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GWINNETT GRADS: Mecheso, Erassa having great track seasons

Photo: Oklahoma State Athletics Berkmar grad Girma Mecheso broke the Oklahoma State record in the 10,000-meter run last weekend.

Photo: Oklahoma State Athletics Berkmar grad Girma Mecheso broke the Oklahoma State record in the 10,000-meter run last weekend.

Both were born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, went to Gwinnett high schools and are exceptional distance runners.

The similar life paths of Berkmar's Girma Mecheso and Grayson's Kirubel Erassa also have continued at the college level.

The Gwinnett grads are Oklahoma State teammates, both integral parts of a stout distance running program. They have been standouts in both cross country and track, starring most recently in the latter sport.

Both of their outdoor track and field seasons took positive turns at Stanford last weekend for the Payton Jordan Invitational, with Mecheso's record-setting day leading the way.

Mecheso, 24, destroyed the school record in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 28 minutes, 45.91 seconds in Palo Alto, Calif. It was nearly 30 seconds better than the old mark, set last year by a teammate. Prior to that, the OSU record in the 10,000 had stood for almost 40 years.

A junior in track eligibility because he didn't run track last year (he was a senior in cross country last fall), Mecheso now has the No. 7 time nationally in the event and the No. 50 time in the world rankings.

He is a five-time All-American, most recently in the 5,000 earlier this year in indoor track. In addition to his track success, he has two conference titles in cross country, an SEC crown while running for Auburn in 2008 and a Big 12 title in 2010.

Mecheso trains regularly with Erassa, also a former standout runner from Gwinnett. The sophomore from Grayson ran 13:47.26 in the 5,000 at Stanford last weekend to post the 10th-fastest time in that event in OSU history.

Still only 18, Erassa ranks fourth in the world for juniors in the 5K. He's already a three-time All-Big 12 selection who was an indoor All-American choice in the mile earlier this year.

GOLF

Burger picked

for All-SEC squad

Mill Creek grad Emilie Burger, a junior at Georgia, was selected to the All-SEC Women's Golf Team, released Friday by the league offices.

Burger has contributed a team-high 98.1 percent counting rounds this season. She has seven top-20 finishes in nine events and has shot 1-over or 2-over in six of eight 54-hole tournaments. Burger's best individual finish was a runner-up showing at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, where she came within a stroke of the UGA record with a 6-under 66 in the first round.

"Emilie has been amazingly consistent and in the hunt several times this year," Georgia women's golf coach Kelley Hester said. "Before the season, I really thought this would be a breakout year for Emilie and it has been. She's already had a very good year, with the potential of getting even better with two events to go."

BASEBALL

Knudsen, Bates

honored by AAC

North Gwinnett grad Kenny Knudsen and Central Gwinnett grad Phillip Bates picked up awards this week from the Appalachian Athletic Conference.

Knudsen, who plays for Bryan College, was named the AAC's freshman of the year. He has made 24 relief appearances for Bryan, posting a 3-1 record, two saves and a 1.71 ERA. He also has 41 strikeouts in 42 innings of work.

Bates, Reinhardt's center fielder, has committed only three errors with a .976 fielding percentage. The sophomore leads Reinhardt outfielders with 119 putouts.

SOFTBALL

Miles named SoCon's pitcher of the week

Dacula's Allie Miles, a sophomore at Georgia Southern, was named the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Week on Monday.

The right-hander threw a one-hitter the previous week against Elon and ran her streak of not allowing a run to 20 innings. She was 2-0 for the week.

Miles has won the league's pitching honor four times in her two college seasons.

Cason, Rhodes

named all-tourney

Anderson University (S.C.) teammates and Gwinnett grads Bri Cason and Rachel Rhodes were named to the All-South Atlantic Conference Tournament team last weekend. Anderson finished as the tourney runner-up.

Cason, a freshman third baseman from Collins Hill, scored four runs in the tourney and had a pair of doubles with three RBIs. She has a .292 batting average with two home runs and 22 RBIs this season.

Rhodes, a freshman outfielder from Brookwood, went 4-for-9 in the tourney for a team-best .444 batting average. She has a .286 batting average with a homer and 17 RBIs.

Anderson's top hitter this season is Brookwood grad Jessica Neidigh, a freshman who has a team-best .440 batting average with five home runs, 33 RBIs, 15 doubles, four triples and 17 stolen bases.

Gwinnett products Shelley Sweatt (.259, seven RBIs) and Charlotte Sieber (.250, 11 RBIs) also play for Anderson. Sweatt, a freshman, went to Collins Hill and Sieber, a sophomore, is a Dacula grad.

Bear gets academic honor

Georgia Tech left fielder Shannon Bear, a Grayson grad, was named to the Capital One Academic All-District Softball Team this week. It was the second first-team selection for the senior.

Bear, who has a 3.83 GPA, will graduate this spring with a degree in biochemistry. She plans to attend pharmacy school at Georgia after graduation.

BASKETBALL

Wesleyan's Smith

to be on ABC show

Wesleyan grad Tanner Smith will be featured on today's edition of "Everyday Health," a nationally broadcast TV show hosted by former Survivor contestants Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca, along with boxer Laila Ali.

The show, which airs at 11 a.m. today on ABC, will revisit Smith's organization, Tanner's Totes, which provides fun-filled bags for hospital-bound children. It's an update segment on Tanner's Totes - it was first featured on the show back in the fall.

On this week's show, Smith will present a special tote to Zohn, whose Hodgkin's lymphoma returned late last year.

Smith recently finished his college basketball career at Clemson, where he averaged 11.2 points and 5.1 rebounds as a senior. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder is one of four players in Tigers history with 1,000 career points, 400 career rebounds and 300 career assists.

Means picks up awards

Greater Atlanta Christian grad Chaney Means earned a pair of top awards at the end of her sophomore season at Western Kentucky.

Means received her second straight Team Academic Scholar Award for having the basketball team's highest GPA (3.94), as well as the Outreach Service Award, which is given to one WKU athlete for outstanding community service.

FOOTBALL

Butler selected for

prestigious society

Former Georgia punter Drew Butler, who signed a rookie free-agent contract recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been named to the National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society. The Peachtree Ridge product is the third Bulldog ever picked for the honor.

Butler also received the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Scholarship last October. That award came with an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, which he plans to use toward a master's degree in sports management. He graduated from UGA with a 3.62 GPA and a journalism degree.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.