2009 Senior Athlete Awards
Every year, the Saint Mary's College Athletic Department hosts an awards ceremony honoring the senior athletes who have been a part of the Department over the past years. In addition to each senior athlete receiving a watch to commemorate their time spent participating in Belles' Athletics, a select few seniors are recoginzed with special awards, including the Don Miller Belles Spirit Award and the Marvin Wood Outstanding Senior Athlete Award.
Listed are the 2009 honorees. To learn more about the award and read the citation of each award winner, please click on the individual's name.
Belles Varsity Club Appreciation Award - George Efta
Improvement Award - Becca Mason
Sportsmanship Award - Erin Seidelmann
Competitive Spirit Award - Nicole Beier
Mary Fran Meekison Service Award - Alicen Miller
Leadership Award - Caitlin Brodmerkel
Dual Sport Athlete Award - Cathy Kurczak
Academic and Athletic Achievement Award - Katie Rashid
Don Miller Belles Spirit Award - Ashley Fusaro
Marvin Wood Outstanding Senior Athlete Award - Melissa Gerbeth
The Varsity Club Appreciation Award is presented annually to a member of the Saint Mary’s community for extraordinary contribution to the Saint Mary’s Department of Athletics.
“In union there is strength.” This quote is applicable to each of the many facets of a successful team and department. For a department, it means working together to meet the needs of the greater good. For a team, it is the “union” of coaches and players working together for success on and off the arena of competition while having the unwavering support of friends, family, and fans.
Tonight we acknowledge one such loyal fan with the Varsity Club Appreciation Award.
This fan doesn’t have a daughter playing for the Belles. He is married to an alumna and it is through her connection that he was introduced to the athletic department here at Saint Mary’s. It truly makes your day knowing that he isn’t there for a particular player, but just to support all of our athletic programs. That is a rare find! What an impact it makes to our student-athletes to see a fan like George Efta in the stands both at home and at away contests. Not only does he travel, but when we are short-handed, you can find him chasing down soccer balls and stray homeruns. Or when his wife, President Mooney, was confined to a wheelchair while recuperating from surgery, George was wheeling her down the snow covered ramp leading onto the gym floor to make sure that the President would be able to present an award at the start of a basketball game. He is committed. He is the silent member of each team. He is the one who, win or lose, will give you the nod of “great job” or “better luck next time”. It is the pat on the back that our coaches and our players truly appreciate.
To say that this year’s honoree has gone the extra mile would be a slight understatement. Not only has George (and Carol) been a mainstay at nearly every home athletic event, but he has gone more than that figurative “extra mile” to support various teams on the road over the past few seasons. From a weekend trip to Hope College to cheer on the basketball team to a two-and-a-half hour drive on a Monday to Adrian College to be one of a handful of fans at a softball doubleheader. This fan has gone hundreds of extra miles to be one of the most dedicated followers of Saint Mary’s athletics.
Not only does tonight’s honoree support all of the Belles on their respective playing fields, but this person also backs everything that the College stands for. He is a true gift and we are grateful to be able to honor and thank George Efta as the recipient of the 2009 Varsity Club Appreciation Award for his extraordinary dedication and support of Saint Mary’s College Athletics.
The Improvement Award is presented in recognition of significant improvement as a student-athlete over a four-year period of time
The great middle distance runner, Herb Elliott once said, “The important thing is the attitude of the athlete, the desire to get to the top.” This year’s improvement award recognizes a senior, who continued to discover herself and her talents over the past four years.
The Improvement Award is given to the student-athlete who has demonstrated improvement not only in the competitive arena but also as a teammate and student. Our recipient this evening has grown as an individual through the challenges she has encountered, and has emerged as a gracious and determined student-athlete.
As an incoming freshman, our recipient came to Saint Mary’s looking to play volleyball for the Belles. In her first year on the squad, it was necessary for her to learn an entirely new position from what she had played in high school to accommodate the needs of the team. Even though playing time was rare, she worked diligently learning the new skills while balancing the demands of a student-athlete and being a positive force on the court.
