Last year was a banner year for the Wildcats. Five teams won conference championships and numerous teams and individuals competed in national championships despite the cancelation of the remainder of the spring season in March. A school record 24 teams were named NAIA Scholar-Teams, the first time in school history that all teams eligible for this award earned the honor.
In addition, a school record 90 student-athletes were named to the NAIA 2019-2020 Scholar-Athlete list. The football team led the way with 14 student-athletes, and the baseball team followed closely behind with nine; 20 teams were represented, and nine teams had at least five members on the list. At the conference level, 87 Wildcats were named Heart of America Scholar-Athletes. The baseballl team led the way with 15 honorees, while eight programs had at least five.
The men’s team won the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship, and the women finished second. This qualified the men’s team to compete in the NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, Washington. The men finished 23rd, led by freshman Jackson Caldwell. Mia Wilhoit and Jeanne Hernandez competed in the women’s race.
The dance team won the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship and the Midwest Regional Qualifiers to secure an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championships. The event, which was scheduled for March in Davenport, Iowa, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nine members of the team were named to the 2020 NAIA Competitive Dance All-America team: Alyssa Waller, Cheleia Marshall, Gracie Chambers, Jaila Randle, Keirstyn Reynolds, Kinleigh Brecheisen, Linnea Carlson, Mary Joan Monteclaro, and Stephen Long. The nine from Baker was most from one school in the NAIA last year and marks the most in a single year for Baker.
In his first season at the helm of the program, head coach Jason Thoren led the Wildcats to their fifth consecutive Heart of America South Division title by defeating No. 17 Evangel, 28-21. The team finished its season in the first round of the NAIA Football Championship Series when it fell to Kansas Wesleyan, 42-7.
In the postseason, Nigil Graves-Houston was named Heart of America Freshman of the Year. For the third time in his career, JD Woods was named to the NAIA All-American second team.
At the close of the season, defender Georgia Vernardakis was named the Heart of America Newcomer of the Year.
In May, alumna Sara Matthews, ’09, was named the women’s head coach. Matthews played for the Wildcats from 2005 to 2008 and was a three-time team captain, a Heart of America All-Conference performer, and the 2007-2008 Student Senate Female Athlete of the Year. Matthews returns to Baker after two seasons as an assistant coach for the women’s team at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
During those two years, the team reached the top 25 in the national rankings for the first time and raised its GPA from a 3.00 to a 3.40. Before that, Matthews served as head coach at Avila University for four seasons and spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Baker from 2010 to 2014.
The men’s season came to an end in the second round of the NAIA National Championships in Irvine, California, when the Wildcats fell to No. 2 Columbia College in double overtime. This was the Wildcats’ fifth appearance in seven seasons at the final site of the NAIA National Championships.
In postseason honors, Massimo Salvoni was named Heart Co-Freshman of the Year. Richard Bakiaj was named to the CoSIDA All-District 3 First team and was also named a CoSIDA Second Team Academic All-American. Lucas Jacobs was named an NAIA First Team All-American. Jordan Alonge received NAIA Second Team All-American honors, and Joah Hickel received Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Both the men’s and women’s teams won Heart of America Conference Championships. Megan Carpenter was named Heart of America Women’s Bowler of the Year and named an NAIA Second Team All-American. Both teams qualified for the NAIA National Championship, which were scheduled to take place in Detroit, Michigan, but were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Both the men’s and women’s teams finished runner-up at the Heart of America Indoor Track and Field Conference Championship. Kwan Brooks was named the Men’s Athlete of the Meet after finishing first in the long jump, second in the 60 meters, sixth in the 400 meters, and fourth in the 4 x 400-meter relay. The Wildcats sent eight men and eight women to the NAIA National Championship in Brookings, South Dakota. The final day of the meet was highlighted by Myah Yoder, who finished eighth in the 400 meters and earned All-American honors. Yoder is Baker’s 12th indoor track All-American in the last six years.
Two wrestlers won individual championships, and the men’s team finished third at the Heart of America Conference Championship. Emmanuel Browne won the 125-pound weight class and Lucas Lovvorn kept his perfect season alive by winning the 174-pound weight class. He was also named the Heart of America Wrestler of the Year for the third consecutive season.
Eight wrestlers competed in the NAIA Wrestling National Championship in Park City, Kansas. Lovvorn won his third-consecutive NAIA National Championship. He was named an NAIA All-American for the third consecutive year and won his second straight NAIA Wrestler of the Year award after completing two undefeated seasons. Lovvorn finished the 2020 season with a 41-0 record. During his three years at Baker, the University of Wyoming transfer compiled 114-4 record and finished his career with a 107-match winning streak.
At the national meet, five wrestlers reached the final day of competition and earned All-American honors, marking a program best and the 10th consecutive season that at least one wrestler has reached NAIA All-American status. As a team, the Wildcats finished sixth, collecting 75 points, the highest point total in Baker wrestling history.
In April, the National Wrestling Coaches Association announced its 2020 Men’s Scholar All-Americans and Scholar Teams. The Wildcats led the country with five Scholar All-Americans—Zane Baugh, Colby Johnson, Isaiah Luellen, Lucas Lovvorn, and Jacob Smith—and the Wildcats finished in 10th place as a team.
Martin Radosevic was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team and to the CoSIDA Academic All-American Second Team for his efforts on and off the field of play.
Riley Swickard was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team and the CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team for her accomplishments on and off the field of play.