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Cross McKinney Commits to Mars Hill University

By Joe Mertens '15, 12/15/23, 1:30PM EST


McKinney will continue his academic and lacrosse career in North Carolina at Mars Hill.

OHIO CITY, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Lacrosse program has become a hot spot for college commitments for the class of 2024 as the list continues with senior Cross McKinney. McKinney will continue his academic and lacrosse career at Mars Hill University in North Carolina. McKinney's college recruitment process was unique and began in his sophomore year.

"I broke my ankle my sophomore year, which held me back in my progression with the sport. All of my junior year, I was playing catch-up, but I started to gain offers at the Division III level," says McKinney. "My top two schools at the time were Thomas More and Otterbein. I visited Heidelberg and enjoyed it right before I decided, so that became my number one." 

McKinney was ready to make his decision, but a phone call from Mars Hill came right in time, which was a perfect fit for the senior as family played a role in his decision. "My whole family is from North Carolina. I have a sister already living there; my other sister is also moving to North Carolina. Out of nowhere, I received a phone call from Mars Hill," McKinney explains. "I took a tour of the university, fell in love with it and committed there."

"It's so awesome. To see kids utilize what they get done in the classroom and on the lacrosse field to advance to their next step in life always puts a smile on your face as a coach," says Head Lacrosse Coach Kyle Bernlohr on McKinney's commitment. "Mars Hill is getting a great player but an even better kid. We look forward to seeing Cross do great things down South once his time in Ohio City ends. We are excited just knowing he will move forward as an excellent representation of what a Saint Ignatius Wildcat looks like on and off the field."

McKinney was a member of the Varsity Blue squad during his junior year and what stood out right away to the coaches was his athletic ability. "First and foremost, Cross' athleticism catches your eye. He has quick feet in tight spaces, but his ability to cover ground over the entire field stands out," explains Bernlohr. "Cross has natural ability on both sides of the ball, so he's certainly able to push transition going forward but also tirelessly sprint back in on the defensive end, which makes him someone you get excited about."

McKinney fell in love with the sport of lacrosse at a young age, beginning playing when he was in fifth grade. "Football was always my primary sport up until the fifth grade. My mom wanted me to play another sport to keep my endurance up year-round. It came down to soccer and lacrosse and it ended up being lacrosse," says McKinney. "I fell in love with the sport because I saw myself progressing in skill, which is why I stuck with it."

During his junior season, McKinney made a considerable jump, starting with his communication with his teammates on and off the field and the positive energy he brings to the team.

"He is a humble worker and it's very noticeable. Cross thinks through the game a lot. He's a pretty analytical player and likes to get things right. Every time you run into Cross on campus or the field, he has an infectious personality," Bernlohr says. "He always has a smile on his face. He's just someone you enjoy being around and you can tell his teammates feel the same way."

Coming into his senior season, McKinney's goal is to make it and play an essential role on the prep roster for the 2024 season. Since the Varsity Blue season came to a close in 2023, McKinney has worked hard to sharpen his lacrosse skills, including a progression with his stick. 

"I think for Cross, the more we develop his stick, the more his athleticism becomes a weapon. The saying 'You can't teach speed and quickness' is a good thing to remember when working with Cross, so really it's about sharpening his skills, getting in a groove together of how he likes to be coached, "Bernlohr explains. "We want to find what ques he picks up on and ultimately just dial in the best we can of 'Ok, this is what Cross is best at,' how can we utilize him to get the most out of him for the good of the team."

What is certain for McKinney is his college decision is taken care of, which takes a load of stress off the shoulders of the senior coming into his final season wearing the Blue and Gold. 

"Being able to play stress-free this season is what I look forward to. I feel like I can learn from my mistakes," says McKinney. "Keeping a short-term memory is my mindset on the field and not letting a negative play drag me down and just to have fun this season."

McKinney will continue his academic and lacrosse career at Mars Hill, a Division II program from the South Athletic Conference.