However, the following season came with new talent and fewer positions. Unfortunately, she did not make it through cuts. While this may have deterred many others from continuing to pursue collegiate athletics, our award recipient was not a quitter. As Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” She could have easily given up, defeated by the unwelcome cuts, but this young woman knew there was more to achieve and discover about herself.
Determined to come out on top, she pursued a past-time that was full of hope and promise, running. Emotionally charged and ready to go, Becca Mason joined the cross-country team—another big change. Her sophomore season of cross-country was similar to her freshman volleyball season—she displayed the work ethic of a champion and contributed to the positive team dynamics. Without training in the pre-season, it was hard to see much matriculate on the stat sheets her first season.
Upon returning to campus junior year, this runner was ready. She had spent the summer dutifully following the training schedule. As a result, she sliced almost 3 minutes off her 5k time—improving from a 24:15 her first season to a 21:27 junior year. An amazing feat! Throughout her junior season, her involvement in the team developed and she served as a good guide for the large freshmen class.
As a senior, she has done nothing but continue to impress us. She has dug deep to push her body to new limits. With the new challenges of collegiate cross-country, she needed to adapt to the longer 6k race. So adapt she did. Over her three years, she improved her 6k time from a 30:34 sophomore year to a 25:49 senior year, a whopping 1:16 faster per mile!
Becca’s dedication to sport is matched by her dedication to her studies! She carries a cumulative 3.7 GPA as a double Psychology and Spanish major! After graduation, Becca will continue her education in the Spanish Literature graduate program at the University of Notre Dame.
Congratulations, Becca Mason, for being this year's recipient of the Improvement Award in recognition of significant improvement over a career!
The Sportsmanship Award is presented for sportsmanship, fellowship and contribution to the College
The sportsmanship award is presented to the student-athlete who possesses the attitude that embraces both the mission of the college and the MIAA. It recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond being a friendly competitor and has reached out to encourage, support and cheer on her teammates and other athletes. As legendary coach Knute Rockne said, “One athlete practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.”
Sportsmanship is wanting to attend other sporting events or going above and beyond being a team player to your teammates. Putting that into practice takes a true champion. From the first day this athlete stepped into Angela, you could tell the goodness in her heart and the purity in her intentions. As a transfer student sophomore year, she was searching for a better athletic experience than the one she left.
In her first year, she felt the effects of a huge learning curve. As a successful sprinter, running more than a mile, let alone multiple miles for races sounded like a death march. However, she was determined to use her talents and make it a great experience. The changes were initially slow, but she never threw in the towel or let the challenges affect her interactions with her team or coach. Instead, she found her way to Coach Bauter’s office time and time again, putting in the extra effort to discover her potential.
By senior year, Erin Seidelmann had found her niche. An irrefutable leader in practices, she utilized her sprinter abilities and assisted her teammates through the tough track intervals. At races, you’ll find her at the finish—until her last teammate has crossed the line, always shouting words of encouragement to people as they pass and congratulating their hard work. Her performance really took off senior year as she became accustomed to the mileage and the training. Fortunately for her, her best performances probably lie in the future. Despite this, over her career she was able to cut 3 ½ minutes off her 6k and have her best performance the last day she wore a Belles uniform.
Erin’s teammates will undoubtedly remember her for her quotes. In the past few years, before each race, she selected an inspirational quote to give to everyone on the team. The positivity has helped settle many nerves and re-focus wandering pre-race minds. As a coach, it is rewarding to see an athlete reach out to everyone, regardless of the how close they are, their year, or what interests them. Although it may seem small, this gesture of thoughtfulness and support to her teammates has indirectly helped to unify the team. Senior year, these quotes were made into keepsakes, as she and other seniors made the weekly quotes into key chains for everyone to take on trips.
