the club. “We’ve been contacting a bunch of different agencies and had [many confirmations] so we’re excited about that.” 

Currently the club is focusing on growth, and the officers hope to have a majority of students in the AJU department become club members as well. The officers also highlighted the importance of networking within the club and its usefulness for future careers. 

“It’s a great way for our AJU department members to get involved,” said Bell. “They get to learn more about it [the department] and further their careers in the future. Outside members will also get to come to our events and get a feel for what the department is like.” 

The officers and other members of the club are able to benefit greatly from the club’s social aspects by bringing awareness to one of MC’s smaller departments in AJU, as well as use it as a means to establish connections with other students and agencies in the vast world of criminal justice. 

All three officers agreed that one of the best parts of the club was its ability to bring students together. “Connections are very important [within AJU],” said Newsome. “Say myself, James [Pierce], and Catherine [Bell] all go to different agencies. We still have those bonds and relationships to be able to reach out to each other in our future careers.”

Burnout as a Reflection of Society / Kienna Van Dellen

With the final stretch of the spring 2022 semester before us, students are racing toward the end in an attempt to catch a break. College burnout is becoming a reality for many students this year, and it’s no longer just because of tests and stacking assignments. Burnout refers to the students’ feeling of exhaustion and working themselves to their limit, or even over physical or mental capacity. This is not uncommon for students to feel academic burnout as their semesters go by. It is a result of some living in what feels like survival mode for an extended period of time. 

The return to in-person campus classes and activities has brought a sense of normal back to our everyday lives. However, this busyness of social events and interaction on campus takes a toll on our energy levels. With the pandemic causing distancing and loss of everyday social contact, we lost the ability to communicate in the simplest of ways. The natural interactions in our everyday life got erased. Conversations with coffee shop baristas and basic questions from restaurant waiters were paused amidst the pandemic restrictions. 

The pandemic changed the way we communicate as a society. The simple act of small talk was majorly impacted by a lack of practice. We fell out of the ability to train our communication skills, therefore losing much of our endurance to hold long conversations and focus on certain topics. 

On top of the stress of assignments and trying to be reintroduced into the high energy of the college social life, students’ mental health is plummeting as we try to keep our heads above water. While it would be easy to say the midterms and finals are the cause of student stress, that does not cover the full scope. 

College campuses across the country show a small picture of what society struggles with as a whole. As microcosms of our society, campuses across the country show the increased stressors and mental health issues brought by COVID-19 that continue to affect our everyday lives. The hustle mentality of productivity adds increased pressure as we try to balance our mental health, emotional wellbeing, academics, and work lives. 

So how do we move forward out of this exhaustion? The first step would be to take regular breaks, intentionally setting aside time to take a quick walk, call your mom, or grab a coffee. Close your laptop and textbook for longer than five minutes. Reach out to friends and family. Most people have gone through some form of burnout in their life and can understand the stressors that it may entail. Sharing feelings with peers, professors, and family members could help you to feel less isolated. Sometimes a few outside trusted voices can help you feel more optimistic and find better ways to help manage your workload. 

So let us carry on, my friend; we are near the end of a busy school year and rest will come to the weary. 

Isaiah 40:31

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Closing of Dutch’s Oven could negatively affect the Clinton community / Shauna Gandenberger

In early 2019, Dave and Ruth Holland fulfilled their dreams of opening a diner in Clinton, Miss. They previously opened and operated Dutch’s Oven Street Food, a food truck which served pancakes, burgers, tacos, and more. They were immediately loved by the community and therefore decided to open a restaurant on Northside Drive. 

On January 25, the Dutch’s Oven Facebook account made an announcement that the restaurant would be closing. The post stated they were very sad about the situation and that, “If there was a way to keep in business I promise we would have for it was with a genuine love that we have strived to provide the best food, service, and atmosphere.” 

Clinton local Barry Burnside has enjoyed dining at Dutch’s oven with his family on various occasions over the years. 

