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Juniata’s First Cheerleading Competition

It was a normal day. The team woke up and prepared hair and got dressed in spanks, body liners, shells and skirts and awaited to board the bus for the two hour trip to the Harrisburg Farm Show complex. This was a normal occurrence as we traveled away to the boy’s football games often. The only difference was that this time, the cheerleading team was competing!

 

I can recall all of the nervousness in each girl. The chaotic mess of that morning scrambled everyone’s minds while their anxiety settled in. This didn’t help as several of our girls have never competed before and did not know what to expect. The other captain, Faith, and I have competed before several times and knew what was about to happen. Needless to say the day wasn’t too overwhelming for us. Our coach was probably the most nervous out of all of us. She has been with us since the very beginning of the routine and wanted us to do well. I should also mention that she is pregnant meaning her mom genes kicked in a lot throughout the day. We were told several times to use the restroom.

 

When we arrived we all settled down to finish our hair and makeup while our fan club (our parents and boyfriends) began to show. At this point, I noticed that every girl was listening to the music and going through the routine step by step. Everyone knew that we could get it down. We have marked it through so many times and we all knew where to go and what to do. The only issue was, we had never run the routine full out (this meaning with tumbling, stunts, and dance). This was probably what threw everyone’s nerves off the most. We were competing a routine that we had never completed before!

 

In the end, only one stunt fell which wasn’t bad. As the scores showed, the judges actually liked our routine! Not too shabby for a couple of college kids making up the routine on the fly one day after deciding to compete.

 

2016 is a year to remember for Juniata College as this is the first year JC has ever sent a cheerleading team to compete and guess what… We won first place! Check that one off of the bucket list.

 

The team after receiving our first place banner.

The team after receiving our first place banner.

 

Staying FIT in College

You’ve probably all been warned of the infamous “Freshman 15”—the inevitable 15 pounds that you gain during your freshman year of college. Although this might be true for some people, I’m here to tell you that this does not have to be your fate! If you make proper meal choices and exercise regularly, you’ll have nothing to worry about!

For my first two years at Juniata, I was a member of the track and field team, so I didn’t have to worry much about creating my own workout schedule. My daily exercise routines were mapped out by my coaches. Due to a change in my priorities, I decided that being on the track team was no longer for me. This meant that I had to come up with my own workout schedule, if I wanted to stay fit.

Inevitably, I gained a few pounds from not having as rigorous of a workout routine as before, but I also started to get bored of my same uncreative workouts. Ultimately, I needed some more motivation.

Thankfully, I found out about FITLAB, which is a workout program offered every weekday morning at 8:00 am by Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theater. The program was originally offered to only a small group of students who were training for an endurance obstacle race, but due to the high interest from other students, the program is now open to everyone.  The workouts vary daily and include endurance exercises, circuit training, stairs, and yoga. Before beginning each workout, we have five minutes of silence followed by five minutes of mindful meditation.

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My friend, Tyler Ayres, and I after our Wednesday morning yoga workout.

For me, these workouts are truly a blessing. Since this is my last semester of college, I had been getting a little distracted and not focusing on my health as much as I could have been. Now, I am motivated by working out with a great group of supportive people.

Though I don’t have my first class until later in the morning, I wake up every day at 7:20 am to get ready for FITLAB. I don’t regret waking up early because after a good workout, I feel awake and alert throughout the rest of my day!

Intramural Soccer Moms

Growing up, sports were a very large part of my life. Between multiple sports and multiple teams for each sport, I was always kept very busy. When I got to college, it was almost a relief to decide to not commit to a varsity sport, and instead dedicate this free time to the increased workload and many friends that I was making.

At the same time, it was strange not playing soccer anymore, and I really missed it! Fortunately, I discovered intramural sports, which are a perfect combination of low commitment and low pressure fun with the competitiveness of actually playing. We usually play one day a week, always at night after everyone’s activities and meetings are over. Five people are on the field at a time, and halves are twenty minutes long. This is my second year playing intramural soccer and though my team isn’t very good, it’s a blast!

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Soccer Moms, Fall ’15

Now when I say my team isn’t very good, I should really clarify that we are downright awful. Our team name is the “Soccer Moms,” and we’re made up of both guys and girls who haven’t played in many years, some since they were eight years old! The point, however, is not really to win, but to just have fun running around and trying our best (I know this sounds clichéd but it’s true; after your team scores multiple goals on your own net, your expectations really lower).