Beyond supporting her teammates, she can also be found donning Saint Mary’s gear on the sidelines of many athletic events. She has played a huge role over the years in supporting her “sister team” in the department. Her thoughtfulness has welcomed teams with decorated locker rooms and plates of cookies. Erin has also helped elevate the morale and light up the atmosphere in Angela on numerous occasions. Erin and her cross country teammates trademark is to paint themselves blue and help to lead fans in cheers and inspire other Belle teams to victory! It takes quite the sports enthusiast - and a bit of craziness - to enter Angela painted blue, but her loyalty is always crystal clear!
She has reached out to not only her peers, but also her coach. Coach Bauters shared that seeing her and three other teammates---numerous times (and in buns!) - during the Chicago Marathon was one of her best running experiences to date. Coach Bauters stated, “They were so excited for me that it renewed my energy and reinforced why I was there. The statement from their card, ‘I can, I will’ ran through my mind and was the confidence I needed to push to the finish.”
You can. You will. You will leave Saint Mary’s magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and a minor in Secondary Education. After graduation, Erin will pursue a high school teaching position within the Chicago area. You Can and you will impact the lives of all those that you meet both in the classroom and on the track.
Congratulations, Erin Seidelmann, for being recognized with the 2009 Sportsmanship Award!
The Competitive Spirit Award is presented in recognition of demonstrated passion and love for their sport through her work ethic, desire to succeed, commitment and dedication.
When the 2008 Belles soccer team was being assembled, there was an uncertainty hanging over a key position on the field. Every sport has its specialty position where versatility only takes a player so far. However, there is always a need for players that can specialize. Goalkeeping is one of those positions in soccer. This individual embodies the Competitive Spirit Award because she turned her services to the soccer program in the fall of her senior season. Having not played soccer since her high school days, there was a tall order in reacquainting herself with the game. From the very beginning of pre-season practices to the conclusion of the season in November, Nicole Beier trained and worked to have herself prepared for every game throughout the season. Many days she could be seen arriving early to training or staying well beyond the conclusion of practices honing her skills. Her efforts, attitude and work ethic did not go unnoticed by her teammates or the coaching staff. Nicole may not have logged the most minutes or started every game; however, her love of sport and competition were apparent by the way she trained and prepared herself day in and day out.
On the basketball court, it seems as though the odds were always against her. One would think that being a 6’2 post player, the odds would be in your favor and one would find success easily. But Nicole Beier never had much luck. If she had any luck at all, it was usually bad luck. Despite that, every time she got knocked down, she got right back up---over and over again.
During her sophomore year, Nicole suffered through nerve damage in her elbow. During her junior year, it was discovered that Nicole has a brain tumor….which is closely being monitored. During her senior year, after overcoming all of this, a foot injury 17 games into the season put a halt to her collegiate athletic career. Our team physician stepped in and said, “Enough is enough”. But, even then....she got one more shot!
What a devastating blow to a kid who was finally having the season she had worked her entire career for. It was a season in which she became the best 6th man in the MIAA – a season in which she led her team in 3 Point shooting percentage (not bad for a post player!). A season in which she dropped 25 points on conference rival, Hope College, who then was ranked #3 in the country, for an SMC victory — the most points any individual would score on Hope all season long. After 17 games, she had no choice but to walk away from the game. Despite this, she never missed a practice or game and she continued to find ways to contribute from the sidelines.
As senior night approached, “House” was able to get permission from both our athletic trainer and our team physician for two more minutes of game time and finished her career by making one last 3 point shot. The conference recognized her as one of the top 12 players by awarding her 2nd team MIAA Honors. What more can you say about a kid who truly never gave up?
Congratulations, Nicole Beier, for being honored with the 2009 Competitive Spirit Award!
The Mary Fran Meekison Service Award is presented for extraordinary service to Saint Mary’s College and the local communities.
Rooted in the mission of our Catholic college is community service. This commitment to service exemplifies the true spirit of our founding Sisters of the Holy Cross. This year the athletic department recognizes a young woman who has embodied a life of service both on campus and throughout the greater community. Her contributions have assisted many populations. She has helped both young and old. She has assisted those without resources as well as those with abundance; and finally, she has served those facing sickness along with healthy competitors.
