A spotlight story on the student-athletes of Missouri Baptist University who received Academic All-American honors in 2014.
Attempting to schedule classes, practices, work and time to study is a difficult task in and of itself.
While many have accomplished this, few have excelled at it, and for those who have, Academic All-American status was awarded to them at this year’s MBU Hall of Fame Banquet.
“I think it’s an outstanding achievement for these students to take collegiate level courses and to be a standout in a varsity level sport. The time and effort that it takes for someone to practice and to sit in a classroom is very difficult,” said Dr. Tom Smith, athletic director at Missouri Baptist University.
There were 39 student-athletes from MBU who earned Academic All-American honors in the 2013-14 season.
To receive this honor at Missouri Baptist University, the student-athlete must must have at least a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and be active in varsity athletics.
Of the 39 honorees, the nine featured upperclassmen of 2014 interviewed for this profile were: Ryan Krupp, Donyelle Demarse, Katie Alexander, Drew Morris, Chad Smith, Haley Elders, Paul Hrvol, Samuel Mauer and Samantha Mueller.
These student-athletes have shown an outstanding work ethic in the classroom as well as in their respective sport.
We took the time to talk to these upperclassmen and allow them to truly explain in long-form quotations what it takes to succeed in both sports and academics at MBU, starting with a simple question: How did you do it?
“For me, it was time management. I had to schedule myself out for the things I know I needed to do. My planner was my best friend throughout the entire year,” said Donyelle Demarse, a senior elementary education major who plays softball. “Also, the softball team had high expectations for us academically. I wanted to do everything I could to meet the coaches’ expectations.
“Focusing on my on my future also helped encourage me to do my best in school. I wanted to stand out beyond all the others so that future employers can see how hard I worked in school.”
MBU believes in having a big hand in helping its students grow not only as students, but as individuals.
“I want our athletic department to not only be proud as coaches of strong, talented athletes, but of smart men and women with bright futures outside of athletics,” said Smith.
Samantha Mueller, a senior business administration major who plays on the golf team, embodies this vision of life beyond the collegiate golf course.
“I try my best to put school first, which is hard to do with golf. I know grades must come first. I try really hard to pay attention in class and get the most out of everything the professor is teaching. I focus really hard on the important things at hand,” Mueller said. “I think I set a good example for others in my class and others on campus by with my work ethic. I stay in on the weekends and read books rather than going out and looking for a party.
“I am trying my best to get ready for the working world and the future. The harder I work in school, the better my future will be.”
The desire to take academics and athletics to the next level is what it takes to be an Academic All-American. For many, that desire is what fuels the need to sacrifice.
“I was in the library non-stop. I am a biology major, so my classes were very hard. I thought my organic chemistry class was going to be the death of me. I spent, on average, five hours a day on homework and studying,” said Paul Hrvol, a senior biology major who plays baseball. “It was a challenge to juggle baseball practice and these classes, but I knew my grades had to come first, so that’s what I focused on.
“I think the amount of effort I put into my school separates me apart from all other student-athletes. After all, I am a student-athlete. Student first. There is a slim chance I will take my baseball to the professional level, but I will need to find a job. I focused more on school because I know that is what will set my future.”
Smith firmly agrees: “They are here to go to school first.”
Most often, these athletes find themselves in situations where they are not only leading as students, but as teammates as well.
“Personally, I had to be a leader and example for the rest of my team. I spent a lot of time studying and practicing. I made them top priorities and did whatever it took to get them done. It took a lot of determination and effort,” said Katie Alexander, a senior physical education major and health science minor who plays softball. “It took a lot of hard work. I did it for myself so it really means a lot to receive the Academic All-American honor. The passion I have for my sport and my grades separates me apart from the others.
“I want to make a good career of teaching and coaching. College is just a stepping stone that is going to help me get my future started. I have a lot of drive to succeed on the field and I know I cannot make that happen without having the drive in the classroom.”
Athletes often find their way onto a college team due to innate athleticism, but the commitment to the classroom may be something that takes more time and effort than ingraining athletic fundamentals.
“It took a lot of commitment to my grades to achieve this honor. It was not difficult for me to work hard on the field, but it took a lot for me to work hard in the classroom,” said Ryan Krupp, a senior business administration major who plays men’s soccer. “That commitment normally goes overlooked. Some people think that if you do a good job you’ll get by, but to achieve Academic All-American it takes a lot more than just a good job. It takes leadership and the willingness to set an example for your teammates.
