Westminster College on track to compete in NCAA Division II next academic school year

Westminster College on track to compete in NCAA Division II next academic school year

For the last three years, athletes at Westminster College haven't received awards, insurance for severe injuries and grants, or qualified for championships. However, this could change during the 2018-2019 academic school year if the college meets National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) requirements.

Westminster began the three-year transition process from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in  2015 and currently plays in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC).

“The RMAC is a really competitive conference in the NCAA Division II, and it’s a really positive step up from NAIA,” said Sara Weixler, a junior and member of the soccer and basketball team.

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College athletes say they'll use lessons they learned from sports in future careers

College athletes say they'll use lessons they learned from sports in future careers

For many graduating students at Westminster College faced with the end of their collegiate athletic careers, they said the lessons they’ve learned from the game will continue to impact their lives. 

The students said sports are more than physical—they teach athletes transferable skills like leadership, team work, time management, dedication and hard work. 

“Sports will always be a huge contributor to who I am and the success I have had and will have,” said Maddie Klein, a neuroscience major and soccer player. 

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Turf troubles: Students say Dumke Field needs an upgrade

Turf troubles: Students say Dumke Field needs an upgrade

For the past 12 years, Dumke Field has been the center for athletics at Westminster College. But now, students say the aging field—which was created in 2005 and surfaced with artificial turf that hasn't been replaced since then—poses a safety risk. According to Field Turf, the artificial turf company that installed Dumke Field, the industry standard for replacing artificial turf is every eight years, which puts Dumke Field four years past the suggested warranty. 

“I believe the artificial turf does need to be replaced,” said Andrew Clayton, a junior biology major and soccer player. “I have heard from multiple sources that the turf should be replaced around every six to eight years. Our turf will be going into its 12th year of use.” 

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For some students, navigating concussions and school is a tricky process

For some students, navigating concussions and school is a tricky process

For Westminster College students who sustain concussions while participating in sports and outdoor activities, navigating the sometimes oppositional worlds of school and recommended concussion protocols can be tricky. 

Abby Neal, a senior and member of the Westminster spirit team, suffered a concussion that she said turned into a yearlong healing process of acceptance and healing. 

“It took me a while to truly accept I had a concussion and realize how serious they can be,” Neal said. “Because of that, it took close to a year to fully heal.” 

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Westminster spirit team looks forward to another year of growth

Westminster spirit team looks forward to another year of growth

Westminster College's spirit team has experienced continuous growth since its inception three years ago, and the team's captain and coach said they expect next year will bring even more improvements in skill level and size for both the college's dance and cheer teams. 

The spirit team is an umbrella term comprising the cheer squad and the dance team, according to Bri Miller, a senior communication major and the dance team captain. 

Miller has been the team captain since the program’s start and said it has grown a little each year. This year, Westminster had enough people to split the dance and cheerleading teams completely. 

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Western yoga is revolutionized through modern practice

Western yoga is revolutionized through modern practice

Though yoga has become widely used for its rehabilitative qualities, some have raised questions of whether American culture has evolved the practice from its more traditional origins. However, Westminster College yoga professors said they acknowledge the history of the practice in their classes and attempt to engage their students in a connection with the mind, body and spirit.

“I think a lot of people aren’t aware of where yoga comes from, and so it can be misconstrued and become a cliché thing,” said Alexia Cooper, a 22-year old environmental science major at Westminster College. “It can be transformed if you get insight and aren’t ignorant. I think that helps with cultural appropriation—at least if you're aware of its origins.”

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NCAA Division II creates obstacles for returning athletes to receive scholarships

NCAA Division II creates obstacles for returning athletes to receive scholarships

Many people believe that all college athletes who receive athletic scholarships receive a full-ride, but the truth is that students in the majority of college athletic programs receive only a partial athletic scholarship—if anything at all.

A full athletic scholarship covers tuition, course-related fees, room and board and books. A partial athletic scholarship covers only a portion of those expenses.

“In my first two years, there were around two girls that had full ride scholarships,” said Maddie Lewis, a senior neuroscience major and soccer player. “That was basically all the money that the program had, which means everyone else had little to none.”

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Student athlete says transferring to Westminster was a slam dunk

Student athlete says transferring to Westminster was a slam dunk

For student athletes transferring from a junior college, juggling the desire to continue playing their sport, finding a college with the education they want and working within eligibility requirements can create scarce options. 

