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Do You Even Lax Bro?

I was first exposed to lacrosse as a freshman in high school when I was applying to Fountain Valley School of Colorado.  I knew nothing about the sport, but from the moment I saw the few pictures of what looked to be combination football-hockey players striding through the trees of Fountain Valley’s Victory Road, I knew I wanted to play.  These hopes were soon dashed by an aside comment from one of my Track and Field teammates who, when I told him that I wanted to play lacrosse because it looked fun, said, “Dude you’re so tiny those guys would kill you.”  And that was the end of that.

At the beginning of this spring semester, Juniata Women’s Lacrosse made their NCAA D3 debut.  I can’t say that I was all that excited about watching the sport because I didn’t understand the rules (and even after watching two games I still don’t understand what half the fouls were called for) and my initial infatuation with the sport had faded.  But I was excited to watch my friends play a sport they loved and had practiced hard to do well in.

Figure 1: Our Juniata Women's Lacrosse team, warpainted up for their first game!  Their record is now 3 wins to 0 losses.  Is it too early to say "undefeated?"

Figure 1: Our Juniata Women’s Lacrosse team, warpainted up for their first game! Their record is now 3 wins to 0 losses. Is it too early to say “undefeated?”

The day of the first lacrosse game was cloudy but uncharacteristically warm for mid-March in central Pennsylvania.  The stands were not as full as they could be for the inaugural game of our lacrosse program, but those of us who were there were all there to support our friends and family and we were excited!

To be honest I’m not sure how many of us thought we were going to win that first game.  Of course, we were all hoping and praying that our team would win but it was their first game and we assumed the girls they would be playing would be hardened Lax athletes.  But from the moment Kat scored the first goal, I knew it was going to be a good game.  The moment the crowd saw the ball hit the back of the net, it exploded to its feet cheering and screaming in the elation of an early success.  Then Britt scored, then Natalie then Kat again and Britt again and before I knew it the game was over and we had managed to win by a decent margin and we had made it into the double digits.

Before this year I never attended Juniata sporting events.  I just never found the time to.  But the energy of that first lacrosse game, the support that the crowd gave to the team was infectious and next year, when I will be a Senior you will hopefully find me at every single home game, supporting my team.

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.

Why I Chose Juniata

Being from Florida, you get some interesting questions and looks from other people. When I am asked where I am from I always get this strange look because I chose to move from sunny Florida to bitter cold Pennsylvania. Yes it was a big change and a completely different place that was far away from home, but in the end it was worth it. I got to build my own major at Juniata where I could choose the courses I took and learn what I thing is necessary to build a career. I have chosen to name my degree Entrepreneurial Arts and it is exactly what I want to do. With my degree I can help businesses with their digital media plans.

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A photo I took of an artistic piece embedded in the walls of the Huntingdon community

 

I also got to continue to play the sport that I love and pick up track and field along the way to challenge myself further. I have two families here with me, my field hockey family and my track family. They are completely different and unique in their own way with multiple personalities. The relationships I have built with my teammates and the moments of silliness are ones that have made my experience so wonderful.

It is great that all the professors want you to succeed and want to genuinely help you to get a good grade, but to grow your knowledge and future. It is nice to go to a small liberal arts college where the professors make time to help their students and always have their door open for you to come in to talk. Juniata wants their students to thrive and the faculty help in any way they can to help students in any aspect they can. As a senior, I have many faculty and staff members that have helped me to prepare my resume and network. My boss even brought me to a marketing conference in Hershey, PA where I was able to learn more about marketing strategies for higher education. All this knowledge and experience will help me build the future that I envision and I am happy to have chosen Juniata College to help me do exactly that.

#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.

Coach Smith and Beyond

That's THE man, Coach Smith.

That’s THE man, Coach Smith.

When you’re a student athlete at Juniata, your best friend is Coach Smith. Now while everyone has their love/hate relationship with Coach, myself included, we all have to admit the rockin body he gives us is awesome. Between the speed squats with chains and the Friday stair work out with our sand bags, the athletes at Juniata spend a lot of time in the gym with Coach. The best part about Coach Smith workouts is it only takes one off-season for him to turn you into the smoking hottie you were meant to be.

Oh, by the way, Coach Smith is casually one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country and pretty much any big state institution would give anything to get him, but he chooses to stay at JC, which is awesome. He’s in such high demand because he can turn literally anything into a torturous workout. He uses random things from towels to scuba divers’ weights for arm work outs, ship chains and sliding boards for a leg work out, and stairs anywhere on campus for a cardio session. Coach also invents all these work outs you can do by yourself without any equipment or machines that are just as, if not more, tiring than anything you would find at a gym.

Coach Smith not only focuses on the physical side of training, but incorporates the mental side as well. He pushes each individual athlete to get out of their physical comfort zone to overcome mental barriers. He trains the mind and body to work as one to improve an athlete’s performance both on and off the court, field, or any other place you could play a sport. I personally have learned so much about how my body moves and how to lift or condition properly to get the most out of my body for volleyball while staying healthy. Coach Smith’s work outs not only make you stronger and a more efficient athlete, but also train you how you can mentally and physically overcome any obstacle using your mind and body.

Look at those awesome muscles!  Thanks, Coach Smith.

Look at those awesome muscles! Thanks, Coach Smith.

If you really want to get an amazing work out, Coach has a noon work out every day that anyone can go to. The cool part is that it’s his own work out too, so you get to sweat with the elite. I highly recommend it, especially if you would like to feel like you got hit by a bus the next morning. Kidding (sort of), they’re not that bad.

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