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WWU sports teams talk about being a part of the all-academic teams and what education means to them

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14 players from the Western Washington Women’s Softball program were selected to the GNAC All-Academic Team. These are the most selections the program has ever had. // Photo courtesy of Jeff Evans

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference all-academic team named 31 athletes from Western Washington University, including students on womens’ rowing, golf and softball. 

All three teams had multiple players selected to the conference by maintaining a 3.20 GPA or above throughout the season.

John Fuchs, the head coach of Western’s rowing team, said maintaining a perfect balance of school and athletics is of paramount importance.

“My team knows they’re on their own when it comes to schooling, and most of them prioritize school and then focus on row[ing] after,” Fuchs said. 

Ten players chosen for the conference were ranked second among the four women’s rowing programs after only becoming an affiliated conference sport in 2020. 

Western’s 10 selections were also out of a possible 14 team members that are currently active. This included second-year rower Clarice Ruhlin-Hicks who led all academic honorees with a perfect 4.00 GPA while pursuing a degree in political science. 

The softball team also set a program record with 14 selections to the all-academic team. This was second ranked among conference schools, and smashed the record of 10 selections in 2020. 

Out of the 14 selections, six of those players received their third all-academic award during their career at Western. The university now has 13 players in program history who have earned three all-academic awards. 

Fourth-year student Mackenzie Palmer and third-year student Tatum Dow held the highest cumulative GPA, with Palmer achieving a 3.86 GPA and Dow with a 3.90 GPA, respectively. 

The men’s golf team set a program record as well, with four selections to the all-academic team. Third-year student Austin Darnell, first-year student Nick Lasko, and first-year student Cody Oakes were among those selected who retained a 3.25 GPA or higher.

The final selection for men’s golf was three-time Golfer of the Week award winner, third-year student Aidan Thain. 

Thain becomes the fifth student-athlete in program history to earn multiple conference academic awards in a career. Thain has a 3.31 GPA while pursuing a degree in business administration. 

The women’s golf team adds another three selections to the all-academic team. First-year student Sophia Schmidt, second-year student Sarah Shea and first-year student Elise Sumner were the selected individuals. 

Maintaining a blend of school and golf has always been important for Sumner. 

“In regards to school and golf, I truly try to balance both. I am truly grateful for all that golf has given me in regards to opportunities and connections,” Sumner said. “However, I am realistic in the fact that once I graduate, my academics are where it matters. To put it in other words, I am constantly pushing myself to be the best I can be as a student-athlete.”

On top of maintaining a 3.20 GPA to make the all-academic team, Sumner was named the Player of the Year. 

“Earning this award means a great deal to me, as I was able to see the effects of all the work I have put in,” Sumner said. “I was most definitely not expecting to receive the Player of the Year award. I know that each player in the GNAC works hard, and any player could have earned this award.” 

Western’s Director of Golf, Luke Bennett, was named Coach of the Year. Bennett spoke highly of Sumner and her dedication to the sport. 

“Elise was just very consistent and rock-solid all season,” Bennett said. “She played solid golf all season — from start to finish — and was very deserving of the Player of the Year honor.”

Western athletics broke many program records this spring, with three different teams presenting the most players ever to be named to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference all-academic team.

Lucas Bohannon is a third-year visual journalism student and reporter for The Front. His section is sports and Esports-related news. His writing has appeared in the Current for Green River College and his Twitter is @Kingg_Luke.


Lucas Bohannon

Lucas Bohannon is a third-year visual journalism student and reporter for The Front. His section is sports and Esports-related news. His writing has appeared in the Current for Green River College and his Twitter is @Kingg_Luke. 


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