“When my family would eat at the Dutch’s Oven for dinner, we were sure to run into friends from school and church,” he said. “I was always welcomed with a smile, and they made me feel at home.” 

Although Clinton is the 17th largest city in Mississippi, it possesses a “small town” feel. This can be largely credited to the various small businesses and restaurants that locals enjoy often. These family owned businesses are typically much more personable and people oriented than major chain restaurants.  

Ruth and Dave both enjoyed the opportunity to own a small business in Clinton. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the customers we served. The greatest satisfaction came from providing a fantastic meal, going out to check on the guests and receiving positive feedback,” Dave said. “Going to miss that!”

Clinton is a growing city with an abundance of potential. It is important that locals remember the negative effects that a town can suffer when small business and restaurants are not made a priority. 

The loss of small businesses could lead to economic struggles due to loss of jobs and decreased tax revenue. 

Without Dutch’s Oven, there is one less tourist attraction to bring people to Clinton. Without Dutch’s Oven there is one less place for families to gather together, one less teenager getting to experience his or her first job, and one less couple living out their dreams of serving food to their neighbors. 

“I truly appreciate the support we received from our loyal customers over the past several years,” Dave said. “My hope is that they will value local businesses and do all they can to support them going forward.”

National Art Education Society Honors Dr. Busbea with Preservice Excellence Award / Gracie Lee

Dr. Stephanie Busbea, who has taught for more than a decade, received the Preservice Chapter Sponsor Award of Excellence from the National Art Education Association (NAEA). The award is reserved for those who are active sponsors of the preservice chapter and who are devoted to the promotion of future professionals in the society. A fellow Mississippi art teacher who recognized the time and effort Busbea devoted to her students nominated her during the fall semester. She received the award at the National Art Convention in New York City on March 4 at the Higher Education Awards Ceremony, alongside several of her art education students. In addition to this, the NAEA honored her with the Mary Quinn Dix Leadership Award during the Mississippi Art Education Association Awards ceremony on Nov. 12, 2021.

Busbea’s passion for art began early. She had a natural ability to draw realistic pieces as a child, and her family enrolled her in art classes at a young age. Through this creative outlet, she met many mentors. “One of my favorite mentors, Charlott Jones, was a teacher I took art from in elementary school, and she was my advisor in college,” she said. In 1987, the two traveled together to NAEA’s conventions. “When I became coordinator for art education at Mississippi College, I started taking my students to the conventions. It really makes a difference in students’ lives and that’s why I keep doing it.” 

Busbea received her undergraduate degree in art education from Arkansas State University, and went on to gain her master’s from the University of Georgia and Ph. D. from the University of Texas. In 1990, she began her teaching occupation at elementary schools in Arkansas. It wasn’t long before she moved up into instructing middle schoolers and high schoolers. “I always knew I wanted to train up art teachers. Seeing them go from freshmen to student teachers to new teachers to mentor teachers–I love seeing them do that. That’s my joy,” she said. “They’re my girls. They’re like family to me.”

Busbea’s art students are inspired daily by her passion for teaching. “She’s able to teach us so much because she has experience in many art forms. She has made me a better artist and I hope to teach like her one day,” Dani Henderson, a senior art education major, said. 

Corrie Lee, a junior art education major who accompanied Busbea and Henderson to the New York Convention, is grateful for the opportunity to learn under Busbea. “She has taught me so much about what a good teacher looks like. I have truly learned so much from her academically and relationally, in the way she interacts with her students and exemplifies what a teacher should be,” she said. 

Besides teaching others how to create beautiful art, the MC art professor enjoys embarking on projects of her own. One of her current projects is an art series based on fiber artist Anni Albers’s works. Albers, a 20th century student from the Bauhaus art school in Germany, was not allowed to work in the wood or glass shop because she was a female. As a result, she worked mainly through textiles and fibers. Busbea has extended her own interpretation to include wood, glass, and metal.

