Alexandria Mansfield, our lead news writer, spoke to IUP track and cross country coach Joey Zins, volleyball coach Scott Pennewill and softball coach Bill Graham about some of their hardest-working athletes:
Alex Hampel (senior, biology and nursing), track and cross country
“Alex is a three-time Champion Scholar,” Zins said.
“The award is handed out each year to the student-athlete competing at that sports conference championship with the highest overall grade point average.
“He’s a dual major in biology and nursing. He runs higher mileage than anyone else on the team, and made the All-PSAC team for the second consecutive year this fall.”
Hampel also addressed his strengths.
“I think I have always considered time management as one of my best qualities,” he said.
“Life really is about balance and I’ve become pretty good at this. When it is time for me to do schoolwork, I focus on that, but when it’s time for me to practice or compete, I focus solely on that. This way I can always do my best.”
“I plan to continue competing after graduation. I swam three years in college in addition to the three years of running I have done here at IUP. That sets me up pretty well to get serious in triathlons.
“I have really lofty goals, but I am aiming to get sponsored as a marathon runner, and I would love to qualify for Olympic trials in distance marathon. After that, I am definitely going to pursue Ironman triathlons.
“It all sounds crazy, but competing is a big part of my life. I couldn’t imagine not pushing my body as far as it can go. That’s the beauty of distance sports.”
Kaitlyn Palmer (junior, biology/pre-med), volleyball
“While most of our athletes are very hard-working on the court,” Pennewill said. “Palmer is truly the kind of student-athlete that every program would want.
“Kaitlyn is an extremely hard-working athlete and has so many leadership roles within the university. I know the high brass in administration here at IUP are very impressed.”
Palmer is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the secretary of IUP’s American Medical Student Association. She’s also served as one of the captains of the volleyball team since the spring of her sophomore year.
Additionally, she serves as a member of the President’s Athletic Advisory Committee and the Athletic Gender Equity Committee.
“Academics and volleyball are my top priorities,” Palmer said. “When you add a job, research, volunteer activities, clubs and meetings on top of that, it’s hard to find time to do everything while still maintaining your personal health and getting enough sleep to perform well in your sport.
“I was honored to be voted captain by my teammates, especially as a sophomore.”
Palmer has also been a PSAC scholar-athlete for the past two seasons.
“As a student, my biggest accomplishments have been maintaining a 4.0 GPA and earning Dean’s List every semester.
“In addition, being a student-athlete has enabled me to network and connect with people and provided me with opportunities to serve on committees and attend conferences that will prepare me for my future.
“After I finish my undergraduate degree, I’m planning on attending medical school. And I would love to continue to be involved in athletics if time allows.”
Amanda Spindler (junior, education), softball
“[Spindler] did very well as a freshman pitcher, winning 12 games, with a grand slam thrown in offensively,” Graham said.
“Last year she had a back injury and wasn’t able to participate at 100 percent. She never complained and did everything we asked of her.
“She has rehabbed for so long now and done so much to get better, and she is in great shape pitching and hitting again. It has been a big recovery for her, and she will contribute a lot to this team.
“I spend a lot of time on my work,” Spindler said. “A lot of the time it’s just so frustrating and you just want to give up but can’t.”
Riva Walker (senior, pre-dental), cross country
“Riva played one of the two lead roles in the play ‘I and You’ which was put on by the Theater-by-the-Grove this fall during the middle of the cross country season,” Zins said.
“In addition to taking a full load of classes and being a member of the cross country team, Riva spent several nights per week at rehearsal and other countless hours memorizing her lines.
“Riva has been a consistent presence in our top four during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.”
“I started by helping out with scenic design. Last year I was in ‘The Temptress’ over the summer, and this year I was in ‘I and You,’” Walker said.
“This year was the hardest because it was during the semester. I know things suffered because of that. I tried my best, but I couldn’t put as much effort into running and school.
“I think [being in the top four] is more of an encouragement. I have a very different view on running. I just run the best I can for that day and I just kind of encourage everyone.
“I don’t think I’m in the top four because I’m better than anyone else. It just kind of happens.”
Becky Wilson (senior, nursing), track and cross country
“She loves running on hills more than anyone else on the women’s team because she knows that will help her become a stronger runner,” Zins said.
“Becky is a 10k specialist on the track, which is arguably the toughest, most grueling event in all of track and field.”
“I have endurance more than speed so I started [10k] because I thought I’d be good at it,” Wilson said. “It’s more hard work than natural talent.”
“She had to drive to clinical in DuBois twice a week during our season, and she also works at Commonplace 15 or more hours every week in addition to all of the demands of being a student-athlete,” Zins said.
“My coach has been so helpful with working with my schedule,” Wilson said. “As long as I get mileage in on my own, it’s fine. It’s more of a self-driven sport.”