SPECIAL FEATURE (July 27, 2018) – "Dumb Jock" is a well-known and often-used cliché or myth that has no real merit. Clichés are usually not acceptable in academic writing because they are poor substitutes for actual evidence. Clichés are not specific, and they do not offer strong enough commentary to prove a point. And, a myth is a widely held but false belief or idea. At Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU), "Dumb Jock" might as well be a four-letter word.
In 2017-2018, the university recorded another year of athletic and academic excellence. The student-athletes who represent OLLU are setting a standard of excellence in their respective sports and in the classroom. Close to 50 percent of the student-athletes at OLLU recorded a 3.0 cumulative grade point average (GPA) or better – each earning Red River Athletic Conference Scholar Athlete awards. The 13 athletic teams recorded a record overall cumulative 3.08 GPA. Plus, eight teams (women's cross-country, volleyball, soccer, softball, track and field; men's baseball, soccer and tennis) – the most in school history – secured NAIA Scholar Team recognition.
This is not to say the efforts of those earning below 3.0 should be diminished. In the NAIA, student-athletes must have a 2.0 GPA or better to play sports. All-in-all, the student-athlete contingent at OLLU as part of the NAIA has higher standards to maintain (see eligibility requirements) than most nonathletes. It is a fact that student-athletes must do everything that is required by nonstudent-athletes, plus play their sport and volunteer in the community.
Athletic Director and Men's Soccer Head Coach Shane Hurley commented, "The OLLU Athletic Department provides opportunities for our student-athletes to realize their full potential. When we recruit them, we encourage them to commit to academics and athletics, as well as to their personal development and service to the community. It's all part of the Champions of Character program." The NAIA's Champions of Character program is based on the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
The OLLU Sports Information Office wanted to take the opportunity to highlight student-athletes who achieved the highest GPAs - GPAs of 3.5 and above. Here's a synopsis.
The cross-country teams boasted a tremendous season with both teams winning the conference title and qualifying for the NAIA National Championship Meet. Those earning above 3.5 include Derek Barnett (3.8), as well as two-sport (also track and field) student-athletes Andrew Moczygemba (3.6), Miguel Segura (3.8) and Andrea Gandara (3.7).
Barnett, who did not run cross-country in 2017 due to an injury, completed his eligibility for track and field during the 2018 season earning all-conference in the 1500m, 5000m and 10000m. He plans to run his last year on the cross-country team beginning in August. Head Coach Stephen Sherman said, "Derek is the real deal for sure. He's as smart as he is a great athlete, and he has a sense of humor that is as sharp as all of his other qualities. He definitely has a very unique handle on taking care of business while not forgetting to have fun."
Barnett credits his coaches and parents for his academic success and added, "I've really been fortunate enough to have had parents and coaches who have stressed the importance of success in the classroom just as much as they have stressed success in athletics."
Moczygemba is a transfer from Wayland Baptist University, who came in and performed exceptionally well for the Saints. In his first season, he captured the RRAC individual title in the 8000m. This victory etched his name in Saints' history because he was the first men's cross-country runner to capture this title. In track and field, Moczygemba received all-conference honors in the 3000m, 5000m and 10000m. Sherman said, "Drew is one of those student-athletes you wish you could clone. He works extremely hard and is loyal to the process of being successful; the type who doesn't take shortcuts or liberties with anything."
Segura was a freshman this past season, coming to the Saints out of high school. His consistency on the cross-country courses helped to propel the Saints to their third RRAC championship. In track, he earned all-conference in the 800m and 4x800m relay. Sherman stated, "Miguel is one of those types who when he focuses on an objective, he rises to the occasion like few others."
Segura credits his mindset for his academic and athletic success at OLLU and added, "I don't think too hard about college itself, and I try not to get in my head about it. I create a schedule that helps me to maintain focus on my academics and I have a vision for what I want to accomplish. If I can do all of those things, it comes pretty simple."
Gandara had a tremendous impact on the women's cross-country and track and field teams this past season. She helped the Saints win their fourth conference title in cross-country with an individual fourth-place finish in the 5000m, earning all-conference honors. Additionally, she received all-conference in track and field in the 800m, 1500m, 3000m and 4x800m relay. Her performance at the conference track meet helped the team to its first-ever RRAC championship. Sherman said, "Andrea, like most from our group, is a tireless worker. Few out work her, and it shows with everything she is involved with."