Tanner Newbold, a 23-year-old junior and member of the men's basketball team, attended two junior colleges—Central College and Salt Lake Community College (SLCC)—before transferring to Westminster College 

Norman Parrish, the head coach of Westminster's men's basketball team, recruited Newbold after his junior college basketball career.  

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Men's lacrosse team steps up its game in transition to NCAA Division II

Men's lacrosse team steps up its game in transition to NCAA Division II

Westminster College's men's lacrosse team was Utah's first-ever club to become affiliated with the NCAA Division II. Since then, the new requirements have led to adjustments in the program to better prepare the athletes for competition against bigger and stronger teams.     

“I think it’s really exciting because it shows that our growth is just substantial," said Alex Dooley, a junior communication major who has played on the team for three years. "We are finally going NCAA, and it means that we are good enough. It shows that we have the talent and the commitment to go NCAA and we’re too big for a club and grew out of it.” 

Mason Goodhand, head coach of Westminster's lacrosse team, said members of the team have had to push themselves harder to become both physically and mentally ready to play in a higher league, where he said the "seriousness of the competition and the athleticism of the opponent" are on a different level.  

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Westminster student has more on the brain than homework

Westminster student has more on the brain than homework

Ryzen Benson, a junior bio-medical and translational research major, has more on his brain than the average student. Aside from attending classes, Benson coaches Highland High School’s football team where he began studying sports-related concussions. 

Benson has been coaching the Highland Rams for two years now.  

"He came in and started looking at how we developed athletes and his curiosity went to a whole other level," said Ed Lloyd, Highland's strength and conditioning coach. 

While coaching football at Highland, Benson took a special interest in concussions and how to prevent them. He started to study and gather information about concussions and preventative methods. 

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Parson to Griffin... to nothing at all: Westminster mascot's evolution and confusion

Parson to Griffin... to nothing at all: Westminster mascot's evolution and confusion

Fans and athletic supporters once walked into Westminster College's Dumke Field House and saw the mascot, Griff, interacting with the crowd, players and referees. However, as of spring 2017, Westminster's athletic events have lost their star of the sidelines.   

The mascot changed from Parson to Griffin in 1979 during a major overhaul of Westminster's brand. In the past year, the athletic department made further changes to the Griffin by upgrading the mascot's entire suit. Now, they're struggling to find a student to fill it. 

Ian Troost, former Westminster student and last year's Griffin, initially requested the changes to Griff's suit. 

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Salt Lake City's inversion affects athletes across campus

Salt Lake City's inversion affects athletes across campus

Salt Lake City had the nation's worst air quality at the end of January, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's AirNow.gov. Poor air can become dangerous for at-risk groups, including athletes who practice outside, and coaches at Westminster College said air quality sometimes affects the way they structure practices.  

Mason Goodhand, head coach of the men's lacrosse team, said he tries to keep his athletes indoors and away from the pollution when the air is bad.  

"We cut back on our cardio workouts on red days," Goodhand said. "When [the inversion] is really bad, we do indoor practice." 

Goodhand isn't the only coach, Dan Quinn, head cross country and track coach at Westminster, also said he relocates his athletes indoors to avoid the poor air quality. 

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Westminster alumna pursues her calling as assistant coach for women's soccer

Westminster alumna pursues her calling as assistant coach for women's soccer

Madison Roemer graduated from Westminster College last semester and traded in her cleats and shin guards for a whistle and a clipboard. She’ll be fulfilling what she called a long-awaited personal calling as an assistant coach of the women’s soccer team at her alma mater.  

Roemer, 21 and a former captain of Westminster's soccer team, said coaching is something she has been working on since her early playing days.   

At 15 years old, she began getting the prerequisite licenses required for coaching.  

Tony LeBlanc, head coach of the women's soccer team, said he is excited to welcome Roemer into her new coaching role.   

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Students love to support Westminster athletics... sometimes

Students love to support Westminster athletics... sometimes

At colleges and universities across the country—from Ohio State University to Alabama University to the University of Utah—students turn out in waves to hang out, drink beverages (use your imagination as to what they drink) and grill before going to a sporting event in a pre-game festivity commonly known as tailgating.

At Westminster College, that’s partially true.

