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Darton rated as nation's 12th best JUCO athletic program

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

ALBANY -- Darton College is continuing its climb to the peak of the NJCAA world.

It was recently announced that Darton's athletic program finished the year ranked 12th among junior scholarship colleges at the annual National Alliance of Two Year College Athletic Administrators convention.

It marks the second-best finish for Darton, which was ranked 11th after the 2008-09 season with 89 points. The school received 86 points this year -- 83 points behind NATYCAA Director's Cup champion Iowa Central Community College -- and Darton A.D. Mike Kiefer said he hopes this is only the beginning for a program that tallied just 56 points last year.

"It kind of sums up the year for us. It's been a great one," Kiefer said Friday. "But it says that there are 11 that are better than us. The goal is to move forward and pick them off one by one until we are at the top."

The NATYCAA Cup recognizes excellence in two-year college athletics based on success in championship competition, and points are awarded based on the final national rankings in each sport.

A first-place finish is worth 20 points, a second place is worth 19 points, etc ...

Darton had four programs finish in the nation's top five -- women's swimming, men's golf, men's swimming and softball. The women's swimming program garnered the most points for Darton with a fourth-place team finish at nationals, while the men's swimming, men's golf and softball programs all finished fifth at their national tournaments.

No individuals claimed national titles, but the school had several finish in the Top 10. Swimmer Linn Nordberg and golfer Joe Sakulpolphaisan gave Darton its best individual performances on the national stage with runner-up finishes in their respective sports.

In early March at the NJCAA National Championships in New York, Nordberg finished second in the 200-yard butterfly with a school record time of 2:11.04. Then in late May, Thailand native and freshman Sakulpolphaisan shot even par and ended tied for second with Jeff Hageman of McLennan in the individual standings of the NJCAA Division I National Championships in Odessa, Texas.

Other Darton programs with Top 10 national finishes were men's soccer in sixth and women's soccer in eighth, while both the men's and women's cross country teams and the wrestling squad were in the Top 20.

"Our final ranking in the Director's Cup standings is a direct result of the hard work of the student athletes and coaching staff this past year," Kiefer said in a statement released Friday by the school. "This is (nearly) the highest that Darton College has ever finished and proves that we are one of the best two-year college athletic programs in the country.

"I expect our athletic programs to persevere and -- not just sustain this success -- but continue to move forward even with the budgetary challenges we are facing."