In the fall, we lost every single game except for 1, which we tied. Somehow, this was enough to advance us to the playoffs, and then we ended up losing our first playoff game. Now, for the winter session, our record is currently 0-3, but I think we just got off to a rough start and things are going to start looking up. Ultimately, I’m just happy to get some touches on the ball and glad that there are low-key options for those of us who don’t wish to commit to a varsity sport but still want to play. So if this sounds like you, don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities to still be active and play the game you love (whether it’s soccer, basketball, volleyball, or more). Wish the Soccer Moms luck!

Celebrating the Life of Erin Dodson

 

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(From left to right) Erin’s parents, Michelle & Bernie Dodson; the current girls’ volleyball team; alumni; coaches.

On October 13th, my two worlds collided. My alma mater, Altoona Area High School, and Juniata College joined forces to commemorate the life of Erin Dodson. Erin graduated as a two-time all-state volleyball player in 2004 from Altoona Area High School and then began her freshman year at Juniata College, where she was to continue her volleyball career. Sadly, Erin was diagnosed with brain cancer at the start of her freshman year and lost her battle seven years later at the age of 25.

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to personally meet Erin, but I played volleyball with her younger sister during my time at Altoona, so I was able to learn a lot about her. In an effort to honor Erin’s courage and perseverance, the girls’ volleyball team at Altoona organized a benefit volleyball game. Although I have attended several volleyball games at Altoona in the past six years, I have never been to a game quite like this one.

As soon as I walked into the fieldhouse, I was overwhelmed by a line of thirty baskets that team parents and community members had donated for the event. The entire lobby was just full of people. So many people were in attendance that they had to open up the other half of the gym, which is usually closed off by a movable wall. While Erin’s mom, Michelle, was expressing her gratitude between games, the wall started moving, and it soon revealed the entire Altoona Area High School pep band. When does a pep band ever play for a volleyball game?! Never.

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The pep band is revealed.

At the end of Michelle’s talk, she asked the audience to hug the person sitting next to them because Erin loved giving everyone big hugs. The whole night was completely overwhelming and truly amazing. Erin’s family and friends from both Altoona and Juniata joined together to celebrate her life. I couldn’t be more honored to have walked the same halls and to have played on the same court as Erin Dodson.

A Runner’s Guide to Achieving Your Goals

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I have been a runner since my freshman year of high school.   Cross country was a sport that was foreign and honestly terrifying to me. I could not grasp the concept of willingly going out and putting yourself through that kind of physical torment for extended periods of time. But my outlook soon changed. The first month and a half of cross country was a blur of pain, from the burn of asthma in my lungs to the dull ache of overworked muscle. But I kept with it, and to this day I could not tell you why I kept going. Perhaps it was the encouragement my mom gave (as well as her sly comment about how I would feel if I gave up) or not wanting to let down my coach (a family friend) or my teammates (who were beginning to become good friends). Though I have veered off from time to time, running, the simultaneously magnificent and terrible sport that it is, has led me down a surprising path that I could never have imagined as I stepped off the cross country bus for the first time five years ago. And in many ways I have the same thoughts about college.

There was never a point in my life where I did not want to go to college. I assumed that college was the natural next step on the path of life. As time passed of course I came to realized that college was not the path that everyone took… or one that everyone wanted to take. And as I make my way through my third semester of college, I am getting a very clear picture as to one of the reasons why one might not want to move onto higher education.

College is hard.

I do not say that to scare or intimidate, just to state a fact. College classes are difficult, and rightly so–they are preparing you for jobs in the proverbial real world or for even more education at a higher level. It takes work and dedication to achieve the grades you want or need and sometimes that means sacrificing other aspects of your life. My freshman year there was a talk about the Social, Sleep, and School triangle. If you dedicate too much time to sleep and your social life then your academics suffer and too much study time and social interactions decrease how much sleep you can get etc. I am still trying to find that balance, and to be honest I am not sure anyone has been successful.

The fundamental goal for an individual in cross country or track is to get a lower PR (which is your personal best time). The only way to do that is to practice; to get out on the track after school and run 200 meter repeats or go on a 7 mile run. There is no half-way when it comes to competitive training, you either put forth the effort or get left in the dust. Only once in my running career did I put forth that effort. My sophomore year of high school I ran like I never imagined I could. I was winning races because I worked for it. I had a passion for the sport that made all of the grueling workouts and sometimes tedious long runs seem like nothing.

Steve Prefontaine (also known as Pre) was the United States foremost running athlete in the late sixties and early seventies. At one point, he was quoted saying, “Some people create with words or with music or with brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” Should we not all be creative in what we do? I know at times it is difficult because we get run down with work, school, family, social lives, the newest season of The Walking Dead, but there should at least be some glimmer of that passion in everything we do.

