Monday, September 30, 2013

Showcase weekend for Blugold athletics

In recent weeks, I've had the opportunity to attend volleyball, women's soccer and football games, giving me a taste of UW-Eau Claire's rich Blugold athletics programs.

Already, it's clear to me why the Blugolds were ranked the 14th best athletics program out of more than 430 NCAA Division III schools in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup. The level of talent in multiple sports is impressive!

Even more impressive is that last year our 516 student-athletes earned a cumulative 3.124 GPA, and earned two National Jostens Community Service Awards. Also, 321 Blugold student-athletes were named to the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll, and 33 different Blugolds earned a total of 40 All-American honors. These are just a few highlights from a long list of honors our student-athletes received in recent months.

UW-Eau Claire Nick Hirsch makes a great catch during Saturday's Blugold
football game against Pacific Lutheran University.
These student-athletes demonstrate that athletic and academic success is not mutually exclusive. We are providing our student-athletes with the best experience possible as they pursue their athletics and academic goals. The student-athletes are learning the values of teamwork, leadership, focus, time management and perseverance. And by sharing their talents, they enhance the quality of life on our campus and in the Eau Claire community.

Saturday I enjoyed the home opener for the Blugold football team. While the Blugolds came up short on the scoreboard, it was a hard-fought game against a nationally ranked team. The rain didn't dampen the spirits of the Blugold players or the fans who gathered to cheer them on.

Blugold men's hockey team
members Andrew Wilcox,
Jordan Singer and Daniel
Olszewski sport their national
 championship rings, presented
during Saturday's
Blugold football game.
Before Saturday's football game, I had the honor of presenting the players and coaches on the 2013 Blugold national championship men's hockey team with their championship rings. It was fun to celebrate their recent success as we look forward to seeing what this team — led by National Coach of the Year Matt Loen — will accomplish in the upcoming season.

Also this weekend, we welcomed seven athletes and coaches into the Blugold Hall of Fame. As I talked with them during Saturday's Blugold Hall of Fame Banquet, it was clear that UW-Eau Claire has played an important role in the lives of these athletes and coaches.

Congratulations again to the newest Hall of Famers: Marilyn Skrivseth, former director of athletics, and tennis and track coach; Don Parker, wrestling coach; Darrel Snell, football player; Rick Dahl and Tanya (Bauer) Longo, basketball players; Kari (Albers) Madden, diver; and Jason Slaikeu, national track champion.

The newest Blugold Hall of Fame inductees (left to right): Don Parker,
Kari (Albers) Madden, Marilyn Skrivseth, Tanya (Bauer) Longo,
Rick Dahl, Jason Slaikeu and Darrel Snell.
Several student-athletes also were honored during Saturday's banquet as Super Six Salute Award winners. The university's highest athletics honor went to Sarah Bingea, a women's basketball player from Delano, Minn.; Aaron Easker, a men's track and field and cross country runner from Eland; Jeremy Kieser, a men's track and field and cross country runner from Verona; Ashlyn Mauer, a women's track and field and cross country runner from Sheboygan Falls; Erin Schoenfelder, a women's' track and field runner from Antioch, Ill.; and Jordan Singer, a men's hockey player from Lino Lakes, Minn.

Also at the banquet, Erik Strand, a Blugold alumnus and current assistant men's hockey coach, received the Joe Merten Coaching Award; Becca Bestul, assistant women's basketball coach, received the Ade & Margaret Olson Coaching Award; and former UW-Eau Claire softball player Renee (Cook) Smith received the Sandy Schumacher Courage Award.

Congratulations to all!

I hope all members of our university community will take time to appreciate the efforts of our student-athletes by taking in one or more of our sporting events throughout the year -- and join me in cheering on the Blugolds!