TriCities.com published this Conference Carolinas story:
At Converse College, women rule the roost – and the fields, courts and pool, too. The female-only school is one of just three women’s colleges around the country whose athletic department fields teams that compete at the NCAA Division II level.
And as no women’s colleges play in Division I, Converse can claim that it provides its athletes with the highest level of competition in the country available to women wanting to take classes exclusively with members of their own gender.
“We want to empower women to be leaders and we just think that aligns itself so well with athletics,” said sports information director and head cross country coach Andrew Burnette. “It’s really cool for our women to be the main focus for the campus.”
Nothing embodies the spirit of the Converse athletic department better than the school’s nickname of the Valkyries. For those who need to brush up on their Norse mythology, the term describes beautiful maidens who, according to legend, determined the afterlife fate of dead warriors by combing over battlefield corpses. In other words, not the type of women you want to cross.
While the school embraces girl power, Burnette said the Valkyries don’t want to be pigeonholed based on the college’s gender makeup. “We want that to be a non-factor,” he said. “We push so that people in our conference don’t look at us as a women’s college.”
Prior to King and North Greeneville joining Conference Carolinas this summer, Converse was the last school to gain membership in the league, starting with affiliate status in 2005 and becoming a full-fledged member in 2007.
While Converse finished next-to-last in the league’s all-sports Hawn Cup standings in 2010-11 and is still searching for its first CC title, the Valkyries are in much better shape than they were in the 1990s. According to a campus publication, the school dropped athletics entirely between 1994 and 1998. “We’re still a relatively young athletic department,” Burnette said.
Young – but growing.
Converse earlier this month announced the addition of golf to its lineup of varsity sports offerings, giving the athletic department nine teams when the new squad hits the links for competition in fall 2012. The group includes an equestrian squad (added in 2010) and a swimming team that competes at the D-II level in the Bluegrass Mountain Conference. “I think we’ve went from 60 student-athletes to 125 or 130 next year in the past three years,” said assistant SID and new head swimming coach Corey White.
The swimming program, which along with lacrosse just finished its second season of existence, had a breakthrough campaign in the pool last winter, finishing undefeated in its dual-meet schedule.
Among teams that compete in the CC, the Valkyries cross country squad had the most successful 2010-11 season, finishing third at the conference meet and 12th in the region.
While the various Converse teams still hope to work their way higher up the Conference Carolinas standings, the Valkyries never have to worry about a notorious group of attention-hoggers overshadowing their accomplishments.
“When one of our teams does well, a women’s team is hugely celebrated,” Burnette said.