Gandara credits her coaches and family for her success as a freshman and mentioned, "It helps a lot that I have coaches who are there for me and support me both on the field/track and in the classroom. This is a testament to my hard work in practice and in the classroom. It proves that hard work does actually pay off. My parents have always taught me that nothing in life is ever given to you, but it's actually earned."
The volleyball team completed a historic season at the NAIA National Championship Pool Play in Sioux City, Iowa, this past November. The Saints repeated as RRAC regular season and tournament champions. Mariza Cardenas (3.7), Elizabeth Olivarez (3.9) and Anissa Tamez (3.52) led the team academically. Lauren Cameron recorded a 4.0 GPA.
Cameron recorded 17 kills for the Saints and was an offensive asset as an outside hitter in her freshman season. Head Coach Jeremiah Tiffin said, "Lauren is a tremendous student-athlete who not only succeeds in the classroom but also works to help her teammates succeed as well. She finds the time to balance volleyball, a job, her personal life all while maintaining the highest GPA possible. She is the model of what a student-athlete should be."
Cardenas assisted the Saints offensively tallying 191 kills and held down the middle of the net with 55 blocks recorded this season. She earned all-conference second-team honors. Tiffin stated, "Mariza was the first student-athlete I recruited upon being hired at OLLU. She has done nothing but exceed my expectations since. She has worked hard in the classroom and has been able to stay on track to graduate a semester early with honors. I am proud of her work ethic and her example to the rest of our team and the athletic department."
Cardenas credits her family as being her support system and mentioned, "It's an honor to be recognized because I believe it's a reflection of how supportive my family has been with me balancing my academics and playing volleyball. It also reflects the perseverance and dedication I've had along the way."
Olivarez stepped on the court for the Saints as a freshman and ended the year as a seasoned veteran earning all-conference honorable mention. She tallied 240 digs and 12 assists, Tiffin said, "Elizabeth is very focused on her school work, and she makes it a priority. She has been successful because she has not taken academics lightly, and she understands that while volleyball is important in college, her degree lasts a lot longer. She is a wonderful example of a student-athlete and we are overjoyed to have her on our team."
Tamez was another true freshman for the Saints, who came in and made an immediate impact on the program. She recorded 69 kills, 758 assists and 35 service aces and earned all-conference first-team honors. Tiffin commented, "Anissa is someone who when she sees a challenge she confronts it head on and usually with success. She has proven again and again that she can handle whatever is put in front of her, especially when it comes to academics. Anissa has made studying a priority and her grades are a reflection of her hard work and dedication. We are excited that she represents so well as a Saint."
Men's soccer finished in second place in RRAC regular season play. This was the ninth consecutive conference tournament for which the men have qualified, but the team fell short in the conference semifinals match. Saints who earned the highest honors include include Adrian Delgado (3.6) and James Halpin (3.58). Jorge Cavazos posted a 4.0 GPA.
Cavazos, who received his undergraduate degree last season, is the keeper for the Saints. He recorded 94 saves for the game and proved to be a wall for the Saints earning all-conference second team and all-tournament honors. Head Coach Shane Hurley added, "As he completes his master's degree, I can only imagine the pride and excitement his family has for him. His father is an old friend of mine, and Jorge Jr. is setting a superb example of the drive and determination necessary to be a true example of what a student-athlete is at OLLU."
Delgado had a breakout season for the Saints earning all-conference first team and Offensive Player of the Year honors. He was the leading scorer with 14 goals, and he also led the team with shots on goal at 27. His stellar performance on the pitch also earned him a spot on the NAIA All-American Honorable Mention team - the first men'. Hurley commented, "After this season, we will have been blessed for four seasons by a work ethic that is tough to match and that has brought us and him success on the field. Nevertheless, it is even more pleasing to see how he puts attention to giving back to others through selfless ambition, wanting to do more for the good of others instead of himself. He is a disciplined and exceptional student."
Delgado credits his support system for his achievements and mentioned, "It is a great honor to be recognized for all of the hard work I've put into my academic and athletic careers. I couldn't have done it without all of the love and support from my family and friends."
Halpin was brilliant when it came to the Saints' defensive tactics this season. He played the defender position well and was sure to limit RRAC opponents to only eight goals this past season. Hurley commented, "He came to us as a transfer. There is a level of steady consistency that has been transferred to us with him in all that he does. James is a likeable person who is kind to others, compassionate and methodical in his approach. An international student from the U.K., the Liverpool native is an excellent student and has been a caring friend and student to classmates and professors."