Art Department NY Trip / Evan Espinoza

“Art education students (from left to right) Dani Henderson, Emily Elliott, Joy Powell, Emma Kate Lyons, Dr. Stephanie Busbea, Corrie Lee, and Lauren Sitarz stand outside the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum after a morning of seminars at the convention.”

In March, Dr. Stephanie Busbea and the seniors and juniors of the art education department at Mississippi College spent a few days in New York City for the National Art Education Association conference. The group spent time in seminars, talked to professionals in the art education field, and visited many of New York’s best art museums to gain some in-depth experience and knowledge in their future profession. The students got to hear lectures from current art-educators and talk to vendors from whom they could one day purchase classroom art supplies.

“A big theme of the conference was about getting kids to think more creatively and problem-solve,” said Corrie Lee, a junior art education major. “Every morning we would get to the conference and there would be about 20 different sessions every hour we could go to and hear from different professionals.” They were also educated on teaching different types of students. They got to hear outlooks on how to approach and appreciate all kinds of different students, ranging from elementary to high school to those with special needs.

The group also got to have a close bonding experience, as they all had a few days to immerse themselves in a field that they’re all passionate about. “We all get to come back now and enjoy [even more] and be motivated to go to class with each other,” Lee said. “Now even Dr. Busbea knows me a lot more and who I am as a person, and I got to hear a lot about her passion for teaching.” 

Aside from the vast amounts of new knowledge the group gained at the conference, they also gained a refreshed sense of inspiration at the art museums. “I love learning about artists and how they influence art,” commented Lee on the aspect of the trip that she enjoyed most. “It was so cool seeing the work of so many famous artists we’ve studied in our art history classes. We got to sit down and try to sketch some of [the art] and it really gave me a deeper appreciation for it and its complexity.”  

Swerve 2022 raises money for MC Dance Marathon / Caroline Hunt

The annual Swerve Dance Competition was held in Swor Auditorium on Thursday, March 10, featuring student dance groups that dazzled the packed theater. Three groups were awarded laurels at the end of the night, and the top competitor took home prize money that went toward the group’s charity of choice. 

The prize money was raised from Swerve ticket sales with the earnings going to MC Dance Marathon, independent dance crew New Kids on the Block’s philanthropy. MC Dance Marathon, not unlike what the university does with the Swerve competition, raises money to benefit the patients and families of Children’s of Mississippi Hospital each year. 

The winners of this year’s competition included the independent dance group New Kids on the Block as “Harry Potter” in first place, independent group What If’s as “Energy!” in second place, and Laguna Social Tribe as “Star Wars” in third place. 

“Most of our competitors are tribes and clubs which are service-oriented organizations. So, being able to give back to our philanthropies is very important to us. We get to donate all of the money made from the tickets in Swor to the winning team’s charity,” Maria Guay, a member of the Student Productions Committee, said. “Being able to give that money back to an organization that can better our community is completely invaluable and priceless.”

While the end goal of Swerve is to serve the surrounding community, many students participate simply because they love the art of dance.

“Swerve is really exciting for people who have been dancers in the past or are current dancers. I was a ballerina for 14 years, and Swerve is really different from ballet. But it’s getting me into dance again and I really enjoy it,” Lauren Allison, a junior competitor for Chenoa Social Tribe, said. “I also think it’s a great opportunity for everyone to be involved and truly grow as dancers.”

In fact, Swerve is such a big event for MC’s student body that tribes and clubs elect an official governing officer for it in their organization’s judicial election each year. The Swerve Captain is in charge of choreographing the routine, mixing the music to be used on stage, and implementing stage direction and costume design for the spring semester’s competition. 

Allison, who is a co-captain for her tribe’s Swerve team alongside Hannah Lopez, added that Swerve is worth any stress caused by the planning and coordinating of such a large operation. 

“This has been a really fun process. It stretched my comfort zone being able to step up and lead a group of girls in this way. Our theme is something different for Chenoa and we are excited to showcase something new and different,” Allison said. 

