Colorado Christian University’s women’s basketball team has been granted the “Together We R” team award. Presented by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and Russell Athletic, the annual award is given to a team that has undergone extraordinary difficulty and come together stronger as a result.
In November of 2013, the women’s basketball team dedicated their season to their manager, Kaylee McBeth, who had been placed on a heart transplant list due to an inoperable tumor around her heart. The rallying cry for the team became #KayleeStrong throughout the season.
As the cry grew, Coach Tim Hays asked his manager about the attention. "Coach I don’t like to stand in front of people, that’s why I love being a manager. I like being in the background," replied Kaylee McBeth. “But if with my story one person’s life is impacted, then it was worth my life and my death.”
Kaylee McBeth passed away on January 20, 2014.
“For some reason,” said Coach Hays, “I think we all knew Kaylee’s time here was going to be short. I looked at each one of them, and before I could say anything, they knew.”
The team’s mission to be #KayleeStrong grew in the days that followed. Given the option not to play in the weekend following their manager’s death, the team asked what Kaylee would have done.
They won both games that weekend.
“Kaylee showed up every day, even when things were imperfect,” said Gillian Foster, a senior forward on the team, “and we wanted to show up. Her heart was physically hard, a tumor had calcified her heart, yet she was the softest-hearted person we knew.”
The Together We R award, given to the team that displays unusual unity despite adversity, was presented to Coach Tim Hays during the Women’s NCAA Final Four. Colorado Christian University was chosen after the WBCA past presidents narrowed the field to four finalists, including Purdue University, the University of North Carolina, and the University of South Carolina. Each institution’s story was posted on WBCA’s YouTube channel, and fans were asked to watch the videos and vote for the team that overcame the most and exhibited uncommon spirit.
The CCU Cougars gathered the most votes, and the selection committee confirmed the winner.
CCU won eight of its final 11 games, to finish 15-13 overall. For more on Kaylee McBeth and CCU’s story, please visit www.ccucougars.com and www.kayleestrong.com.