ORONO — Even though some student-athletes enroll at the University of Maine in the hope of one day playing their sport professionally, most do not achieve that goal.
As time progresses, the majority come to realize that their academic degree holds the key to their future in the working world.
UMaine student-athletes took that concept to heart again during 2010. On Sunday, the athletic department honored 239 student-athletes with its Scholar-Athlete and Rising Star awards.
At the top of the class among UMaine student-athletes were Corey Conner and Jeremy Bender, who were presented with the “M” Club Dean Smith Awards given to those who exhibit outstanding academic and athletic achievement along with citizenship and community service.
Conner, a junior from Townsend, Mass., is a nursing major who also serves on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The cross country and track star recently broke the school record in the 5,000 meters with a time of 16 minutes, 6.18 seconds, which is among the top times in the world this year.
Bender is a senior from St. Paul, Minn., who is majoring in marine science. He is a member of the Senior Skulls honor society and also serves on the SAAC. Bender is a captain of the Black Bears swimming and diving team and owns the school record of 4:07.56 in the 400 individual medley. The Smith Award recipients and the other Student-Athlete winners were recognized Sunday during halftime of the UMaine-Maryland Baltimore County men’s basketball game at Alfond Arena. With more than 1,700 fans on hand for the game, it was a rare opportunity, for some, to be seen by a large crowd.
“I think it’s good for them to be seen by the public, especially for those sports that are less fan-based,” said Ann Maxim, UMaine’s director of academic support services for student-athletes.
“For some this (was) the biggest crowd that they’ll be in front of, an audience of people who can see the athlete without the uniform on,” she added.
This marks the 22nd year UMaine has honored its best student-athletes as Scholar-Athletes. To earn the award, a student must earn a 3.0 or higher grade point average during each of the previous two semesters and/or have maintained a 3.0 or better cumulative GPA.
There were 174 Scholar-Athletes and 65 Rising Stars, student-athletes who earned a 3.0 or better during their first semester at UMaine. Those honorees represent more than half of all the student-athletes at UMaine.
“It’s nice that we’ve kept something going this long, a tradition of honoring student-athletes,” said Maxim, who explained that the athletes’ combined GPA is consistently higher than that of the general UMaine student body.
“All the women’s team are over a 3.0 GPA,” she added.
Scholar-Athletes are presented with a medallion in recognition of their achievements. First-year winners get a bronze, second-year recipients earn a silver and those who have met the standard three or four years are given gold medallions.
Among the two-time winners of the gold medal were Christopher Harmon (cross country, track) of Scarborough, political science; Joseph Martin (baseball) of Portland, communication; Cayleigh Montano (softball), nursing/Spanish; and Daniel Toby Poirier (track) of Lewiston, biology.
“I think a lot of students compete to make sure that they’re honored again every year,” Maxim said.
UMaine also presented its fourth annual “Team Maine,” a group of student-athletes who achieved the highest grade point averages on their respective teams during 2010.
Those achievers are: Samantha Baranowski (women’s basketball), international affairs; Kourtney Bonsey (cross country, track), secondary education; Krislyn Hyatt (cross country, track), kinesiology and physical education-exercise science; Cassandra Mendonca (field hockey), KPE-exercise science; Ashley Norum (women’s ice hockey), biology; Hannah Breton (soccer), civil engineering; Dana Wright (swimming), marine science; Jonathan Balentina (baseball), civil engineering;
Also, Andrew Rogers (basketball), KPE-teaching and coaching; Christopher Harmon (cross country, track), political science; Paul Kelley (track), ecology, environmental sciences; Mark Masterson (football), graduate school; Jeff Dimmen (hockey), finance; Eric DeLuca (swimming), KPE-exercise science; and Alex St. Pierre (cheering), communication sciences and disorders/child development.
The “M” Club also recognized several individuals for their service to UMaine athletics by handing out its Honorary “M” Club Awards.
That group included Susan Alfond and former Gov. John Baldacci, both of whom have played critical roles in the Memorial Gymnasium renovation fundraising project, along with Ranee Dow, Duane Hall, Peter Reid and Peter Weatherbee.