Players Earn Individual, Team Awards
At Western Nevada College, student-athletes keep in perspective what their No. 1 priority is in college: education. WNC’s softball and baseball teams once again were among the National Junior College Athletic Association All-Academic teams, honored for the 2013 season. In addition, three players from each WNC team were recognized with NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards.
“We talk to them from day one about the academic side and what we do,” said WNC coach Leah Wentworth. “Softball is a stepping stone and an opportunity to help them in their lives, and at the end of the day, education is what they do with their lives.”
The Wildcats softball team scored a personal-best 3.31 grade-point average, topping last year’s 3.18. Wentworth’s team tied for 25th best among the country’s top academic softball clubs. Teams must have at least a 3.0 GPA for its collective roster to earn the NJCAA academic distinction.
Coach D.J. Whittemore’s baseball team thrived in the classroom despite spending a long stretch of its 2013 season on the road. The Wildcats didn’t play a single home game during April and were the only SWAC team to earn the honor. The Wildcats’ 3.25 GPA tied them for eighth in the country among baseball teams.
Wentworth credits the college’s mandatory five-hour study hall per week for each student for part of their academic success. “That does make a big difference. It helps them manage their time and allows them to stay on top of their work,” Wentworth said. “The tutors in the skill center make a big difference, and I get a lot of great feedback from the girls on the tutoring.”
North Idaho, College of Southern Idaho and Salt Lake were the other Scenic West Athletic Conference softball teams to be recognized.
Individually, Alexia Alley led the way with her 3.83 grade-point average. Alley, a pitcher and outfielder, earned a Superior Academic Achievement (3.80 or higher) award, one of 592 across the nation to do so.
“To maintain a GPA of superior academic marking is incredible for a student-athlete,” Wentworth said. “They spend so much time in workouts, practice, strength training, it’s hard enough to be a student. “Lexi’s always been on the Dean’s List, always had a high GPA. She’s been a role model in her years here and leaves a mark for us to remember.”
Wentworth also had two players earn Exemplary Academic Achievement (3.60 to 3.79 GPA): catcher/outfielder Alia Cox (3.74) and pitcher/outfielder Ali-Marie Lostra (3.71). Cox’s two-year GPA received a significant boost this past academic year as she put together consecutive semesters with a 4.0 GPA.
“That was incredible,” Wentworth said of Cox’s achievement. “Having been a student-athlete myself, I know how hard it was to maintain that level of academics when you are so busy, especially during the season.”
Three of Whittemore’s players received Exemplary Academic Achievement: relief pitcher Brock Pellow (3.78 GPA), relief pitcher Austin Richmond (3.61) and third baseman Mike Umscheid (3.64). The six Wildcats who earned individual academic honors were among 1,600 NJCAA student-athletes to earn national recognition.
Wentworth was proud of Lostra’s classroom excellence, given the adversity she overcame on the field and personally. “She had a tough year. What a fighter. Her dad was sick, she broke her ankle in the offseason and took a line drive off her face during the season,” Wentworth said. “She’d get knocked down and want to get right back up again. She’s someone to admire with her ability to let outside distractions go and focus on what she needed to and be mentally tough on the field and in the classroom.”
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