June 2011

June 2011

This is the one of many columns to be written by UMBC Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Brown. Dr. Brown is believed to be the longest-tenured AD in the state, with over 20 years at the helm of the Retrievers. He has been an athletic director since 1981 and has served two terms as president of the Maryland Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and one term on the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet.

It’s obvious to everyone that our teams are on the upswing. We currently are sitting in third place in the America East Conference Commissioner’s Cup standings, our highest ranking in several years. Congratulations to the men’s & women’s swimming & diving teams who once again swept the America East Championships, with the men winning an amazing 14th consecutive title! The volleyball team and the men’s tennis team both made conference finals and placed second in the AEC. Women’s Lacrosse continues to improve and reached the conference finals for the second consecutive year, upsetting arch- rival Boston University. Women’s Basketball disproved the so called “experts” and won their first ever regular season title and almost took the Florida Gators “Into the Swamp” in the WNIT. The big news of the year was the stunning victories of our men’s soccer team hosting the AEC title game and then advancing in the NCAA’s by defeating the #10 Princeton Tigers on their own turf.

This year I’ve been most impressed with the “True Grit” of our teams and athletes—we never stop working, whether in practice or the heat of competition until the final moment.

I recently saw a story on ESPN Classic Sports produced by the legendary Bud Greenspan who was able to personalize the Olympics. Those who know me well, know that there isn’t a sport I don’t like or appreciate and the Olympics are the epitome of sports for a lifetime sports junkie. Greenspan tells the story of David Moorcroft of England who went into the 1984 Olympics as the world record holder in the 5000 meter run. He was the odds-on favorite to win the gold. Unknown to the public and his opponents, he suffered a serious hip injury months before the LA games, but never gave up hope of his Olympic dream—the gold medal. Through sheer determination, he advanced in the 5000M preliminaries and semifinals, but his hip gave out in the finals. Moorcroft had never dropped out of a race in his life, but before 90,000 in the LA Coliseum, he fell hopelessly behind the leaders into last place and was in excruciating pain when he finished the race, collapsing across the finish line. Although he never achieved his Olympic dream, he had the satisfaction of knowing he never gave up.

Greenspan also tells a story of another Olympian whose dream of becoming the Olympic Pistol Shooting champion almost did not happen. Karoly Takacs, whose father was an Olympic pistol shooting champion for his country of Hungary, trained hard to become an Olympic hero, but because of World War II, the games were canceled. Takacs was the defending world champion and clearly would have won the gold. However, during the war as a soldier, he suffered an injury when a grenade he was holding blew up and his right hand had to be amputated. Despite this major setback, he won the gold medal by shooting with his left hand! He too, like Moorcroft, never gave up. To this day he is still a national hero in Hungry.

Everyone wants to win—nobody wants to lose. As your Athletic Director, I boast to others of our accolades, but I am most proud of how hard you all worked this year toward your goals and you displayed that “never give up” attitude.

We have many outstanding student-athletes, but once again, I’ve singled out some of our very best.

  • The duo of junior Abbey McKenney who was voted outstanding female swimmer of the AEC championship, winning three individual and two relay gold medals, and senior swimmer Brad Reitz, who won the coaches’ award for amassing the most team points in his four-year career.
  • Women’s Softball stellar performance of pitcher Senior Stephanie Weigman—who broke Lauren Nicholson’s all-time win record in the 20-year history of UMBC Softball with 64 lifetime wins.
  • The duo of juniors Michelle Kurowski and Erin Brown, who were second and fourth in the league scoring race--became First-Team All-Conference performers together.
  • Sophomore Amanda Deller, conference champion in the shot put, placing in two throwing events at the AEC’s, both at the indoor and outdoor championships.
  • Junior Alicia Krause was chosen First Team All-AEC and spearheaded our outstanding performance in the conference championships.
  • Gaulthier Berret who is now a two-time singles and two-time doubles all-conference selection and he’s only a sophomore.
  • Finally, Third Team All-American and now a member of the Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union-Senior Levi Houpeau.

Our student-athletes give back to the community. Mentored by Kelly Fahey, we had an amazing year with these endeavors—Midday Madness, Soles for Souls, Relay for Life, College for Every Student, the Make a Difference Mentoring Program, the Pink Zone Game, School Visits, Girls and Women’s Sports Day—the list goes on—Thank you for all you do!

Most of all, I’m very excited and proud of the academic success of our 400 student-athletes. Here are a few highlights:

  • Combined Team GPA of nearly 3.0
  • 90 Students earning GPA’s of 3.5 or better
  • Nearly 50% of our Student-Athletes at 3.0 GPA or better
  • Top Women’s team GPA-Tennis 3.43/Top Men’s team-Cross Country 3.15
  • Most improved team academically-Men’s Lacrosse 2.98
  • 86% Graduation Success Rate-Considerably above the Nation’s average

Individually we also had several amazing academic performers:

  • Senior swimmer Keilan Freeman-a Valedictorian nominee was chosen as the Maryland Athletic Directors Division I Scholar Athlete of the Year.
  • Michelle Kurowski-First Team District selection for Academic All-American was chosen to the National NCAA Division I AAA Scholar Athlete Women’s Basketball team, and
  • Junior Joseph Adewumi of tennis and volleyball junior Iman Kennedy standout was selected as National Arthur Ashe Scholar Award recipients.

Thank you SAAC-Natalie Rau had a two-term run as president and did a masterful job. She was recently presented the Black & Gold award by the Division of Student Affairs for the UMBC Student Community Leader of the Year. Good luck to our new SAAC officers—led by President Curtis Schickner of baseball and an Executive Board of Michelle Kurowski-WBB, Ashley Scroggin-SB, Lauren Leclercq-T&F, and Lauren Tilman of Swimming.

We’ve finally installed lights on our soccer field. Get ready to support the men’s & women’s teams for a whole bevy of home night-time games next fall—led by a grudge match against the Terps. Thank you to soccer alums Mike Libber and Mike Griffith for big donations to help with the endeavor.

Teams seem to be supporting other teams better than ever. Thank you! Whether it’s supporting volleyball/ baseball/ softball/ swimming/ soccer/ basketball/ lacrosse or any other sport—I’d like to thank you all for your support and loyalty.

Good luck to the teams still in action in your pursuit of excellence!

To our SENIORS- thanks for your hard work/loyalty and dedication. Good luck, stay in touch, and support your BLACK & GOLD!