Editor’s note: Online and Social Media Editor Katherine Burgess contributed to this report.
Every year, Union rewards a male and female athlete with the Athlete of the Year Award for his or her hard work, determination, athletic ability and scholastic performance.
This year, senior outfielder Wacey Russell and senior midfielder and defender Dionna Linn are Athletes of the Year.
For Linn, athletic training major, the award was the result of years of hard work.
“I think the first thought that came to my head was all of those moments that I worked hard when nobody was watching,” Linn said. “It finally all paid off.”
Success for Russell, both on and off the field, is not a recent development.
In high school, at Donelson Christian Academy in Nashville, Russell played football and baseball, seeing major success in both sports.
As a sophomore, the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association selected Russell to be a member of the Super Sophomore Team.
He helped lead his baseball team to two district and two regional titles, while making it to one semi-final competition in the state championship.
He also holds the third highest record to date for the most runs scored, which are totaled to 51. Russell was once named all-region and twice all-district.
Russell had a career batting average of .378 with 24 doubles in high school. At DCA, he is remembered for a walk-off hit against Station Camp High School and his two homeruns against Ezell Harding Christian High School—both of which are highly competitive high school athletic programs in Tennessee.
Linn also started her soccer career while in high school. Growing up in Venezuela with missionary parents, Linn watched people playing soccer and found herself hooked on the sport.
“The first time I played I just loved it already,” Linn said.
Linn helped her soccer team at the International Christian School in Caracas to the Venezuelan National gold medal in 2009. She averaged five goals per season as a sweeper.
In Russell’s freshman and sophomore years at Union, he made appearances in games pinch running for the catcher and stole a ton of bases, according to Union’s Head Baseball Coach Brent Fronabarger. Russell is recorded at 28 stolen bases out of 34 stolen base attempts.
“Wacey is a kid that came in and didn’t get to play every day as a freshman and sophomore,” said Fronabarger. “But he really worked hard and he kept working at it. He never complained and he just kept getting better and better.”
By the time Russell’s junior year came around, he was getting to play every day, made contributions to the team and turned around to play his senior year as well. To date, Russell played in 86 games out 89 total games his junior and senior year.
“Wacey is just one of those guys you pull for,” added Fronabarger. “They’re behind some good players when they get here but they just keep working and getting better. When they get their opportunity, they take it.”
Aside from working hard on the baseball and soccer fields, Russell and Linn also are dedicated in the classroom. Both have been on the Gulf South Conference spring academic honor roll because of their ability to maintain grades while playing sports.
“You don’t get a better guy than Wacey,” Fronabarger said. “I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about him; he’s a great teammate … all his professors speak very highly of him. I think he would fit any criteria that you would set for a male athlete of the year at the university level. He’s well-deserving.”
Russell is one of the top 10 hitters for the Bulldogs this year. He has had 19 runs batted in, 6 double plays, 1 triple play, 1 homerun and 10 stolen bases out of 10 stolen base attempts.
For Linn, her short term plans are to remain at Union and serve as a graduate assistant athletic trainer while pursuing a master’s degree in education. Long term, she hopes to continue in the “sports world.”