On campus she has been the driving force behind the reinstatement of the Saint Mary’s Circle K organization. She had held multiple leadership positions within the Club, including President Emerita this year. In these roles, she has initiated many projects like Pennies for Troops, Senior Citizen Prom, Highway Clean-up, and has made countless trips to the convent to visit with the sisters. Since her involvement, Circle K has more than doubled in size, and received a 3rd place Growth Enhancement Award for Circle K International in 2008.
She has fired up Saint Mary’s students, by playing an influential role in the foundation of our Dance Marathon chapter on campus, sitting on the Morale Committee as well as being the Morale Chair and Treasurer over the past four years. Under her administration, Dance Marathon has raised over $150,000 for Riley’s Children Hospital. The outpouring of generosity earned the organization national recognition.
Aside from these larger, ongoing responsibilities, this student-athlete has found a way to continually serve within the South Bend and extended communities. Her name is all too familiar with the children that frequent the Center for the Homeless, as she volunteers her time to organize children’s activities every Wednesday night. Local homeowners have benefitted from her generosity by rebuilding their homes at the annual “Rebuilding Together” events. Other communities have been touched by her caring nature as she traveled to Oregon to help clean their parks, as well as trips to West Virginia and Tennessee to rebuild homes for those living in poverty.
Her service-orientated nature is guided by her strong faith, which helps her lead others in their own self-discovery. For the past three years she has been a leader at the four day Christian Awakening Senior Retreat, helping young people to develop and deepen their faith. She has extended this calling as a Mentor in Faith for high school students in the summer through the Notre Dame Vision program.
Finally, this senior is recognized tonight because she was an outstanding contributor to the cross-country program. As a two year captain, Alicen Miller has embraced the responsibility of mentoring her teammates and improving the overall quality of the program. The contributions she has made to her team and coach are immeasurable. As Herman Melville once said, “We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to use as results.”
There is no doubt that all the kindness she has poured out to others will reap a just return. This May, she will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, graduating with a 3.6 GPA. She will continue her mission to serve others as she works with the Notre Dame Vision program this summer and pursues a Chemistry research position.
Congratulations, Alicen Miller, for being awarded this year's Mary Fran Meekison Service Award for extraordinary service to Saint Mary’s College and local communities!
The Leadership Award is presented to the senior-athlete who has demonstrated excellence in leadership.
It has often been said that the strength of a team is reflective of the strength of its leaders. Words cannot begin to describe the impact this woman’s leadership has had on Saint Mary’s during the past four years. Her words and actions have been a source of guidance and support for her teammates, playing an integral role in the team’s success.
Four years ago, this athlete came to Saint Mary’s eager, yet tentative. Being away from home was daunting, but she found comfort in joining the cross-country team. Throughout the first two years, she observed those ahead of her and learned from their contributions what it took to be a leader on the team while she also made steady improvement on the course.
As a junior, she was elected captain. This honor, voted on by her peers, was repeated her senior year as it was evident she possessed the skills to lead the team to success. Since then, she has evolved into one of the best leaders the cross-country program has seen. As a captain, she was able to make workouts fun, help teammates smile when they had a rough race, demonstrate her compassion towards others through team service events and accept the responsibility to assist her coach.
While she has always been a vocal leader on the team, in the past two years, her actions also provided direction for the team. With a sense of purpose, she pushed herself to achieve her personal goals, and hit a milestone on the course her junior year. Going into the race at Manchester, she had a PR of 21:24, which was shattered when she ran a 20:35 that day. It was a major turning point in Caitlin Brodmerkel’s athletic career. She carried the newfound confidence and courage back to how she led the team. In her senior season, Caitlin scored for the Belles at every meet and continually improved her times. Not only did she lead her team at races, but she also taught her fellow Belles how to be leaders for the future. At practices, she cultivated the unity of the team by having her teammates take turns leading their workouts. This action provided them with the opportunity to learn how to assist one another while also giving them all a sense of responsibility for the group's performance. She has made an enormous impact on the team’s cohesion, support and ability to improve together.
