Senior athletes say goodbye to Wash. U.
This year has been a historic one for Washington University athletics. Volleyball recaptured the national title after a three-year hiatus, overcoming top opponents, whom that it had lost to earlier in the season in the NCAA tournament.
Men’s soccer reached the Sectional Finals of the NCAA Division III Championship, ending the year as the sixth-ranked team nationally. The women advanced to the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship and also won the UAA title.
Women’s Cross Country won the UAA title and finished third in the NCAA Championships, placing six All-Americans in the process.
The basketball season brought high hopes, with both the men’s and women’s teams grabbing the top rankings in national polls. The men were forced to overcome the loss of junior point guard Sean Wallis for the season, but the team contended for the UAA title before falling to the University of Chicago. The team earned a bid to the NCAA tournament and defeated the College of Wooster and Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., downed Buena Vista University and Millsaps College at home and won the national title in Salem, Va. with wins against Hope College and defending-champion Amherst College. The win against Amherst brought Wash. U. its first men’s national title.
The women overcame the loss of junior All-American Jaimie McFarlin by contending for the UAA title until a loss to Chicago in the final game of the season, and the team lost in the NCAA Regional Finals to DePauw University.
Indoor track captured the third national title of the year, as senior All-American Morgen Leonard-Fleckman won the pole vault with a height cleared of 3.86 meters. The women finished third at the NCAA Indoor Championships out of 67 teams.
While most sports at Wash. U. are team sports, individual efforts have been recognized. Of these individuals, the seniors have competed for the last time and deserve special mention.
Troy Ruths of the men’s basketball team won the Jostens Trophy and has been the ESPN the Magazine College Division Academic All-American of the Year for the past two seasons. Ruths was first team all UAA his final three seasons at Wash. U. and was UAA Player of the Year two seasons ago.
From the cross country and track teams, Tricia Frisella garnered All-America citations the past three seasons, as did teammates Tyler Mulkin and Leonard-Fleckman. Angela Hartman and Kate Pentak have been named All-Americans.
Elie Zenner has been first team all UAA for the past two seasons and was named to the ESPN the Magazine College Division Academic All-America Third Team. He and Onyekachi Okoroafor were named to the 2007 NCAA Division III All South-Central Region First Team.
Caroline Sear was named to the 2007 NCAA Division III All South-Central Region First Team.
Swimmer Meredith Nordbrock has been named an All-America 21 times before this season began, and she added to that total this winter. Classmate and diver Priya Srikanth also added to her All-America tally this season. Srikanth was also named UAA Diver of the Year this season.
Spencer was named the UAA’s Most Valuable Player her junior year and third team All-America.
What is your best memory of Wash. U. sports?
Nordbrock: My best memory would have to be the friends that I have made over the years. Athletes tend to create special bonds. We see each other everyday, whether it’s in the pool, on the field or just in passing in the AC.
Sear: Two of the best games I have ever been part of: our 4-0 win over Emory my junior year and our 3-0 win over Denison in the second round of NCAAs. Both were great wins and great memories from Francis Field.
Dave Working: My sophomore year, my parents came to watch us play in the NCAA Regionals, which we were hosting. I had spent the previous nine months recovering from reconstructive surgery on my throwing shoulder after being told after my senior year of high school I might not ever throw a baseball again. My mom had spent the previous five months battling breast cancer, and her doctor let her come watch us in between chemo cycles. To our surprise, I got in our first game as a defensive replacement, so my parents got to watch me play. My mom tells me that watching me take the field again, after what I had been through, helped give her strength to continue her own treatment. To have helped my mom fight cancer, even by doing something as small as playing baseball, is something I will never forget.
Frisella: My best memory of Wash. U. sports was when our women’s team made it to nationals in cross country this year, and the guys came to cheer us on dressed in flannel shirts with mullets, blacked out teeth and extremely short jean cut offs.
Mike Elliot: My greatest sports memory would have to have been watching the men’s basketball team win the national championship on television. It was amazing to see those guys pull it together on the big stage.
What has been your greatest athletic accomplishment?
Spencer: Winning the national championship.
