Carlton earns prestigious Marie-Rae Sopper award
Saturday, April 14, 2012

SHREVEPORT - Because of her contribution to the Centenary Gymnastics program, Lauren Carlton has been awarded the prestigious Marie-Rae Sopper Award, given to a particular gymnast who exemplifies a high level of leadership, courage and determination.

Carlton, a 5-foot-1 senior from Franklin, Tenn., helped lead Centenary to a remarkable year, including the highest score the school as seen in six years after posting a 193.200 in the Gold Dome March 10.

"Lauren is a representation of what our team has been all about this year,” head coach Jackie Fain said. “I am very honored to have had the privilege to coach such a wonderful young woman and I am so proud and happy for her to have received such a huge honor as the Mari-Rae Sopper award."

Carlton was named a tri-captain during her senior campaign, along with Centenary’s two other seniors, Melody Smith and Stephanie Wright. The trio helped catapult the program when it nearly saw its demise.

Fain originally nominated all three for the award, but only one was eligible to win. But just like all great teams, when an individual wins, the team wins.

The young women on the gymnastics team fought to keep the program.  They were finally told the program would remain intact for a trial period of two more years, going through their junior year. Along with these changes, the school also realigned their academics; which forced many of the student-athletes to decide whether to change majors or to transfer schools.

Through dropped majors and an NCAA division transfer, the seniors have seen three head coaches in their four-year tenure at Centenary.  When the former coach left after their junior year, they were worried about the program’s future. These three seniors were in the Athletic Director’s office the next day, ready to battle again to ensure their team would not be left without a program.

While they each have gone through struggles individually throughout their careers, a parent diagnosed twice with cancer, competing a full season with a torn labrum (on bars), and family struggles, their contribution to the program comes collectively in the legacy of love they will leave behind.

“I have never coached a group of athletes who love this sport more,” Fain said. “They are unbelievably passionate about their sport, their school and their team. They are the epitome of what Mari-Rae Sopper was in her love and passion for the sport of gymnastics, willing to give up everything in order to make sure their current and future teammates will have the opportunity to compete.  I cannot express enough how much these three love this sport, what desire and passion they have, and the incredible legacy of determination and perseverance they will leave for their teammates and those Ladies who will compete for Centenary in the future.”