NEW LONDON, Conn.--Ten Connecticut College student athletes have been honored as 2015 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars by Diverse Issues in Higher Education Magazine.
Kaitlyn Cresencia (New Providence, N.J.), Ajami Gikandi (Princeton, N.J.), Alex Hernandez (Miami, Fla.), Myra Jacobs (West Wardsboro, Vt.), Aneeka Kalia (Southborough, Mass.), Greg Liautaud (Butler, N.J.), Mike Martinez (Orchard Park, N.Y.), Adam Patel (Alpharetta, Ga.), Daniel Sandoval (East Windsor, N.J.) and Natalie Wenigmann (Wilmington, Del.) were all named to the squad. (Pictured Clockwise).
Diverse Issues in Higher Education established the Sports Scholars Awards to honor undergraduate students of color who have made academic and athletic achievement a winning combination. Inspired by tennis legend Arthur Ashe Jr.'s commitment to education as well as his love for the game of tennis, Diverse Issues in Higher Education invites every college and university in the country to participate in this annual awards program by nominating their outstanding sports scholars.
In addition to their athletic ability, Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars must exhibit academic excellence and community activism. To be included, students have to compete in an intercollegiate sport, maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2 and be active on their campuses or in their communities.
"We are extremely proud of this group of student-athletes who have performed in competition, succeeded in the classroom, and have given back to the local community," said Fran Shields, the Katherine Wenk Christoffers Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education at Connecticut College. "They personify the Division III student-athlete."
Cresencia was a key contributor for the Camel women's basketball team that qualified for the NESCAC Championship in three of her four years with the program. She received her economics degree this weekend.
"We are excited that Kaitlyn has been recognized as an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar for the second consecutive year," Connecticut College Head Women's Basketball Coach Brian Wilson said. "Kaitlyn has been an outstanding student, a dynamic and valuable member of our program and has made positive contributions across the Connecticut College community during her four years here in New London."
Gikandi and Sandoval represent the Connecticut College men's soccer team that advanced into the semifinal round of the NESCAC Championship Tournament for the first time in program- history. Gikandi carries a major in biology. Sandoval has been accepted and will enroll at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in the fall.
"I am extremely proud of Ajami and Danny to be recognized," Connecticut College Men's Soccer Coach Kenny Murphy said. "They are intelligent, conscientious student athletes who embody the mission of Connecticut College and the standards of this prestigious award."
Hernandez is a three-sport athlete competing in cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field. Hernandez posted a time of 33:07.19 in the 10,000 meter distance at the Silfen Invitational April 10 to move into 10th place on the program's all-time performance list while also qualifying for the New England Division III Championship.
"We are all very proud of Alejandro being named a Sports Scholar as he truly exemplifies the ideals personified by the great Arthur Ashe," Connecticut College Men's Cross Country and Assistant Head Coach of Track & Field Jim Butler said.
A member of the improving Camel women's squash team, Jacobs gutted out a clutch victory in her final collegiate match against Mount Holyoke College to lead the Camels to a 27th place finish at the College Squash Association National Championship. She received her degree in international relations and economics this weekend.
"I am so very proud of Myra for receiving the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars Award," Connecticut College Head Women's Squash Coach Ted Childs said. "Myra has been the epitome of how a Connecticut College Student-Athlete should carry themselves in her time at here playing two Varsity Sports, being named to the All NESCAC Academic Team; while also being involved in many areas of the school community in leadership roles to improve her fellow students experiences during their four years at Connecticut College."
A prominent contributor for the Camel women's tennis team, Kalia studied Indian literature and history at St. Stephen's College in New Delhi, India this year. Last year, Kalia represented Connecticut College at the NCAA student-athlete leadership conference.
Patel, a senior forward on the Camel men's hockey team, is being honored as an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar for the third consecutive year. Patel supplied the game-winning goal in a key road victory at Colby that helped the Camels clinch home ice for the first round of the NESCAC Championship.
"Adam's role as our top two way center made him a very important part of the most successful year in Connecticut College Hockey in NESCAC play," Connecticut College Head Men's Hockey Coach Jim Ward said. "Whenever the team needed an important defensive zone face-off on the penalty kill or at full strength Adam was the first choice for the coaching staff. Over the course of his career at Conn he was willing and able to play all three forward positions and played defense on the power play and at full strength when he was needed. He is a strong teammate in the locker room and on the ice. He will be missed next season."
Joining Patel on the squad from the hockey team are seniors Mike Martinez and sophomore Greg Liautaud. Martinez scored eight goals while assisting on nine others to close out his career with 17 points. Liautaud accounted for 12 points with five goals and seven assists as one of the rising stars on the blue line.
"Mike Martinez's best season as a Camel was his senior year," Ward said. "Mike accepted and performed his role on the wing of our shut down defense in impressive fashion. Mike and his line (Adam Patel and Zach Jones) would be matched against our opponents' best line and this proved to be a major reason why the team had its best season ever in NESCAC. The team was seventh in scoring and third in the standings, a testament to our commitment to defensive play. Mike was a key player in our success. In addition, Mike has been very involved with Team ImPact and always willing to jump on the ice with the Project KBA Program (Kids, Books and Athletics), working with New London Middle School students and spent a summer working in a research capacity in the campus library. Mike will be missed next year."
Ward is looking forward to having Liautaud back for two more seasons in New London.
"Greg has established himself as a top defenseman in the NESCAC over the course of his first two seasons at Connecticut College," Ward asserted. "Greg is very reliable defensively and has the ability to generate offense with quick transition and ability to get pucks to the net. As reliable as he is as a teammate on the men's hockey team he is also engaged in the Connecticut College Community. He is very involved in Team ImPact and will represent Green Dot (Think Safe Project) as a member of integrated residential life theme housing."
Wenigmann contributed a pair of clutch defensive saves in the backfield for the Camel field hockey team that posted key conference wins against Bates and Wesleyan.
Connecticut College Head Field Hockey Chrissy Needham was pleased to learn of the national recognition for Wenigmann.
"I am proud of Natalie for receiving this honor," Needham said. "Her dedication to success in the classroom and focus on her academic goals is fierce. In her first two years on campus, she has immersed herself in many academic and community opportunities on campus, including being accepted into the CISLA academic center this past January. I look forward to seeing more accomplishments from Natalie in her junior and senior years at Connecticut College."
For more information on the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars program, visit the Diverse Issues in Higher Education website at http://diverseeducation.com/.
Connecticut College 2015 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars
Kaitlyn Cresencia Sr. Women's Basketball New Providence, N.J.
Ajami Gikandi Jr. Men's Soccer Princeton, N.J.
Alex Hernandez So. M-Cross Country/Track Miami, Fla.
Myra Jacobs Sr. Women's Squash West Wardsboro, Vt.
Aneeka Kalia Jr. Women's Tennis Southborough, Mass.
Greg Liautaud Jr. Men's Hockey Butler, N.J.
Mike Martinez Sr. Men's Hockey Orchard Park, N.Y.
Adam Patel Sr. Men's Hockey Alpharetta, Ga.
Daniel Sandoval Sr. Men's Soccer East Windsor, N.J.
Natalie Wenigmann So. Field Hockey Wilmington, Del.