Halpin credits his international edge as his motivational factor to succeed and said, "Being successful in the classroom as well as on the pitch means a lot to me as an international student. My family supported my decision to come to America and made it possible by helping me financially even though they knew they wouldn't see me for 8-10 months of the year. Without their support and contributions, I couldn't follow my ambition of playing soccer while obtaining a degree. Being as successful as possible on the pitch and in the classroom is my way of expressing my gratitude for all their help. Making my family proud is all the motivation I need to work hard and hopefully I can continue to do well in my final year."
The women's soccer team had a rebuilding year this season after losing a significant amount of starters to graduation. The Saints still persevered and were able to accomplish academic accolades. Leading the team in academics were Brooke Cousins (3.8), Savannah Hernandez (3.65), Baye Polansky (3.8) Yolanda Vasquez (3.5). Mako Tembo tallied 4.0s for the fall and spring for a cumulative 3.96 GPA.
Cousins was a captain for this year's squad. She recorded three assists with 18 shots and 12 shots on goal. Head Coach Arthur Salazar commented, "Brooke has been a great addition to the team. She came in as a freshman and immediately made an impact on the field. Since then, she has continued to do whatever the team needs, playing multiple roles on the field. In the classroom she has been equally productive, maintaining a very respectable GPA, further setting an example for younger players."
Cousins describes the feelings of recognition and added, "I have always felt that it is my responsibility to get the best grades possible, but having other people see what I have done - that feels good. It is difficult as a student-athlete to maintain the level of commitment needed to excel in class as well as on the field so I applaud those who are able to do that. Passion and dedication are what has ultimately led me to find success in my classes and athletics."
Hernandez completed her first season with the Saints in tremendous fashion by recording 35 saves as the keeper. Salazar said, "In meeting with Savannah during the recruiting process, I knew she would be productive both on and off the field. She showed the drive and commitment on the field and in the classroom that we have come to expect from our players."
Hernandez credits her lifelong commitment to athletics as her reason for success, "I've been a student-athlete ever since I can remember. I've been balancing my time between studies and playing sports for years. At OLLU, I was able to draw from my past experiences as well as incorporate learning techniques that were provided to me when I enrolled at OLLU. OLLU makes it its goal to ensure I get a quality education. The professors are the key to my success. They are aware that the student-athletes must balance their time between their studies, practice and games. The coaching staff is instrumental in making sure that our transition into college is smooth and they ensure us that they are going to assist us in meeting our goal of obtaining a degree."
Polansky rounded out her freshman year with one assist, seven shots and three shots on goal. Salazar said, "I am very excited Baye chose to attend and play soccer at OLLU. She is a competitor and leader, who works hard and has a great attitude. As a returning sophomore, her willingness to do what it takes to be successful certainly continues to set the bar higher for future players."
Tembo transferred to OLLU and ended the season with two shots on goal as a defender for the Saints. Salazar commented, "Mako has been terrific to have as part of the program. As a junior college transfer coming in with a 4.0 GPA, I knew she would do well at OLLU. She always has a smile on her face and is willing to work extremely hard to be the best she can be."
Valadez joined the Saints as a walk-on. She made an immediate impact for the Saints as a forward. She recorded two goals, three assists, five shots and four shots on goal. Salazar stated, "As a walk-on to the women's soccer program, Yoly has been a very good addition. She is disciplined and motivated to succeed, and I am excited to see what she will do over the next three years."
The men's golf team captured the 2018 Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) Men's Golf Championship and made its second consecutive trip to nationals. Steve Landry was named the RRAC Newcomer of the Year and earned all-conference honors. He joined the Saints in the spring earning a 4.0 GPA.
The men's tennis team ended its season in the championship match of the NAIA-Unaffiliated Group Regional Tournament. The team was led by underclassman Warren Fulgenzi both on the court and in the classroom with a GPA of 3.8. Fulgenzi recorded a 22-8 overall singles record as well as a 20-8 doubles record with partner Mathias Rocha. He earned all-tournament first-team honors.
Head Coach Sal Castillo said, "Warren is a great example of what happens when you combine a great attitude with a strong work ethic."