Some more memorable dance routines included Kissimmee Social Tribe’s eleKTric dance crew as “MC’s Nursing School,” a double marriage proposal called “A Good Day for Marrying You” by an independent group called I’d Rather be Dancing, Civitan Men’s Club’s “Cops and Robbers,” Chenoa’s “A Trap Christmas,” and Nenamoosha Social Tribe’s “Taking Care of Business.”

The Council, Mississippi College’s governing committee over tribes and clubs, believes that Swerve is an important and creative way for all students to display their artistry–even those students who don’t belong to a service organization. 

“I think Swerve is an amazing way to show your talent, from the costume [design], to the music, to the way the music flows through the transitions,” said Jarred Couch, co-president of the Council. “It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase your talent in a way that you may not be able to on the football field or baseball field. Through Swerve you can really showcase any talent.”

Choctaw Baseball Finds its Groove Amid Fielding Position Changes / Caroline Hunt

Cooper Gadman No. 18 gingerly walked onto the mound at Frierson Field mid-sixth inning on a Tuesday night game when the Choctaws faced William Carey in a baseball matchup. With bases loaded, Gadman took the reins from Clark Presley, who had been the third pitcher subbed for the Choctaws that night. 

Stuck between a rock-and-a-hard-place, with the Choctaws leading only by a few and the scoring gap slowly closing, Gadman pitched himself out of a hole. He sealed the sixth inning with only a few hiccups in which the William Carey Raiders scored two runs. With the score 9-6 Choctaws leading, Gadman was able to aid his team to a much-needed midweek victory. 

“When I came up there, Coach Cargill [assistant coach and MC pitching specialist] just said that we’ve got a five-run lead, to just get the outs, get us back in there, limit the damage; that I’m not trying to strike out three guys in a row, but let them [the Raiders] put it in play, and let the defense work,” said Gadman, the Brandon, Miss. native. 

Gadman received the save for the night, becoming the anchor that sailed MC through to the final score of 11-6, never letting the Raiders see another point on the board after the inning Gadman stepped on the mound. Gadman hasn’t seen much playing time this year as an up-and-coming sophomore with this William Carey game being his seventh appearance all season. Yet, head coach Jeremy Haworth is optimistic about this player’s future performance. 

“Gadman has been a good bridge guy for us. When he goes in, we know the lead is safe. We just need other guys to step up like Cooper. He is valuable and confident in that role for us. You don’t really wanna change something when it’s working,” said Haworth, who is in his sixth season with the Choctaws. “We don’t need him to fall on the sword just because we want him to do something bigger. He’s young. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s doing a great job.”

Recently, the Choctaws have been experiencing some turbulence in starting position changes in vital areas of the field like on the mound and also behind the plate. Over the weekend in a 1-3 series against Valdosta State, the Choctaws utilized Caleb Reese, who has played primarily first base this season. This is the result of some inconsistencies at the plate for some season starters who are also battling injuries. 

Reese was given the catcher’s gear and continued his stint behind the plate on Tuesday night, only being relieved toward the end of the winning game. Matthew Priest took over soon after. Reese is only one of many season starters combating injuries, his being an injury to his foot. While not ideal for a catcher to have a bum foot, Haworth is making do with the resources at his disposal. 

“It’s a tough situation right now. We’re having to ask Caleb to come in and do something he hasn’t done in three years and he’s getting beat up because of it. Priest is the one who is healed up, while Derrek [Lathon] has an elbow issue,” Haworth said. “We’ve been a fragile team all year. So, we’re just gonna have to try to stay healthy and compete with what we’ve got.”

The Choctaws saw two big-hitting gains this game with two of their own slugging two home runs over the WC Raiders. Tristan Tigrett slapped one to left field in the fourth inning allowing two RBIs and Cody Crifasi homered in the sixth inning with a big jump of two RBIs as well. 

