Celebrating success


2024 Athletic Awards recipients

Kelly Armentrout, Bill Hanefeld and Cole Kropka received awards as outstanding athletes and contributors to Bluffton athletics.

Choices lead to success – or failure

Jamy Bechler“Success is a Choice” was the message given at the Bluffton University Athletics Award forum on Tuesday, April 16. Awards were also presented to standout senior student-athletes and a dedicated supporter of Bluffton athletics. 

According to guest speaker Jamy Bechler, former college coach and current author, podcast host and leadership consultant, the individual decisions made every day lead to success or failure. 

When people are sidetracked by distractions Bechler said, “We sabotage our goals.” He asked the audience of primarily student-athletes to name their distractions. “We know what to choose. We don’t always choose correctly.”

He concluded, “I’ve never accidentally opened a Reese’s (instead of an orange.) It was a choice.”

A.C. Burcky Award 

Distance runner Cole Kropka of New London, Ohio, received the 2024 A.C. Burcky Award as outstanding male athlete of the year. Kropka, who will graduate in December 2024, is the second runner in school history to break 16 minutes for the indoor 5k. He currently ranks in the top 10 in the 8k, 5k (indoor and outdoor), indoor 3k and the steeplechase. 

“While he is a man of few words, he leads through his actions and pushes everyone on our team to want to be better,” said Coach Connor Gulick. “He’s someone that I never have to question as to whether he did the work over the summer or not.”

A sport management and business administration double major, Kropka is the son of Roger and Collette Kropka. He has been Academic All-HCAC in each semester he has been eligible and currently maintains a 3.81 career GPA.

The A.C. Burcky Award is named for the late professor of physical education and coach who served Bluffton from 1922-68. A.C. Burcky was inducted into the NAIA Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1970, the A.C. Burcky addition to Founders Hall was dedicated in his honor.  

Kathryn E. Little Award

Kelly Armentrout of Lima, Ohio, received the 2024 Kathryn E. Little Award as outstanding senior female athlete of the year. 

She was a four-year member of the volleyball team and served as team captain her senior season. This despite suffering a season-ending injury before her junior year. Throughout her rehabilitation, she demonstrated the resilience and leadership skills that embodies the Kathyrn E. Little award. She was American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) scholarship demonstrator recipient and received the conference sportsmanship award. 

An exercise science major with minors in coaching, business administration and wellness, Armentrout has been on the dean’s list for multiple semesters. The daughter of Rob and Amy Armentrout, she also served as a President Ambassador, Bluffton mascot J. Denny Beaver, a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a founder of the spirit club. 

Her award is named for Kathryn Little, who served in Bluffton’s health, physical education and recreation department and in athletics from 1958-74. Little was a member of the first class inducted into the Bluffton Athletics Hall of Fame.

Larry W. Jones Memorial Award

Bluffton’s Sports Information Director and 2005 graduate Bill Hanefeld received the Larry W. Jones Memorial Award. This award is presented “in recognition of interest, support and significant contributions to Bluffton University athletics” by a non-athlete. 

Hanefeld began his career in sports information by working in Bluffton’s sports information office as a summer campus job. During his 19 years at the helm as SID, he has worked many hours running a one-person department and making sure statistics and records are correct, programs are available and recaps are accurate. 

His family, wife Becca and daughters Adalie and Chloe, can often be seen in the pressbox or behind the scorer’s table supporting him and Bluffton’s student-athletes. 

The award is named after Larry Jones, who graduated from Bluffton University in 1970. He participated in varsity basketball while at Bluffton and later served as an athletic official before being killed in an automobile accident in 1978.