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Heartland Community College's Peyton Dillingham (15) celebrates after hitting a three-run home run last May in the NJCAA Division II Region 24 championship game against Parkland at the Corn Crib. Heartland is looking to add four sports to its athletic department.

NORMAL — Heartland Community College is looking to add four sports to its athletic department, the school announced Friday.

The Heartland Board of Trustees will consider a staff recommendation to add women’s volleyball, men's golf, men's cross country and women's cross country. If approved, the programs would begin competition in Fall 2020.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the recommendation at their meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Heartland Lincoln Center, 2201 Woodlawn, Rd., Lincoln.

“We have graduating high school student athletes in our district who now will have the opportunity to continue with their sport at Heartland,” said Athletics Director Ryan Knox. “Adding these sports will increase the visibility of Heartland Athletics and help us attract even more highly-motivated and high-achieving students.

“We’ve done a lot of work looking at the community, looking at other competing schools and just looking for opportunities to help the school. We feel like we hit all the markers we need to have good programs and support for our student athletes.”

Heartland’s current athletics programs began in 2006 with baseball, softball, men's soccer and women's soccer. Three of the four were nationally ranked in 2018.

Knox said if the recommendation is approved, the volleyball team would play in Heartland’s Fitness & Recreation Center.

“There was space framed in for seating when the building was built,” Knox said. “The gym is 100 feet by 100 feet and the court will run north-south.”

The cross country teams likely would compete in invitational meets on the road during the first season, Knox said, with a home course set up that could host invitationals the following year.

For golf, he said a potential home course has been identified after discussions with “several courses in town,” but that no agreement can be finalized until the recommendation to add sports is approved by the Board of Trustees.

Knox said the success of Bloomington-Normal high schools in volleyball, golf and cross country “played into what sports to offer.”

“Seeing what our community is good at and with us being a community college, we don’t want them going to another community college,” Knox said. “We want to support them here.”

The possibility of adding basketball was looked at “very closely,” Knox said, but that “we have some facility issues in hosting basketball.”

“The FRC (Fitness & Recreation Center) can’t really meet the office space and locker room space needed for basketball,” he said. “Volleyball requires less space.”

Asked if he expected the Board of Trustees to give its approval, Knox replied, “I’m very confident in the research I’ve done and then I leave it to others to decide where to take the school and what direction. I feel athletics has been supported very, very well the last several years. I trust the people I work for to make the best decisions for the school.”

Last year, Heartland’s teams had a collective fall grade-point average of 3.07, the highest in program history. More than 90 percent of student athletes have transferred to four-year schools over the past three years, with the majority receiving scholarships or financial support.

Last fall, the school declared an intent to expand athletics and received approval from the National Junior College Athletic Association. Financing for the programs is built into the Heartland budget through existing student fees and not with operational funds.

“We looked at the amount of scholarships to offer to make sure it wasn’t a financial stress on the school,” Knox said. “We definitely looked at the school’s financial health while setting up how to fund scholarships and things like that.”

Heartland president Keith Cornille said when school officials “took a deep look at other regional two-year institutions, we saw an opportunity to create athletics programs to better serve our community and strengthen the College.”

“This will allow us to more fully utilize our great facilities and be able to expand enrollment and opportunity at the College while maintaining our commitment to the College’s financial health,” he added.

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Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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