Is Cottey College on your radar screen? If you have a middle or high school-aged daughter it should be, and here is just one reason – the entire 2015 cross country team achieved All-American Scholar status in February. 

Cottey College is 95 miles south of downtown Kansas City, in Nevada, Missouri. It is an all-women’s college that offers two-year and four-year degrees.

Virginia Alice Cottey founded Cottey College in 1884. The diverse student population includes students from 125 high schools, colleges and home school organizations across the country. Fourteen percent are international students. U.S. News and World Report 2017 ranks Cottey College as one of the Best Regional Colleges in the Midwest, and has rated Cottey as one of the Best Value Colleges in Missouri. 

Cross Country and Track & Field are newer additions to Cottey’s athletic department, which also has basketball, softball and volleyball teams. Coach Austin Bunn was hired to build the Cross Country and Track program in early 2014.

“Finding that first team was kind of rough,” Bunn said. “A lot of girls were signed early on. I made over 600 phone calls from February to July to get the program started.”

Practice began that August.

Bunn believes academics come first and athletics, second. He doesn’t let his practices get in the way of studies, and keeps minimum academic requirements for participation on the team. Practices are six days per week, from 5:45 or 6am to 7:45am, with two workouts and a long run.

“Quality over quantity,” Bunn said. “A girl will never leave my program burned out.”

Six women made up Cottey’s 2015 All-American cross country team: Chase Burns, Lexi Gradwohl, Tori Kehler, Sarah Kurpjuweit, Faith Owens and Darlina Rose. As a team, they achieved a 3.86 GPA, the third highest in the nation. They placed 21st in the national meet last November in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Kehler and Kurpjuweit were also outdoor track All-American Scholars in the same year.

“Being on the team has helped me balance my responsibilities,” Owens said. “At Cottey, the professors are very friendly and helpful.”
Said Gradwohl, “You have to have good grades to do what you love. Cottey professors are easy to go up and talk to. They want you to succeed.”

Two sophomores from the 2015 All-American Cross Country team moved on to other colleges in 2016, receiving better scholarship offers than they did coming out of high school. Kurpjuweit went on to Central Methodist and is a five-time national qualifier; Burns went to Missouri Valley and is a three time national qualifier. Their time and training at Cottey College helped them to become better, more valuable athletes.

Cottey College offers athletic scholarships of $500 and up. The amount offered varies depending on the high school student’s GPA and athletic ability. Cottey offers matching grants for Pell Grant recipients.

Cottey College is a member of the NJCAA, competing at the junior college level, as Cottey was strictly a two-year college for much of its long history. Cottey offers eight baccalaureate degrees and is considering a move to the NAIA.

Cottey’s Bachelor of Arts programs include a focus on women’s leadership, social responsibility and global awareness in addition to the specific major requirements. All sophomore-level Cottey students travel internationally over spring break, as the college’s philosophy is that international travel and experiencing other cultures makes for a well-rounded young woman. The students do not pay extra for this trip. The college pays for it out of a special fund.

Bunn’s goal when he began the cross country and track program was to have his team place in the top 10 nationally within five years. Considering his team’s achievements in only its second season, it seems he’s well on his way to realizing this goal.