Caitlin’s excellence in leadership extends beyond the scope of leading her teammates through workouts or on the course. T.S. Eliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” Caitlin has stretched her wings and opened her eyes. I’m sure at times this has come at the cost of her parent’s sanity. Any parent would be worried sick to see their daughter venture off to Uganda for 10 weeks, spending her time aiding those with malaria in a health clinic. Caitlin’s eyes have witnessed the devastation of disease and lack of resources, but she was welcomed as a vision of hope. Bringing medical assistance, health education and a loving smile, she undoubtedly eased the distress of those who have so much to worry about. Despite being the only white woman in an impoverished country where energy is a gift, she did not forget her dedication to the cross country program! She went out running every day, usually with the school children chasing after her barefoot. Back to the words of T.S. Eliot, Caitlin definitely risked going too far and, the beauty is, she tested her limits and found that she can go even further!
In her four years here, Caitlin has been involved in numerous programs and activities - from Circle K and Dance Marathon to the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). She has spent several breaks on service trips to Kentucky and Tennessee, and makes a point to attend and to cheer on all of her fellow Saint Mary’s athletes.
She will graduate from Saint Mary’s summa cum laude with a 3.88 GPA as a Nursing Major and Biology minor. She is a Presidential Merit Scholar, has been on the Dean’s list and MIAA Academic Honor Roll all four years. This summer, she will be working as a nurse at St. Francis Hospital before beginning her Master’s degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Indianapolis. The sky is the limit for this woman!
Conratulations to the 2009 Excellence in Leadership Award winner, Caitlin Brodmerkel!
The Dual Sport Athlete Award is presented for outstanding achievement in more than one varsity sport
It takes a truly dedicated person to become a collegiate athlete. The challenge of juggling rigorous academics, practices, games, family time, and social life are incredibly demanding. Every now and then, we have a student-athlete that is driven enough to commit to two sports during her collegiate career. Tonight’s honoree has done just that!
Although this student-athlete was probably a more seasoned player in the sport of softball, her athleticism earned her a strong playing role on the volleyball court. She started nearly every game for the Belles as a first year player! With steady improvement throughout the season, she finished her first year by leading the team in blocks per game and was also one of the top attackers on the team. Her desire to improve her volleyball skills held her to focus strictly on the sport of volleyball throughout her entire first year at Saint Mary’s.
Her sophomore year was another story. Cathy Kurczak saw the light – possibly because she turned in her glasses for contacts! Her sophomore year proved to be a break out year for Cathy on the volleyball court as she more than tripled her total kills from the previous season while also leading the team in attack percentage. She was voted by her teammates as the Most Improved Player on the squad that year. After volleyball season, she immediately went into training for the softball team as she was determined to compete for the Belles on the diamond as well!
Cathy came in after taking more than a year off from softball and started every game. She became an outfielder although she had been an infielder most of her life and was nearly perfect committing only two errors all season. Her junior year, she was moved back into the infield and was truly able to show her amazing softball talent. She had the third highest batting average on the team with a .341 and achieved 2nd Team All-MIAA honors thanks to her errorless play at second base. She is a threat at the plate, tricking the defense into questioning whether she is going to bunt for a hit, or crush a double to the right center fence. Cathy also hit her first fence clearing homerun this season against Goshen College in the first home doubleheader of the season. Cathy currently has a career batting average of .304 and has helped bring the softball program to the forefront of the MIAA.
Cathy finished out her volleyball career at Saint Mary's College by emerging as a positive team leader for the Belles. Her fun loving nature draws her teammates together on the court. She is a team builder that is always one of the first to pick up a teammate in need of a lift. Over a four year period, Cathy has established herself as one of the strongest attackers in the MIAA. This past season, Cathy earned 2nd Team All-MIAA honors while also being voted by her teammates as the Impact Player of the Year.