College is hard but not impossible. While it is not always possible for us to approach everything with such a passion as Pre’s, we should at least try. In whatever we do, we should let just a little bit of that passion show through. Your quantifiable success in college is given by a three digit number which is the equivalent of your PR. The only way to get a better PR is to train; to study like you have never studied so that the material is not just familiar to you but permanently ingrained in your mind. So have a passion for whatever you are doing, academically or otherwise, because in the end, whatever you are working toward will be worth all of the mental or physical toil.

Staying Healthy at Juniata

One of the most important things to me is my well-being, and staying healthy throughout the year. Coming to college, I was a nervous about the rumoured Freshman 15, and the unhealthy food options many college dining halls have to offer. However, I was pleasantly surprised about the many different programs at Juniata to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

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The program I am most involved in on campus is Fit Lab, which is run through the Theatre Department. One of the theatre professors, Neal Utterback, works with students every weekday morning at 8:00 (early, I know!) to prepare for the Spartan Race, a 10 mile obstacle course race occurring each summer. Each day of the week is different exercises, and on Wednesdays we do a high-intensity yoga session (my favorite form of exercise!). Neal is a great motivator, and really strives to boost endurance and performance.

Another fitness option is Zumba. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there are classes held in the lounge of Terrace & Tussey (two of the dorms on campus) that are taught by students. The classes aren’t too difficult, but will definitely make you sweat! If you’ve never tried Zumba before, these classes are a great place to dance with your friends while burning off the fries you might have had at dinner.

The most popular place to exercise on campus however, is the Fitness Center. Open every day of the week, it’s the best place to pop in for a quick workout in the morning or before dinner (any time, actually!). Since we go to a small school, the gym is never too packed and there are always plenty of machines to use. There is also a separate room with mats and exercises balls for additional use. I personally like exercising with few people around, so I love going to the gym during the day if I have a break in between classes, when the gym is most empty.

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There’s many places I didn’t mention (the pool, racquetball room, the outdoors, etc.) that are great for exercise or blowing off steam all over campus. College can definitely be a stressful place, balancing classes, social outings and fitting in time for yourself, so it is always important to find places to relax and stay healthy!

#ShaqTheHouse

On Saturday, January 31st at 4 pm, the Juniata College men’s basketball team played Drew University; however, this was a basketball game unlike any other. Throughout my three years at Juniata, I have gone to several basketball games, but I have never before seen such an enormous crowd of fans at a regular season game. The bleachers and surrounding areas were full of students, faculty, and community members who were all wearing white t-shirts with hashtags saying, “#WeGotShaqsBack” and “#ShaqTheHouse.” Without some more context, you might be thinking that Shaquille O’Neil came to visit Juniata. Unfortunately, that will probably never happen at small-town Huntingdon, but we do have our own “Shaq.”

In October 2014, Shaquille “Shaq” Smith, a Juniata College freshman basketball player, was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Within just three short months, Shaq was put on life support while in a coma and had suffered three strokes.  Amazingly, Shaq is now on his way to recovery but still requires 24-hour care. With rising medical bills, the Juniata College men’s basketball team held a game in order to raise money for Shaq’s family. Typically, games are free to students, but for this game, students and all other fans could purchase a five-dollar t-shirt or bracelet for admission into the game. The money that was raised from the concession stand, 50/50, and halftime contests was also donated to Shaq’s family.

The cheerleaders wearing their #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts.

The cheerleaders wearing their #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts.

Before the beginning of the game, Shaq was wheeled out to the middle of the court where he expressed his gratitude for everything that had been done in his honor. His teammates and coaches hugged him and shook his hand, but even more powerful, the Drew team members, all wearing #ShaqTheHouse t-shirts, also shook his hand. This was when the waterworks began for me. There is something just absolutely beautiful when two opposing teams can come together to unite for a cause. The game is put aside, and reality prevails.

Shaq meets with his teammates before the game.

Shaq meets with his teammates before the game.

English author Charles Buxton once wrote, “Experience shows that success is due less to ability than to zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work, body and soul.” Not only did the Juniata College men’s basketball team demonstrate this zeal by defeating Drew 68-58, but Shaq, unable to walk and still suffering from multiple complications, said to the crowd, “Don’t worry about me. I’m a fighter, so I’m going to keep on fighting.” And with that high level of perseverance and the tremendous amount of support from the community, Shaq will be right back out on that basketball court in no time.

Shaq swooshes a shot during halftime.

Shaq swooshes a shot during halftime.

To learn more about Shaq’s illness and/or to donate to the cause, please visit the following website: http://www.gofundme.com/kwlq58.

