The athletic teams of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus did phenomenal in their first year of being a member of the CALPAC conference. However, the women’s soccer team excelled in another arena as well: academics. The Lady Eagles had four women named Scholar Athletes. The players included Whitney Desmarais, Kayla Billings, Marissa Golesh, and Ciarra Pederson. These women were honored by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
This is a very prestigious honor that is not easy to obtain. Athletes must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 and achieve a junior academic status to qualify for this honor. But these women did it. They each come from different backgrounds and take different courses in their studies, but all share the common passion for soccer.
“This award is something that is not expected of us to get,” Desmarias from Tucson, Ariz. said. Many would say that one degree is easier than another, but not in this case. This award does not symbolize one major over another. Two study global security, one studies mechanical engineering, and the other dual majors in aeronautics and aviation business.
Billings from Albuquerque, N.M. said, “it is very exciting, and soccer gave me this opportunity.” Embry-Riddle prides itself on the great standards that it holds students and athletes alike to. The women’s soccer team itself maintains the highest GPA in the CALPAC conference and here on campus as well.
“Great,” Golesh said. “You work hard and are recognized for being an athlete and a student.” Each of the women take classes that have been hard through the years. They have traveled across the country, missing tests and homework. Some even have professors on speed dial to get a hold of to receive help on homework on long bus rides home. These women have dealt with the hardest professors while maintaining a 3.5 GPA through the years, and that has allowed them to be considered for this award.
“We all work and don’t expect an award,” Pederson said. “It is a huge honor and if we didn’t get it, we would still be proud of ourselves.” With the school’s meticulous enforcement of academics, Pederson was right. The idea that athletes must maintain a high standard in academics and on the field is the key element. For four years, these girls have gone through the rigorous flow charts that guide them along their majors’ paths, as well as go through hours of conditioning and training for soccer.
These women have raised the bar for the Prescott campus. They did not do their best just for an award; they did it to maintain something great, a personal honor that nothing can compare. They have started a trend that many freshmen athletes should follow, a combination of both sports and academics. When each player was asked what advice would you give to incoming freshmen, they all came to the same conclusion: time management. Each woman learned quick that there was no time to fall behind. Desmarias said, “you are gone so often and if you don’t have time management skills, find some.” Billings followed with, “start way before because you will have fun later.” Golesh suggested students should “communicate with professors and stay on top of work and studies.” Pederson finished with, “once you step onto this campus, game on. A day off is important, it means more time to train or get ahead.”
These women have laid the foundation for a future athletic program that can excel both on the field and off. They have made this school proud as they have been honored for their hard work. All four will be remembered and looked upon as the foundation of something great.