In her final season playing softball, Cathy has been a leader on the field. She has stepped outside of her comfort zone and learned to be more vocal. She has been one of the most poised players on the team, bouncing back from an error or a strikeout with a great play in the field and a double in her next at-bat. She is a model player for mental toughness and her teammates can learn a lot from her actions. She has always shown her passion for her sport and the fun a player can have while on the field.
Congratulations, Cathy Kurczak, for being honored with this year's Dual Sport Student-Athlete Award!
The Academic and Athletic Achievement Award is presented for outstanding academic and athletic achievement and future promise as a Saint Mary’s graduate.
This year’s recipient is incredibly driven in all phases of her life. There isn’t much of an off-season for this dedicated student-athlete. Not only does she balance the demands of a biology major, she juggles the 33 weeks she is in season and has excelled while maintaining a 3.67 GPA and magna cum laude honors upon graduation in May.
Katie Rashid has been a four year member and three year starter for the Belles Basketball Team. She has helped guide this program to the top over the years - coming off the most successful season in school history and claiming first time victories over Calvin and Hope since SMC joined the MIAA. After the very last game of the season, Katie took no time before heading into softball. Last year, she was able to squeeze in one day of practice before heading down to Florida with the softball team for their spring games. This year, she had 5 days…..how generous!
During her softball career, Katie has started in nearly every game during her four years and is one of only two softball players in school history to, at this writing, win close to 100 games as a player. She has been nearly perfect at first base with only 12 errors in 918 chances giving her a .987 career fielding percentage. She has led the team to three conference tournaments. As a captain this season, Katie has become a respected leader and truly shows how much she loves her sport by leaving everything on the field each and every practice and game. Her effort is unparalleled and something to strive for.
More importantly, Katie has also thrived in the classroom. She entered SMC as a Presidential Scholar and has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester. She has been recognized by the MIAA Conference Honor Roll each season for both basketball and softball. In addition, Katie is a NFCA Academic All-American three years in a row.
Katie also spends time being an active member of the following SMC organizations: Biology Club, Future Women Doctor’s Club, Student Athlete Advisory Club and, Young Executives Club.
When Katie is not in class or some type of practice, she has found time to volunteer her services. She helps out at the Hope Rescue Mission in South Bend, decorates the Convent with other athletes on campus for various holidays, has helped local elementary schools in reading and physical education classes, and joined campus wide efforts to raise awareness for both Breast Cancer and Leukemia.
Congratulations, Katie Rashid, for being recognized as this year's Academic and Athletic Achievement Award winner!
The Don Miller Belles Spirit Award is presented to the person who best exemplifies the winning spirit of the College’s athletic program.
This award was renamed last year for Don Miller, longtime professor and assistant softball coach here at Saint Mary’s. Don’s memory has been kept alive by the math department as well as the softball team, so it is only fitting that this award be given to a softball player who truly shows passion for her sport in a way that would make Don proud.
This person has been a presence in the Athletic Department since the day she arrived four years ago. She has been a four-year starter for the softball team as well as a member of the SAAC and a student athletic trainer.
Ashley Fusaro has an amazing personality. She can win anyone over and has made connections with not only every team and coach, but many groups on campus. She has been a two-year captain of the softball team and has led her team to incredible success over her four years. In the 2005 season, the softball team had a total of seven wins. Ashley arrived in the 2006 season and led her team to 28 wins, the most in school history. She will finish her career with at least 98 wins and a current .700 winning percentage. She holds the single season homerun record with seven homeruns her sophomore year and is one homerun away from tying the career homerun record. She has a lifetime batting average of .327 and has started 133 games, most in the catching position. She has never hit below .300 in a season and with her .396 average currently, has the potential of garnering All-Region honors this May.
Besides Ashley’s fantastic softball accolades, she brings strong leadership and positive energy to the program and the Athletic Department. She has supported every team on campus and has truly embraced the spirit of Saint Mary’s. She can be heard cheering on every team and always places others before her. She is a true team player and always gives 100% at practices and games. She stands out wherever she goes. Whether she’s dressed up as Dino on Halloween, or doing the ‘Single Ladies’ dance while warming up a pitcher, she keeps softball fun and has left with more passion for her sport than she came with four years ago.
