Although variable spring weather conditions contributed to prolonged periods on the road, Western Nevada College’s baseball players remained committed to their No. 1 priority as a Wildcat: academics.
WNC earned National Junior College Athletic Association Academic All-American honors with a team grade point average of 3.19.
“This is an outstanding accomplishment and reflects the dedication of the coaching staff, the students and Lauren Stevens, their academic adviser, in promoting a team focused first on success in the classroom,” said John Kinkella, WNC’s Dean of Student Services and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Baseball coach D.J. Whittemore said he believes his players’ commitment to education is going to serve them far into the future.
“The one championship that can continue to make a difference in young men’s lives is scholastic,” Whittemore said. “Too often we heap praise on young athletes for their accomplishments on the field but rarely does that have as big effect on their contribution to society or their long-term happiness as does academic excellence.”
Leading the charge in the classroom for the Wildcats’ roster was sophomore center fielder Jake Bennett, the Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Bennett was recognized for exemplary academic achievement for student-athletes whose GPA ranges from 3.60 to 3.79.
“The awards keep piling up for ‘JB,’” Whittemore said. “Sometimes you run across a special person that understands that excellence isn’t a part-time or occasional endeavor. You are either committed to it or you’re not, and he clearly is.”
The University of Oregon-bound Bennett said players learn right off the bat education is the No. 1 reason they attend WNC.
“From day one, the priority is that you are going to be a student and coach ‘Whitt’ is going to give you the time to get schoolwork done,” Bennett said. “It’s up to you if you want to get it done. The big thing is don’t be lazy and you’ll get it done.”
The baseball team accomplished these honors despite having to play the first four weekends of the season and the last half of the conference season on the road. Rain and snow moved most of the team’s early conference schedule to Carson City and thus necessitated the team playing the latter part of its season away from home.
With nearly twice as many players as usual, the Western Nevada College softball team’s commitment to academic excellence was seemingly put to the test this season.
However, carrying the largest roster in program history didn’t alter the Wildcats’ successful history in academics. For the fourth straight season, the Wildcats earned Academic All-American honors from the National Junior College Athletic Association with a record roster size of 22 players collectively producing a 3.14 grade point average.
“Throughout our program history, the team has always been able to make a 3.0, and it shows that they are not just here to play ball but to get an education as well,” said WNC coach Leah Wentworth.
According to NJCAA guidelines, teams must average at least a 3.0 GPA to earn Academic All-American honors.
“Head coach Leah Wentworth and assistant coach Bethany Henry-Herman, along with the academic adviser Lauren Stevens, have once again guided the WNC women’s softball team to a team grade point average which allows them to be nominated as an NJCAA Academic All-American Team of the Year,” said John Kinkella, WNC’s Dean of Student Services and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “The women’s softball team has a long track record of academic success, reflecting the focus of the WNC athletics program.”
During the bustling season, the players’ daily schedules are tightly wound around working out, attending classes and playing softball.
“Sometimes people don’t understand what goes into being a college-level athlete,” Wentworth said. “They have a ton on their plate, and I commend them for being able to manage their time so well and continuing to work hard in every aspect of their student role.”