Seven Kent State Student-Athletes Named MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete

At Kent State, a student-athlete’s day typically starts around 6 a.m. with practice or lifting. Then they attend team meetings or a cryotherapy session or study tables. After all that, it’s finally time for class, where these students have to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 to keep the cumulative team GPA on track. It’s exhausting just to read all that.

Despite these challenges, seven Kent State student-athletes recently earned the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Distinguished Scholar Athlete honor during the 2019-2020 academic season.

Students that were named as All-MAC and Academic All-MAC were included in the selection for a new award this season: the Distinguished Scholar Athlete award. The seven students below met the qualifications to receive this honor:

  • Vital Kats, Soccer, Junior, 3.88 GPA, Business Management (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Clara Rodriguez Seto, Field Hockey, Junior, 3.67 GPA, Psychology (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Laila Richter, Field Hockey, Senior, 3.75 GPA, Business (Berlin, Germany)
  • Luisa Knapp, Field Hockey, Sophomore, 3.75 GPA, Undecided (Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany)
  • Derek Adams, Football, Junior, 3.875 GPA, Entrepreneurship (Manheim, Pennsylvania)
  • Matthew Trickett, Football, Sophomore, 3.914 GPA, Accounting (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Alex Haffner, Volleyball, Sophomore, 3.757 GPA, Finance (Lee's Summit, Missouri)

Angie Hull, associate athletic director for academic services, says that there is no “typical” day for one student-athlete, and that they individualize student programs based on the needs and ability of each student respectively.

Hull feels that being a Division I athlete and a student is like having two full-time jobs.

“A ‘typical’ day for a football player is to wake up at 6:30 a.m., lift at 7 a.m., eat breakfast, attend team meetings, go to practice, then recovery time like ice baths and cryotherapy,” Hull said. “Then after all of that, it’s time for class at about 12:30 p.m.”

Kent State monitors all of their student-athletes, especially during their freshman year.

As a freshman, students are placed in study hours based off of their GPA where they have goal-based hours supervised by a graduate student. This is just one of the factors that sets Kent State apart academically from other schools in the MAC.

Additionally, Kent State is one of the only MAC schools with an academic center for athletes. The Jenkins Academic Center is where student-athletes complete a lot of their schoolwork. Kent State is able to provide more individualized attention and has resources available that other schools may not have that sets them apart academically.

Field hockey student-athlete Luisa Knapp says being a student and an athlete is a lot at first, but having other motivated people around helps her keep it together.

“You learn how to handle school and activities,” Knapp said, “and you eventually find your way by not procrastinating and staying organized.”

As for the team ‘standard’ GPA, field hockey student-athlete Clara Rodriguez stated that “the team culture is to get higher than the minimum, which is usually a 3.0.”

To have the opportunity to be a student-athlete at a Division I university is an honor in itself. Field hockey student-athlete Laila Richter says she has learned invaluable lessons and skills during her time at Kent State.

“As a student-athlete, you have to sacrifice a lot in the name of your team. There is no time for social activities, we are traveling almost every weekend, you learn you are responsible for everyone’s actions, not just your own,” Richter said. “You are committed to making decisions as a team and putting the team before yourself.”

The MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete awards put an exclamation on a hugely successful academic season for Kent State. The department set a new record with a cumulative GPA of 3.214, making it the 16th consecutive term of a GPA over 3.0. On a team level, 14 teams had a team cumulative GPA of 3.0, nine teams kept a 3.40 while six teams bested a 3.60.

As for individual athletes, 49 students posted a 4.0 GPA while 48% of student-athletes topped a 3.40, and 66% of them had a GPA of 3.0 and above.

Hull says there is a huge misconception that all athletes are here on scholarship.

“Having a scholarship is more pressure on their shoulders,” Hull said. “You have your scholarship renewed each year, so you have to perform at your best in all areas. It is a super-high-pressure job.”

Hull admires her student-athletes for their dedication and commitment to their sport and studies.

“Some of them come in the door prepared with a fire burning inside them to be successful,” Hull said. “There are no excuses, and they are here to get things done. There is a lot of pressure having to perform at such a high level in all aspects of your life. And that says a lot about where they came from.”

Read more about Kent State’s Academic success

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POSTED: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 9:26am
UPDATED: Monday, April 13, 2020 - 1:20pm
Jennifer Boyd