 

Senior Day

Juniata College Field Hockey

Juniata College Field Hockey

It’s Senior Day for Juniata College Field Hockey. It is still weird to know that it is the last time for many things regarding my college career, including my athletic collegiate career. I have grown with this team for over 3 years and thinking to part with what my class has built within our time at Juniata makes me feel sad, but I can leave the team with confidence that the girls will continue to fight to be the best. These girls have become my second family, which provided me with the support system that I needed since my family is more than 16 hours away in Tampa, Florida. When I am down, I know that I have 25 other girls that will lift me up and that kind of support is one that helps you survive in your darkest times. Not many people can say that or experience that kind of love and friendship. So I regard myself as lucky to have this atmosphere every year.

Even though we all are all trying to find out who we are and shape our futures, there is one thing that will always connect us. Hockey.

Our team has struggled and fought to stay on top in the Landmark Conference every year, pushing each other to our limits to get better everyday. You may have friends that push you but for me there are 25 other girls pushing me to give it all that I have out on the field in practice and in games. The drive that any athlete has and the willingness to play with others to achieve a common goal is an inspiring story that is unique to each team. The joy and frustration from being on a team is complex, but it is something that will always stay with you after college. The relationships and memories that you make will be what you carry with you later in life. There is no end to JCFH because JCFH is family and family never goes away.
As much as I love my team, I am excited to have my mother here to support me on my special day. She will be cheering from the stands and probably yelling at the umpires for bad calls because she is still protective of her child. Thanks to her I started field hockey and was able to go to college. If it weren’t for her pushing me everyday, I would not be at Juniata playing field hockey with this energetic group of girls. I also wouldn’t have played with an amazing group of adults from different countries that would help me to develop into the player and person that I have come to be. Field hockey is not just a sport, it is more than that. It gives you a family and a fire to fight for what you want no matter what the odds. You learn to depend on others and to put your faith in them. It is not about the individual but what is best for the whole and overcoming hardships together. That is what field hockey is to me.

Welcome to Florida

Before spring break, everyone on campus is talking about what they are going to do with their break. I personally heard three main types of spring breaks: the people who sleep through it, the people who go on vacation, and the people who take service trips. I however, was not in any of these categories. As a part of the Juniata Softball team, we took a spring break trip to Florida. As nice as the warm Florida weather sounds and how exciting and fun the trip actually was, it was exhausting. Overall, we were in Florida for a week. We played a total of ten games, two per day. The day we got there, we also practiced. Doing all of this, right out of the gates in the hot Florida sun is exhausting, but the fun parts made it totally worth it.

Me at the Yankees Game

Me at the Yankees Game

In my opinion, the best day of the whole spring break trip was Wednesday, March 12th. This day was also known as our only free day. We had to option to either go somewhere with our parents, go with someone else’s parents, or go with one of the coaches to a New York Yankee’s Spring Training game. As a huge Yankee fan, I decided that even though my parents were in Florida, I wanted to go to the game. It was pretty awesome. Not only did I get to sleep in that day, but I also got to see Derek Jeter in person, who is retiring this year. It was pretty exciting.

Team Community Service

Team Community Service

We did other fun things in Florida too. One night we got to explore Downtown Disney, the huge shopping center in Orlando. Another night, we ended up exploring Orlando trying to find an ice cream place because everyone on the team wanted ice cream. Something huge we also did was community service. Our Coach wants us to help out the community everywhere we go. We ended up helping a local softball park make its park look better by painting the parking stops. Overall, I would say the fun and exciting parts of the trip balanced out the exhausting parts. This kind of trip really helped our team bond as a whole and it was totally worth the experience.

Surviving Seven Weeks of Softball

Playing Tails

Playing Tails

One of the most challenging things of playing an outside spring sport in college is the lack of spring part. This winter has been brutal; between the ice storm to the two weeks where the weather didn’t get above 10 degrees, it gets incredibly difficult to get motivated to play the sport I love the most. However, Coach Sam Kszepka does an incredible job at keeping us motivated. She has many different techniques to keep us interested and motivated. Some of these techniques include a game called “tails”, which is a game like flag football where if the tail (aka a sock) is pulled out of your shorts, you are out and do sit ups until your team either wins or loses. She also makes these brutal 7 weeks interesting by adding a little bit of competition during practice, and my personal favorite technique, letting us listening to music as we practice. Another key concept of getting through these practices? The team that you are on. Luckily, there is never a dull moment with my team. One second someone will be running, the next second they are on the ground for no apparent reason other than they tripped over air. We are a team filled with sarcastic comments and ungraceful moments. I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for these types of teammates, these brutal seven weeks would have been way worse.

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