Tigrett, who also had three hits, including a double, attributed the Choctaw win to knowing the basics of baseball and relying on well-rounded training to see the victory through. 

“William Carey was a really good team, and we knew that coming in. Just trying to play our best and do the little things right, like hitting the ball well, managed to get us a win,” said Tigrett, an infielder and Hinds CC transfer. “Baseball is a tough game if you’re struggling. If you’re harping on that, you will never get better. You have to let it go, go to the next thing, and try to do better.” 

Crifasi’s home run signaled a lead in the score that sealed the game as early as the sixth inning ball went out of the Frierson right-field fence. 

“What that [an 11-6 lead] says to an opposing team is that they can’t catch up. So, it’s psychological warfare out there. Our offense did a good job of keeping on grinding it out, and then Cooper comes in and just slams the door.” 

The Choctaws will face the University of Alabama Huntsville in a weekend series starting April 1 at 6 p.m. at UAH. The upcoming weekend face-off will mark the middle of the Choctaw’s season in conference play and determine what the Choctaw ranking will be as the GSC National tournament is slated for May 6-10, 2022.

MC Athletic Directors Attend Landmark NCAA Convention / Charles Williams

The past months have been some of the most eventful in NCAA history, as multiple big changes have changed the landscape of college sports across all levels. Due to these changes, the NCAA deemed it necessary to make changes to its constitution to keep up. On Jan. 20, the new constitution was passed, instituting changes that would affect every athletic program, including MC.  

“This year, in particular, was a special year,” said MC Associate Athletic Director of Compliance and Senior Woman Administrator Susan Musselwhite, in reference to the changes being made to the constitution. “Sometimes you could get a feel that it wasn’t necessarily student-friendly,” she went on to say about the old constitution, before praising the fact that the new constitution was opening the door for student-athletes to profit off of their own likeness. 

Athletic Director Kenny Bizot echoed this sentiment, saying that he enjoyed his first conference and liked how the whole conference seemed “geared toward the student-athlete and making sure we’re protecting the student-athlete.”  

Much of the new legislation in the revised constitution is centered around the NIL legislation that came out this summer, allowing college athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness for the first time. This means college athletes across all levels are now able to sign endorsement deals, something that has already greatly affected college athletics.  

However, since this change mostly relates to the marketability of the athlete, the changes relative to the new NIL legislation will affect each division differently. For this reason the committee decided to give each division the ability to make their own rules regarding those changes. According to Musselwhite and Bizot, the changes will primarily affect Division I, so the ability for each to make their own regulations will let them tailor those regulations to Division I’s situation. This also allows Divisions II and III to make unique rules that will fit the situations of the smaller schools and programs in their divisions.  

One of the potential side effects of the new NIL rules that Musselwhite foresees is that bigger schools will end up using it as an advantage over smaller schools in recruiting because of their potential to offer better endorsements. However, overall both she and Bizot expressed excitement that athletes at MC could be compensated.   

Since she was once a student-athlete herself, Musselwhite praised the fact that student-athletes could now earn money despite the busy schedules that come with playing a sport.  

“I think it’s great…I’m all on board for our student-athletes,” said Bizot, adding that as long as they followed the rules he was absolutely in favor of MC athletes utilizing the new rules.  

While we still have yet to see how Division II and the Gulf South Conference institute their specific changes, there is no denying that these changes are going to be extremely impactful to college athletics. Mississippi College and other universities of our size may not be the ones getting headlines, but the new rules will impact us in an equally big way.   

Choctaw Track and Field Rewrite Record Books in 2022 Indoor Season / Caroline Hunt

Photo: The men’s distance medley relay team poses for a first-place picture after their race at the 2022 South Carolina Invitational; from the left: Gabe Hodson, Cole Benoit, Hunter Kurz, and Jake Russell. They finished the race with a time of 9:47.93. (Photo by Brock Kelly)

Mississippi College’s track and field team traveled to Columbia, SC at the end of January and left many competitors in the dust at the University of South Carolina Indoor Invitational. Cole Benoit and Jazmin Hernandez were among the athletes with winning records. The team finished the meet weekend holding eight school records and three event titles in their grasp beating out many Division I contenders. 