Getting students to attend a tailgate for free food and beverages is the easy part—but getting them to stay for an athletic event has been a challenge, according to Westminster Athletic Director (AD) Shay Wyatt.

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How to get involved in a new intramural sport on campus

How to get involved in a new intramural sport on campus

Pickleball is one of America’s fastest-growing sports, according to the USA Pickleball Association. However, most people on campus don’t know the ins and outs of the game.

The sport was introduced to Westminster in the fall of 2015 by Laura Iverson-Bastiani, the college’s assistant director of health, wellness and recreation. Iverson-Bastiani organizes all intramural sports on campus, including pickleball.

Because the program is almost brand new, it’s not yet at the level of popularity compared to other schools at the national conferences Iverson-Bastiani attends. 

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Westminster’s Spirit Team splits to increase school spirit

Westminster’s Spirit Team splits to increase school spirit

The sight of sparkling pom-poms is becoming commonplace at Westminster College’s athletic events. Starting its third year, Westminster’s Spirit Team has split into two divisions, with one division focused on dancing and the other on cheerleading.

The split was made to ensure that each team was able to specialize in their art form, according to Nicole Vogel, the head coach of Westminster’s spirit team.

“In our first two years, the team was responsible for sideline cheers, some stunts, halftime performances and all that goes with it,” Vogel said. “With the new format and the split teams, I can work on stunts, tumbling and cheers with one team and the halftime numbers and dance technique with the other all at the same time.” 

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Cross-country and track continue to grow

Cross-country and track continue to grow

With heavy breaths and sweat dripping down their faces, the members of the men’s and women’s track and field team gratefully drank from their water bottles as their coach finally told them to rest.

Track and field and cross-country have been training intensely for their upcoming and current seasons, and the teams have been growing steadily.

“We have difficult work outs,” said Daniel Quinn, Westminster’s head coach of track and field and cross-country. “Our practice schedule is Monday through Friday, with their own training on Wednesdays, but I think if we were a full D1 school the workloads would be double what they are. I keep the reality of academics first and running second. So, I try to keep a balance there.”

Quinn said he enjoys the challenge of helping the athletes improve.

 

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Women’s golf: A force to be reckoned with

Women’s golf: A force to be reckoned with

For the past few years, Westminster’s women’s golf team has been improving quietly, garnering little attention from the campus community. This year, the team is gearing up for the most successful season it’s had in years—picked to finish seventh out of 12 teams by the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC), according to the 2016 Women’s Golf Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

The team is also a powerhouse in academics.

“A lot of people don’t even know we have a golf team, but getting recognition is nice,” said Audrey Kriss, a member of the women’s golf team and a junior marketing and sociology major. “We are good at what we do, and academically standing [we’re] the best team in RMAC.”

 

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Westminster athletics’ head trainer talks transition to DII

Westminster athletics’ head trainer talks transition to DII

Rick Hackford traded in his breakfast of eggs, bacon, and potatoes for two packs of instant oatmeal the day practices started for Westminster athletes. Hackford has worked as an athletic trainer in many college divisions but said Westminster’s transition from NAIA to NCAA has made his job as head athletic trainer both more difficult and more rewarding.

Madison Roemer, a work study student in the athletic room, said no one knows how much Hackford is at Westminster.

“He’s here from 7 in the morning until 9 o’clock at night,” Romer said.

Hackford has worked at Westminster for 12 of his 22 years as an athletic trainer. It wasn’t until the 1990s, when an athletic trainer certification became mandatory, that Hackford went to school. He worked at Southern Utah University as a student athletic trainer while taking 110 credits, completed in two and a half years, to earn his degree.

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Short-term punishments, long-term gains: Westminster's second year of probation in NCAA

Short-term punishments, long-term gains: Westminster's second year of probation in NCAA

Last year, the NCAA Division II Management Council approved Westminster College’s bid to join the RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) and begin the three year membership process.

NCAA Division II is one of the three membership divisions at the National Collegiate Athletic Association, an organization comprising more than 1,200 institutions, conferences and affiliated organizations. Division II is a group of institutions and conferences that serves almost 90,000 student athletes nationwide.         

Westminster is using an alumni donation to pay the $120,000 one-time fee for the NCAA transition, according to Shay Wyatt, Westminster’s director of athletics.

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