Fort Lewis College student athletes are gearing up for the new seasons ahead.
Even though spring semester has just begun, student athletes who participate in lacrosse, track and field, and softball have been preparing for this semester since fall. And for seniors about to embark on their final seasons as college athletes, it’s a time of reflection.
Passing the Torch
The women’s lacrosse team begins their season in March. Coached by Sean Claussen, they’re looking to improve upon their 7-7 record from last season.
The team is in a rebuilding year, as eight new freshman join the squad. It’s been difficult to tell where the team is at at times, said senior Aitana Rivera.
A lot of the uncertainty of how the team might perform this year comes from the fact that the team hasn’t seen a playing field since their fall season, Rivera said.
As spring sports roll into their season, it is hard to utilize the fields because of the snow. The team has had to practice in Whalen Gymnasium. Practicing inside for an extended amount of time gives the teams less room to work, leaving certain areas of their game untouched until they hit the field for their first games.
Despite the field situation, the team is excited to see what their hard work cultivates.
“I’m excited to see the connections we have built come together on the field,” said Allena “Boogie” Wolfblack, a senior on the team.
Rivera and Wolfblack are the only two seniors on the team. Each brings a unique style and play to the field, Claussen said.
“You get a player like Boogie and you are getting a passionate player who put her teammates first,” Claussen said.
Being a student athlete has taught Wolfblack a variety of things, including time management and decision making skills. It has also challenged her in the aspects of trying to find time to work, make money and stay connected to the important people in her life, she said.
On top of being a student, adding a demanding athletics schedule can overtake a student’s life completely. With practices and weights everyday or every other day, it is difficult to find time to stay connected back home.
Wolfblack won’t be setting out on her journey into the “real world” until December of 2019 when she graduates. She plans to be a teacher, and knows she will have the knowledge and experience to achieve what she really wants to do in her life.
As the lacrosse team’s season gets under way in March, Wolfblack has the excitement and motivation to end her career on a high note alongside Rivera, who is a natural leader on the field, according to their coach.
Rivera started her career at FLC four years ago. Playing for the Skyhawks has allowed her to grow into the athlete she has become and also the person she is today, she said.
Being a student athlete hasn’t been easy for her because she has the tendency to take on more than she can handle. “Being a student athlete has taught me to find a balance and be consistent,” Rivera said.
The thing she found most exciting during her time as a student athlete has been staying productive and, even toward the end of her career, still having the drive she had when she started out. At the end of her college athletic career, Rivera will be most proud of is the fact that she was able to motivate her team and be the spark plug, she said.
“Aitana brings strong work ethic, she brings a passion for improving, and she is also a grown up,” Claussen said.
After the season ends in April, Rivera plans to use her exercise science degree and become a personal trainer, she said.
Once she obtains that goal, her next plans are to go back to school for athletic training.
“I know she will be successful in whatever endeavor she attempts,” Claussen said.
Running Out of Time
The track and field team is both a men and women’s sport on campus that competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Last season the team participated in many races that lasted from February to April.
The team will kick off this season in March in Los Angeles.
Seniors like Quinlyn Borneo will be embarking on their last competitive runs.
“I’m kind of over it, and I’m thinking about the future,” Borneo said.
Borneo has been a short distance runner for the women’s track and field team for the duration of her career at FLC. She competes in the 200 and 400 meter races.
There has been a lot of learning and adjusting the last four years with multiple coaches coming in and out of the program, Borneo said. Her years as a student athlete have taught her what is going to be necessary for her in the next steps of her life, she said
The biggest lessons she has learned is how to multitask, lead, resolve conflict and time management.
If there is one thing that Borneo wishes she could have done differently in her career, she would have gotten help and learn the communication skills she needed early on when communicating with her coach.
At the end of the season in April, when Borneo hangs up her running shoes, she’ll be most proud of the fact that she was able to complete her career. She’ll be getting her degree in English, and plans to move to Charleston, South Carolina and land a job in marketing or public relations, she said.
She also plan to go back to school and get her master’s in education, she said.
“Intense” would be the one word that Ellie Fracker, head coach of women’s softball at FLC, would use to describe senior Angelique Elemen as a player.
Elemen has the unparalleled ability to be locked in to the game and has been a consistently good player since her freshman year, Fracker said.
A fourth-year Sociology major from Litchfield Park, Arizona, Elemen has led FLC softball in batting average, RBI, home runs, and slugging percentage since the 2016 season. She is on pace to beat the program records for home runs, hits, and RBI by the end of this season.
Though she has spent her entire career with the Skyhawks, Elemen says her history with the sport dates back to being encouraged by her father, a former baseball player, to playing tee-ball after her family moved to Arizona. She has been playing softball ever since.
Elemen said she’s been encouraged by a renewed cohesion amongst the players this year that she hasn’t seen previously.
“There is a sense of togetherness that we haven’t had in the past couple of years, and that has been pretty cool to be a part of,” she said.
This new sense of unity has Elemen looking forward to a winning season for her team that finished 16-38 last season.
“I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’d say it’s looking really good”, said Elemen.
After graduation, she plans on moving back to Arizona and working with children in some capacity. This is a skill that Coach Fracker says comes naturally to Elemen, who is involved locally in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
For many senior student-athletes, a door closes on a past they have known for so long. But it also presents opportunities to use the habits they’ve developed into a skill they can use long into life.