Fulgenzi credits his faith for his academic and athletic accomplishments and stated, "To be recognized for this achievement along with my fellow athletes at OLLU is such a blessing. All glory goes to God, without him none of this would have been possible. God is great!"
The softball team capped off last season with its eighth trip to the RRAC tournament. The women ended the regular season as co-champions of the RRAC. Members of the softball team competed both on the field and those excelling in the classroom were Jalin Oliva-St. Romain (3.5) and Madeline Wolken, who earned a 4.0 GPA.
Oliva-St. Romain was a fixture in the outfield for the Saints this season. She recorded nine runs, four RBIs, six walks and three stolen bases on the year.
Wolken was called upon to fill the designated hitter role for the Saints because of her offensive power. She recorded 31 hits, 16 runs, eight doubles, two homeruns, 13 RBIs and six walks. Proving to be an offensive threat, Wolken ended the season with a batting average of .352 and a first-team all-conference award.
Head Coach James Kling commented, "Jalin and Maddie are true student athletes as reflected by their GPA and playing time last spring. I am proud of them for working hard on the field and in the classroom."
Wolken credits her time-management skills for her academic accomplishments, adding, "I worked extremely hard to make sure I balanced school and softball the best that I could. I had to sacrifice certain things to make time for my priorities, but in the end it paid off."
For the third time in program history, the men's baseball team reached the RRAC tournament after a fourth place finish in conference play. The Saints competed out on the field and in the classroom led by Ryan Chapa (SO/Corpus Christi, Texas) (3.6) and Logan Garza (SO/Round Rock, Texas) (3.67). Alex Garza (SO/Cypress, Texas) joined the team in the spring and earned a 4.0 GPA.
Head Coach Bryan Aughney commented, "Logan, Alex and Ryan did an outstanding job in the classroom as true freshmen. These young men represent our university and our program with the values that we preach each day. It's exciting for them as well as the others on this list that have not only excelled in the field, but also in the classroom. We hope to grow this list as these young men set a great example of what it means to be a student athlete at OLLU."
Chapa played infield for the Saints with his playing time coming at second base. He recorded a .211 batting average with 15 hits, 11 runs, two doubles, nine RBIs and 15 walks.
Chapa recognizes his support system for his academic accomplishments and said, "Being recognized for my accomplishments on the baseball field is always a blessing. To be recognized for my academic achievements, as well, is truly a blessing. Playing baseball for OLLU is such an honor that I will never take for granted. In addition, I am grateful for my professors who encourage me to be successful on a daily basis. I owe all of my success to my parents, coaches and OLLU faculty. They have provided me with unconditional support."
Alex Garza, a 4.0 student-athlete, pitched two innings for the Saints. He gave up one walk and five hits.
Logan Garza assumed the role of reliever for the team's pitching staff. He appeared in 19 games for the Saints with 26.2 innings of work. During his time on the mound, Garza recorded 26 strikeouts and gave up 23 hits. Additionally, he boasts the fourth best ERA on the team with a 4.05. He earned all-conference second-team honors.
Logan commented, "It's a reflection of the coaching staff and the professors that I have had this year. It is also a reflection of the hard work that my parents instilled in me when I was younger."
The women's basketball team returned to the conference tournament this year as the No. 2 seed. The Saints still nabbed a trip to the NAIA DI Women's Basketball National Championship for the seventh time. The women competed each day on the court and in the classroom led by Kasey Saldana (JR/San Antonio, Texas), who boasted a 4.0 in the fall and a 3.43 in the spring for an overall 3.72 GPA.
Head Coach Christopher Minner said that Saldana was "one of the most improved players last year. She really had a great sophomore season and became one of our main offensive threats. She is one of the hardest workers on the court so it does not surprise me that she works just as hard off the court."
Saldana was a shooting threat to teams averaging 10 points per game. She capped off the season with 269 points, 46 assists, 36 steals and one block. Additionally, she recorded 27 defensive rebounds and nine offensive rebounds.
Saldana added, "I was raised being held to higher standards in the classroom. School was always most important in my family and that has carried over from every school I have attended. Being able to play college basketball is a dream come true, so keeping up academically as well as on the court is one of my biggest accomplishments. I've been able to succeed in the classroom and on the court because of my family. My parents always made sure I knew it was expected of me to get good grades and my brother always pushed me to become a better athlete. My previous high school and middle school coaches also helped by reminding me that I was a student-athlete…being a student always comes first."
