Well, we have almost made it through another year here at Indiana Wesleyan University. In my estimation, it has been a year of changes. From dance-rule changes, to Chick-fil-A changes, to world-changing, it was a year full of excitement or overkill … take your pick. It was also another great year of sports here on campus and beyond. It always seems like we say this year is so special then we look back five years later and realize it wasn’t, but I really think that this was a year to remember if you were a Wildcat.
It was a crucial transitional year for IWU athletics, as Athletic Director Mark DeMichael called it. After a year of researching, polling, surveying and toiling over the possible addition of football, the board decided that it was not in the best interest of the university at this time. You might think, all that for nothing? Not really. When the time and money come, we will know how and where to start. But hey, women’s golf is on its way and so is NCAA Division II, hopefully. But let’s live in the present for a while, shall we?
This year’s senior class was one of the strongest in recent memory. From men’s and women’s soccer to basketball and track, these four-year veterans have showed what it takes to succeed at this level. Soccer standouts Megan Marshall and Mitch Lobdell were both awarded the most outstanding student-athlete awards by the NCCAA. For the first time in the history of the Kyle Rote Jr. (men’s) and Michelle Akers (women’s) awards, both recipients were from the same institution.
On the volleyball court, the IWU women won their first ever NCCAA National Championship in Kissimmee, Florida, by dominating the competition. The Lady Wildcats dropped only three sets at nationals in route to capping off a 33-11 campaign, while returning all but one player for next year.
Once again, the basketball teams did not disappoint, with two NAIA Elite Eight showings from the men and women, along with a pair of MCC regular season championships. Seven seniors from both the men’s and women’s teams paved the way for the future, proving that IWU is one of the best Christian basketball schools in the Midwest.
Oh, and I didn’t even mention the women’s tennis team, who hasn’t lost a conference match since President Clinton was in office or something like that. Just ask coach Terry Porter, the man practically built IWU athletics with his bare hands. To be precise, though, the women have won 192 straight matches in the fall season.
But beyond all the awards and recognition, the overall community and cohesiveness that the athletic department and individual teams and students have shown this year is what I will remember most. When you play a sport, especially in college, you are surrounded by fellow teammates and athletes 24-7, which might be a good or bad thing for some. But the way that each of these teams have come together to realize the big picture is encouraging to see.
Nothing could exemplify this more than the support given to Leah Whittaker by her team and the whole community here at IWU throughout this school year. It’s refreshing to see something like sports change a person’s life, as people have rallied around her. And how about our very own Brandon Beachy overcoming his own set of struggles to become one of the hottest young pitchers in the majors. Yea, there are a lot of things to be proud of this year if you are a Wildcat. Ultimately, there might be a lot of rules and changes that transpire in your time here at IWU, but know that this is a special place with special people. Even if we can’t dance, oh wait … or play football.