“Everyone has their different ways of doing what they do. I wanted to do a good job, but I also wanted to take that next step to be the best. You have to work just as hard in the classroom as you do on the field.”
Some were made better by self-motivation, while some had daily encouragement through their family to reach their full potential.
“My family taught me how to work hard for what I have. They have pushed me to do the best I can do. It took a lot of work. I had to learn to balance out my life,” said Drew Morris, a senior sports management major who plays men’s tennis. “I learned to prioritize around the things that I know need to get done. The people around me have helped me set myself apart from other student-athletes at MoBap.
“My teammates have pushed me to get the best grades and hold me accountable. We all push each other to get the best grades and through that I have stood out among other athletes at Missouri Baptist University.”
The drive to become successful might be as simple as time management for those who can find the time to manage it.
“I went to class and did my work; bided my time. I did not get overwhelmed. I maintained a healthy balance between academics, athletics and social life and it paid off in the end,” said Sam Mauer, a junior marketing major who plays golf. “I did not have to sacrifice anything in achieving the honor of Academic All-American, I just had to make sure that I organized myself in a way that I could get all of my obligations done and still enjoy the college life.
“Even though I spend a lot of time practicing my golf, I put my school first. I made my grades top priority and that really showed in the end.”
There’s a sense of maturity in knowing what will last, and what is temporary. It can fuel a tough sacrifice, but for those who see it this way, it is simply viewed as getting done what needs to be done.
“Being an Academic All-American took me a lot of time management, especially with basketball being all year around. Getting my work done first was my top priority,” said Chad Smith, a senior exercise science major who plays on the basketball team. “My games were always on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I really focused on getting my work done throughout the day so I did not have to worry about it after practice.
“Being a student-athlete is big deal, but being a student is more important. I know that my education will take me a lot farther than my athletics will in the future. My determination and dedication to my grades is what separates me apart from the other student-athletes. I put my all into my grades and I know it’s going to pay off.”
Smith added that athletics correspond to MBU’s higher calling.
“We view intercollegiate athletics as a ministry. We want to build character and have an influence in the growth of their faith while they are enrolled in school at MBU, that is the most important thing,” said Smith.
And at the end of the day, the key to success is never cutting corners, never giving less than our all.
“For me, I gave 100 percent in everything I did. Whether it was on the basketball court or in the classroom it was 100 percent. Everything I did, I did as if it was for the Lord,” said Haley Elders, a senior elementary education graduate who played women’s basketball. “I think my work ethic separated me from the other athletes. I wanted to be a leader to my other teammates and I wanted to be the best.
“I wanted to separate myself apart from the others. I have always gotten good grades, so that wasn’t the hard part. I put a lot of effort into everything I do. I never had just one basketball practice. When practice was over, I stayed late and kept working. I did the same in the classroom, too. I think that is what it takes to be an Academic All-American.”
The other Academic All-Americans of 2014 who were not named in this story were:
Jan-Henry Jordaan, Ryan Rerich, Ranell King, Ryan Arnold, Alejandro Chavez, Nicholas Christie, David Lee, Almir Halikanovic, Megan Huffman, Kimberly Froidl, Taylor Hosna ,Kirsten Howard, Danielle Pfyl, Joseph Stropp, Vincenzo Fresquez, Juan Paz, Corey Pitchford, Morgan Truitt, Conner Stevenson, Ian Furey, Sheena Payton, Nicole Zeviever, Amadou Cisse, Kevin Knight, Katie Switzer, Nika Juricic, Shelby Mund, Haley Greuber and Lindsey Kuehnel.
“They deserve to be acknowledged for the commitment to success that they’ve shown. We believe that intercollegiate athletics is an extension to an education, not the full reason they are here,” said Smith.
From what the honorees have expressed, it seems the recipe for Academic All-American success is hard work and determination in the classroom, on the field and in the everyday parts of college life.
It takes stepping up as a leader and managing your time effectively so that school and practice do not get overwhelming.
All student-athletes around the country can benefit from hearing what these Academic All-Americans have said. Success is not something that comes easily, but can be obtained by anyone. Work hard in the classroom, because your education is your ticket to a bright future.