Hernandez broke her school record in the women’s mile at 4:53.75, making her the first Choctaw in school history to break the five-minute mark in the women’s mile. She also participated in the winning distance medley relay team who won the title and set the school record at 11:55.71, the fourth-fastest time in Division II at the time. 

Cole Benoit also took some titles home, including a school record in the men’s 3000 meters at 8:07.67, placing him fourth in Division II standings at the time and fifth place at the South Carolina meet. Benoit, a member of the first-place men’s distance medley relay, aided the team in picking up a 9:47.93 time, the third-fastest time in Division II at the time. 

Other noteworthy performances included Al Ferrill, a men’s thrower, who set a men’s shot put indoor school record of 16.06 meters, putting him in second place at the meet. Sprinters Fabio Palmieri and Shemar Patten both broke school records, with Palmieri’s second-place 48.05 in the men’s 400 meters and Patten’s school record of 8.15 in the men’s 60-meter hurdles. 

With so much success in individual athletes’ performances at the January meet, one may wonder how the composure of the team stays intact. The pressure to perform as one unit is even more potent in the context of a race like the distance medley relay. During this race, four runners who specialize in different solo races compete as one. The four relay legs are 1200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, and 1600 meters. 

This brutal event forces runners of different backgrounds to work collectively to achieve a spot on the podium. Benoit, a member of MC’s men’s “DMR” team, noted how as an entire team the Choctaws are growing their program mentality to encompass what this unique relay requires: teamwork in individualism. 

“What we did in that relay [in South Carolina] wasn’t just because of what we, the people in the race were doing, but because of what we as an entire team are doing. The other guys in my relay all knew the pieces we needed to get that top time. We just had to do it together,” said Benoit. 

Hernandez weighed in on how the team will continue its streak of hard work paying off.

“Really lifting each other up, keeping that momentum going, and staying healthy will be key when we go compete at conference championships coming up. That meet will be a bit tougher because the competition is stiffer, but we will just go in trying to execute a good race each time we get on the track.” 

Wondering what their recipe for success looks like Benoit stated that there were two simple things keeping the team focused: faith and family. 

“The question really is what is making us work so fluidly. I think it has to be that when we all race or practice we do it for God. We want people to see that the work we do is to honor him. The second thing is that we work together as a family,” Benoit said. 

“During my 3k, my ‘big race,’ I don’t remember the strategy or the competition. All I remember is that for 15 laps straight, every time I made it around the track, I saw my coach believing in me and 15 of my best friends losing their minds, cheering me on.” 

In the Gulf South Conference Indoor Championships held in Birmingham, Alabama, in mid-February, both MC teams more than proved why they are among one of the best track programs in the country. 

The men placed third with 151 points, behind Alabama-Huntsville and Lee, who took the crown with 172.5 points. The women on the other hand were second place finishers with 123.5 points, with Lee once again coming out on top. In the process, the Choctaws almost completely rewrote the record books in MC and GSC meets.

Among the top performances by MC in the meet were the men’s distance medley relay, as they won the event with a GSC record time of 9:53.94; All-American Tytavia Hardy won the women’s triple jump with her mark of 11.90 meters and the 60-meter hurdles in her 8.60 PR time; Fabio Palmieri won and set a conference record with his 400-meter time of 48.19; freshman Wesley Gibbs secured gold in the 800 meters; and men’s 4×400-meter relay set a new GSC record with their winning time of 3:16.95.

In total, 26 medals were won across the two teams, 10 by the women and 16 by the men. With the track team’s indoor season behind them, the Choctaws shift their focus to the outdoor meets, with the MC Season Opener on March 5 and the GSC Outdoor Championships also held on MC’s campus May 5-7.