Softball coach, Erin Sullivan, has this to say about Ashley:
“Ashley has matured so much over her four years, both on and off the field. She came in to Saint Mary’s with so much energy and excitement and I have been able to build my program around that positive attitude. She has made my job easy and I am a better person because of her. Only after I thought about how much she does during practices and games have I realized how much more I will have to do next year! I feel honored to have had the privilege to coach her.”
She will be missed on the softball field and in her second home, the Angela Athletic Facility. She epitomizes what a Saint Mary’s student-athlete should be and has given her teammates something to be proud of.
Congratulations, Ashley Fusaro, for being recognzied as the 2009 Don Miller Belles Spirit Award winner!
The Marvin Wood Outstanding Senior Athlete Award is presented to the outstanding senior athlete.
In 2000, the athletic department named the Outstanding Senior Athlete Award in honor of Coach Marvin Wood. Coach Wood was an outstanding former basketball coach who finished out his career at Saint Mary’s College. His commitment, passion, and love for his athletes through the years inspired the nationally acclaimed movie Hoosiers, which highlighted the Cinderella basketball success story early in his coaching career. Coach Marvin Wood’s former athletes describe him as a beautiful person inside and out. They say his passion, faith, dedication and commitment to his players made their athletic experience at Saint Mary’s truly fulfilling and a lifelong treasure for each of them. It is with these thoughts in mind that we recognize the outstanding senior athlete tonight with the award that honors Coach Wood and all that he stood for.
Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint a particular reason or cause for a program to go from a pushover to a real contender. At other times, a team’s rise can be seen in the rise to prominence by an individual effort from a talented team member. This year’s honoree is one such catalyst that has propelled her team into a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.
School records always seem to be used as a benchmark to measure an individual’s success over the years. Any athlete would consider themselves blessed to be able to set a new standard of excellence with their own name atop the list of all-time bests. To have one’s name among the top five all-time best career performances in five different categories, which included breaking a 13 year old school record, unquestionably puts this year’s Marvin Wood Outstanding Senior Athlete among the top to ever compete for the Belles in her sport.
It is one thing to earn recognition on the institutional level among one’s fellow teammates, coaches, and Saint Mary’s peers. It is quite another to find one’s self on the radar of coaches, athletes, and administrators on a conference level. Our honoree earned the figurative target on her back from the first season she suited up for the Belles when she seemingly came out of nowhere to capture the College’s first individual MIAA Championship in what would be her marquee event by more than nine seconds. A year later, Melissa Gerbeth would become the first Belle ever to repeat as an MIAA Individual Champion in the 1,650 by nearly 10 seconds. This performance also earned her a NCAA B Cut time and back-to-back 1st Team All-MIAA recognition. Additionally, she was recognized by her coaches and team at the conclusion of both of those seasons as the Most Valuable Swimmer of the program.
Moreover, she has risen to the occasion each year at the MIAA Swimming and Diving Championships as she has scored in the top eight swimmers of all of the teams in the conference in all of her events each year she has competed for the Belles, a feat never before accomplished.
Four years is a short time to have such an impact on a team and program, so to have accomplished the things as this young woman has done in just three seasons is that much more remarkable.
Her impact on the Saint Mary’s and South Bend community has reached beyond the pool. From her first season with the team, she was a representative of her team on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, helping to organize and carry out various community service projects. At the beginning of the second semester of her junior year, Melissa was named as the President of the Committee, providing an opportunity for her to serve as a liaison between student-athletes and the administration of the Athletic Department and College. She has also volunteered for the South Bend School Corporation while simultaneously gaining field experience at various elementary schools in the area.
Congratulations, Melissa Gerbeth, for being recognized with the 2009 Marvin Wood Outstanding Senior Athlete Award!