By Dalton Carver
Staff reporter


Colton McNinch, biochemistry senior and Trey Burton, mathematics senior, relax together before practice begins. The team is practicing for the NAIA preview in Lawrence. (Dalton Carver/Collegian photographer)

As Colton McNinch, biochemistry senior, walks into the cafeteria, he’s cheerfully greeted by fellow students and athletes. Instead of replying in similar emphatic fashion, McNinch just smiles, nods and waves. The gesture may seem small, but they speak volumes about the way he goes about life.

McNinch was recently named Scholar of the College, something that reassured him he was on the right track. “It was a reminder that I’m doing the right things,” he said. “I was glad that I was recognized. It gave me something to look back on these last three years.”

Speaking of being on the right track, McNinch also happens to be national-class runner under Jim Helmer, head cross country and men’s track coach. He was surprised that McNinch also received the academic honor.

“That’s pretty rare. There are usually several students in that 4.0 range, and I figured there would be several others,” he said. “I think it was great that one of our student athletes can demonstrate that you can be a great student and a great athlete at the same time. That doesn’t happen by accident.”

Despite being named Scholar of the College, McNinch doesn’t feel any more pressure than he usually does. “I feel the same as usual,” he said. “It’s always been important for me to do well in the classroom.”

McNinch uses the future as motivation for his consistent success. “The better I do in the classroom, the more doors that will be open for me in the future,” he said. “I know that every class is important because it impacts that.

“I try to make the most of every minute and be over-prepared,” he said. “I try to stay on task and not put things off. I just work hard.”

In addition to being a strong athlete and student, McNinch is also involved with Student Foundation, where he serves as the vice-president of academic programming and activities.

“We’ll do events like Backpack to Briefcase, movie nights and Freemium Fridays,” said Brandon Hessing, Assistant Director of Campus Life. “He comes up with those ideas and works with the team to make those happen.”

Hessing went on to describe McNinch as a layered individual. “You can look at Colton and see that he runs cross country, but I think it’s easy to forget that he does excessively well in the classroom,” he said. “He’s very talented and determined. He’s worked hard for everything.”

When McNinch does find free time, he enjoys the great outdoors and movies. “I don’t get the opportunity to go fishing much, but that’s one of the things I like,” he said. “I also really like the newer Batman movies.”

Just like Batman, McNinch is a man of few words. “He’s fairly quiet and only talks when he feels like there’s something that needs to be said,” said Helmer. “He’s not an emotional guy. He quietly goes about his business and says the right things at the right times.”

“He comes off as being a bit of introvert, but he’s actually quite funny,” Hessing said.

After McNinch graduates, he plans to attend graduate school at either Iowa State or Minnesota. “I’m really interested in plant genetics and breeding,” he said. “They’re really good programs for what I’m interested in.”

“He can do anything that he wants to do, if he continues on the same track,” said Helmer. “All the things that he’s put into practice, both academically and athletically, will serve him well. He will be a success.”

“He’s kind of like a mad scientist,” said Hessing. “He processes his time and tries to solve as many problems as he can. He’s very analytical in his thought process.”

Despite all of these descriptions, McNinch has the same mindset for the future as he does for cross country and academics. “I just always remind myself that I’m prepared for it,” said McNinch. “I’ve studied or I’ve practiced. I’m calm and treat it as an everyday thing.”

Dalton Carver is a junior majoring in communication. You can email him at or tweet him @Dalty_James.