Zenner: My greatest accomplishment was succeeding as a three year captain in changing the culture of the team and pushing everyone to get the most out of themselves. To go from where we were when I first became captain to making the Elite Eight and coming within a goal of the Final Four means the world to me. Going to the All-American convention was pretty sick too.
Nordbrock: This year at nationals, two of my times were under the previous year’s national records. While I do not hold the title in either event, I swam faster than I ever thought possible.
Okoroafor: Being named Third Team All-American.
How have you changed as a player?
Spencer: I’d like to think over my four years that I developed into a smarter, more consistent hitter and passer.
Working: I am much stronger mentally than I was before I came here. I used to be worried about stats.
Sear: I became a more mature player but still a somewhat emotional and competitive player. I understand the position of goalkeeper and how it impacts the game and a team.
Nordbrock: I have become more confident in my abilities. Knowing that you can achieve your goals is half the battle.
Elliot: I appreciate the sport more. I appreciate the hard work and discipline it takes to play Division III. It’s been a blessing to pour so much into something I love deeply, and I’ve come to appreciate football that much more.
How will being a student athlete here help you in the future?
Nordbrock: Being a student athlete forces you to learn to prioritize and find balance in your life.Plus, employers love it on a résumé!
Zenner: I have developed my leadership skills to the point where I feel comfortable leading a group through positive, but forceful encouragement. I also had tight-knit relationships with an awesome group of guys who will be life-long friends.
Spencer: Time management skills an athlete develops are probably one of the most important skills to have for the future.
What will you miss the most?
Working: I will miss traveling with my teammates. There are few moments where teams bond more closely than when we’re exhausted, filthy, full of terrible food and laughing our minds out because someone just read off a hilarious answer to a loaded question.
Zenner: I will miss too much to say in one quote but mostly just working hard with a group of guys that loved soccer and wanted to win. Being unified by a single goal can be pretty inspiring.
Frisella: My teammates and the feeling of shared accomplishment after races. Our team dinners at Center Court, 100 minute long runs, theme run Friday, Oak Knoll park, post-race singing in the showers, playing mafia on bus rides, team break downs, cheering for Tim Meahl, water polo and camp week, summer newsletters, coach’s wisdom, UAA meets… I’ll even miss 5 a.m. shake out runs on race day.
What has Wash. U. meant to you?
Zenner: It’s not always easy to have a lot of school spirit here, but I was part of a team that was trying to put Wash. U. on the map for soccer and reach some of the heights other teams were reaching, and that makes me proud. Overall, Wash. U. has been a great place to spend four years, and my heart will always be behind the soccer team. I want nothing more than to see them continue to excel.
Working: I tell my friends that, as weird as it sounds, my freshman year of college seems longer ago than my senior year of high school. The changes that I’ve made as a student, an athlete and a person have been so vast that I would barely recognize the kid who stepped onto campus in 2004.
Sear: My time at Wash. U. has been four of the best years of my life. I have made friends through the soccer program that will be some of my best friends for life.
What advice would you give to incoming freshman?
Nordbrock: Enjoy your time here because it will fly by! Take any and every opportunity that is presented to you and run with it. Try not to sweat the little stuff because in the grand scheme of things, it probably won’t matter. It’s easy to get caught up in work and suddenly find yourself graduating, so slow down, take a look around you and enjoy every moment of it!
Okoroafor: Keep an open mind.
Sear: Enjoy you time, and always be grateful for the time you have. Leave everything on the field, trust your teammates and coaches on and off the field, procrastinate and leave papers to the last minute because it builds character and friendships in the library, beat up on Emory and not just in the box score.
Working: Despite what people say, the world after college is not “The Real World.” It’s all the real world. It’s your life, you’re in control of it, and don’t ever let anyone else convince you otherwise.
Elliot: Don’t quit. Put in the time, and the rewards will pay off. You don’t have to be the biggest or the fastest or the strongest, but if you have the will to succeed, you absolutely can.
Zenner: Don’t get down if things don’t go perfectly right from the start. It is a long four years, and if you work hard, it will all be worth it. But you have to earn your success.
Frisella: Don’t forget to have fun and soak it up; it’ll be over before you know it.
Spencer: It’s going to be hard and you’re going to feel like you can’t possibly do both school and sports, but stick with it. It gets easier, I promise.
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