The men's basketball team saw success last season. The team qualified for the RRAC tournament and received an at-large bid to the NAIA DI Men's Basketball National Championship Tournament. The Saints made it to the round of eight for the second time in school history. Academically, the Saints were led in the classroom by freshman guard Zachary Mucha (SO/El Paso, Texas), who earned a 3.9 in the fall and a 4.0 in the spring for a cumulative 3.93.
Track and Field
The men's track and field team competed well this season. The team had a third-place finish at the RRAC meet. Clayton Townsend maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.7 GPA.
Townsend competed in both running and field events for the Saints, earning all-conference in the 110m hurdles, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay and discus. Sherman commented, "We have a lot of hard workers in our group but Clay might be at the top. He is singled minded with the goal of complete and total success."
Townsend added, "I'm thankful for my parents and coaches who have taught me to work hard for all the things that I want out of my life."
The women's track and field team completed a record-breaking season. For the first time in Saints history, the team captured the RRAC title. The Saints were also successful in the classroom with Maricela Castro (3.6) and Amanda Esparza (3.7). Miki Romain posted a 4.0 in the fall and a 3.6 in the spring for an overall 3.71 GPA.
Castro earned all-conference in the 400m, 4x400m relay and 4x800m relay for the Saints this season. Sherman said, "Mari is intense with everything she does, and I love it. Even with basic tasks she goes all in, and the results usually come out positive because of it."
Castro credits her support system as her motivation and added, "I believe all the credit goes to my parents and my coach. They help me, motivate me and see something inside of me that I do not. I want to make them proud by pushing myself to do my very best in school and on the track."
Esparza was a key asset for the Saints this season. She competed in multiple events, earning all-conference in the 200m, 400m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay and the high jump. Sherman commented, "Amanda has a great personality that allows her to roll with the punches so to speak. No matter the obstacle or outcome she just keeps putting one foot in front of the other."
Preparation is what Esparza believes assisted her through her freshman season with the Saints. She added, "Preparation and perseverance were the keys to my victorious freshman year at OLLU. Progress doesn't happen overnight, but if you push through the difficult times success will follow."
Romain qualified for the NAIA Women's Outdoor Track and Field National Championships. Her qualifying race came at the Texas Relays, sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin, in the 100m hurdles. She received all-conference honors in the 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, 4x100m relay, long jump and discus.
Sherman said, "Miki is a complete package of academic and athletic prowess. She is one of the only national qualifiers in track and field in our program's history and is one of the best in the classroom that we've ever had, too."
Romain wants to break individuals' perception of student-athletes and stated, "I've always hated the stereotype that student-athletes have lower GPAs than non-student athletes or that everything is always handed to us. For my first two years at OLLU, and for my remaining two years, I want to show that you can be both a great athlete on the track and in the classroom. You shouldn't have to feel as if you must sacrifice one to achieve the other. It means a lot to me to achieve these accomplishments on the track and in the classroom, but with my remaining time I plan to do bigger and better things."
Just like Romain said, sometimes student-athletes are judged for how well they do on their playing platform. However, at OLLU, student-athletes work hard spending countless hours practicing, traveling and competing. They also ensure they maintain active dialogues with their professors, dedicate endless hours studying, ensure classes missed are made up, prepare for exams and much more. They also volunteer out in the community, and like all other students, they maintain a level of socializing. Sure, there are some OLLU student-athletes who give the mimimum, but almost half have earned scholar-athlete recognition, while eight of 13 teams earned NAIA Scholar Team honors.
The Sports Information Office congratulates all of OLLU's student-athletes for their achievements.
Seniors and Graduates
Special recognition also is given to those student-athletes who either graduated or finished out their eligibility this year earning 3.5 and above GPAs. They include baseball's Russell Brown (3.61), a May 2018 graduate; basketball's Rachel Baity (3.68), a May 2018 graduate and Francesca Patrick (4.0), currently finishing her master's degree; cross-country/track and field's Ione Rodriguez (4.0), currently working on her master's degree; soccer's Maggie Miller (3.8), a May 2018 graduate; softball's Taylor Doege (3.6); Lauren Guerra (4.0), a May 2018 graduate; Alexis Macias (3.58), a May 2018 graduate; and Ina Trejo (3.79), a May 2018 graduate; and tennis' Mathias Rocha (3.66), a May 2018 graduate.