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SouthtownStar Athletes On Campus: Texas baseball standout Mark Payton (St. Rita) a CLASS award nominee

Mark PaytTexas | Supplied photo

Mark Payton, of Texas | Supplied photo

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Updated: June 12, 2014 6:48AM



As a key contributor to Texas’ baseball team, Mark Payton is used to being in the spotlight for what he accomplishes on the diamond.

This spring, however, the 2010 St. Rita graduate is being lauded for what he’s done away from the game.

Payton, the Longhorns’ starting center fielder, is one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award.

The award annually is presented to a NCAA Division I senior who has notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.

The Senior CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School), Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

“Being nominated is pretty special,” Payton said. “This isn’t really an athletic award per se, so I get to know that I’m taking care of my time outside of the baseball field and spending time with kids.

“This isn’t an athletic award, and I’m proud about that.”

Among the charitable endeavors in which Payton participates are working baseball camps in Austin, Texas, tutoring grammar school students every Friday and volunteering at Longhorn Halloween in which he and other Texas student-athletes assist underprivileged children.

“It’s definitely very rewarding,” Payton said. “I love to spend my time doing that and helping people out and making them smile.

“There was a kid who I was tutoring, but then I didn’t see for a year. He saw me and came running up to me and gave me a high-five. That put a smile on my face, knowing that I was helping kids out and changing their lives.”

Payton, who leads the country with a streak of having reached base in 88 consecutive games dating to the 2013 season, is wrapping up his playing career in impressive fashion.

Through 49 games (all starts), Payton was leading the Longhorns (34-15 overall, 11-10 in the Big 12) in hits (58), doubles (11), triples (5) and RBI (30), and was second on the team in batting average (.330) and third in runs (24).

“Playing at the University of Texas has been a dream come true for me,” said Payton, who was chosen in the 16th round of the 2013 major league draft by Cleveland, but decided to finish his collegiate career.

“I’m fortunate to be in the spot I’m in. I didn’t want to give this year up. I wouldn’t trade this one year for anything. It’s going to be a sad day when I walk out of here.

“I’ll remember the atmosphere every day and the guys who I’ve played with. The players took me under their wing when I got here and now, I’ve taken freshmen under my wing. It’s been a brotherhood with these guys and I’m fortunate to be here. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Talent pool

Millikin’s swimming program has named its letter-winners for the 2013-14 season.

On the men’s team, sophomore Andrew Griffin (Tinley Park) earned his second letter while freshman Michael Lambton (Evergreen Park) picked up his first.

On the women’s team, senior Michelle Maloney (Providence), a resident of Mokena, earned her fourth letter. Sophomores Tess Adamonis (Homewood-Flossmoor), Emily Nielsen (Evergreen Park) and Lauren Stryzek (Oak Forest) all received their second letters.

In addition, Griffin was selected as one of two recipients of the Jack Swartz Award for the 2013-14 season. To be considered as a Swartz Award winner, student-athletes must carry at least a 3.50 grade-point average and must have earned a letter in their varsity sport. Griffin achieved the highest GPA of the winter sport male athletes at Millikin.

Griffin also was named to the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s Academic All-Conference Team for the 2013-14 winter season. Other Southland residents from Millikin joining him were Lambton and women’s basketball player Susan Durkin (Mother McAuley), of Chicago Ridge.



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