Mines' outstanding students compete in and out of the classroom

“The fact that success can be measured down to the hundredth of a second is perfectly aligned with being a Mines student,” says Colorado School of Mines swimmer Michaela McNiff, whose major is chemical and biochemical engineering.

She’s right. Mines students work hard for every measure of academic success. And many are also Mines athletes, competing in 18 varsity sports, 16 club sports and an extensive intramural program that embraces the slogan “Get Out and Play.” For them, the athletic pursuits balance  — even complement — Mines’ classroom challenges.

This valuable student experience outside the classroom helps cultivate the future success of the university’s graduates. Mines has unveiled plans for athletic complex improvements that will support student athletes through new and improved training facilities with a focus on health, safety and student recruitment.

“A nice thing about Mines is that you have all these people on your team who are going through the same courses you are, and you naturally form study groups that keep you in line,” notes petroleum engineering major David Pawelek, a senior tight end on the Oredigger football team.

Holly Hutchison, a biochemistry major, says that playing on the volleyball team “has also provided me with an understanding of working as a team in academic settings, which is incredibly valuable.”

“Competing in track and cross country has been invaluable in teaching me about myself and what I need to do to stay healthy and injury-free and be a well-rounded athlete, teammate and friend,” says Marie Patton, an engineering physics major with an Elite-88 Award, presented to the student athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average in his or her sport at NCAA national championship finals.

Many student athletes mention honing skills in both time management and stress management through their participation in sports. Looking ahead, geological engineering major Bradley Nuse says that the Oredigger swim team “has given me new lifelong friends and potential connections and resources later in life.” And for right now, Mines football player and geological engineering major Zachary Newnam says, “Sports have made college the best time of my life.”

How about learning to make tough choices? Russell Drummond, a civil engineering major, shares this story: “My sophomore year I made nationals for the first time in outdoor track. Unfortunately, outdoor nationals and the civil engineering field session directly conflicted. I didn’t want to postpone taking field session until a later year, so I juggled both. I tuned into classes via a webcam and screen-share while I was at nationals. I didn’t run very well, a common phenomenon for a first-time nationals appearance, but I did very well in my field session, earning an A. I think it was an important experience and a good reminder that I was a student-athlete, not just an athlete. Since then my conflicts have been minor in comparison, and a good balance between school and running has been easy to achieve.”

Russell, who’s been named an All-American and Academic All-American multiple times, says, “I was not going to a school without track and cross country, and the fact that Mines track and cross country are near the top of the nation every year was a huge draw.”

Soccer was the draw for chemical engineering major Megan Woodworth, who has been named First Team All-American, First Team Academic All-American, 2010 and 2011 conference Academic Player of the Year, and Sports Woman of Colorado for her achievements on the soccer field. “I wanted to go to a school where I could be challenged academically as well as have the opportunity to play soccer,” she explains. “Mines was the place.”

The women’s basketball program helped attract Catherine Jimenez and Allie Grazulis to Mines, and so did the knowledge that degrees from Mines would mean a lot to their career aspirations. Chemistry major Catherine wants to apply to medical school. Geophysics major Allie wants to return to her home state of Alaska and work in the oil and gas industry.

Through the years, these student athletes became fans of some well-known sports figures. Oredigger volleyball team member and All-American Jacqueline Stabell, who is pursuing degrees in both mechanical engineering and economics, talks of Mia Hamm. “I grew up playing soccer and always loved her. She is the reason that I became number 9 at age four. I’ve been that number in every sport, ever since.”

Bradley Nuse was impressed by 1996 and 2000 Olympics swimmer Amy Van Dyken. “I remember her, after each race, hugging or shaking hands with all her competition. Now I make a point to attempt to shake hands with all the men I race against.”

Michael Jordan has inspired petroleum engineering major Matthew Brown. He says,“I like Jordan because he was so dominant on a nightly basis. It is one thing to break out and be good for a couple games, but a completely different thing to be so consistent.”  Matthew was named conference Offensive Player of the Week following Mines’ 2012 opening football game, which was also his first career start as quarterback. In the spring, Matthew is a pitcher on the Oredigger baseball team.

Of course, the student athletes have some enthusiastic fans behind them too. Catherine Jimenez recalls her father saying, “I would drive all the way to Pittsburgh and back — even to watch you sit on the bench.”

Named First Team All-Region by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and an All-American, Robert Egeberg, who is working toward an M.S. in civil and environmental engineering, says, “My biggest fan is my Grandpa Sal, or Pop as I call him. He was the one who really got me into baseball. He played for the Yankees organization in his younger days, and he has been giving me tips and instruction since I was nine years old — and even to this day. Unfortunately, he can’t watch me as much anymore since he lives in Arizona, but he always watches my games online and will know all the stats and scores before I even tell him about the game.”

And David Pawelek talks about his parents. “They have always been there every step of the way. Although Mines has been difficult academically, my parents have kept pushing me and encouraging me to continue what I started. I am happy because I will be graduating in December.”