Student-Athletes Find Success After Graduation

    This goes without question at schools like UCLA, Oregon and USC, whose top-round draft picks in the NFL and NBA make headline news in much bigger newspapers than our humble Guardian.

    It may seem a surprise then, that even UCSD — a Division II school — has its share of world-class athletes on the rise.
       
    Christine Merrill is a name that headlined many an article in this publication. Merrill is the school record holder and 2009 NCAA Division II national champion in the 400 hurdles.

    Following her success in La Jolla, Merrill continued to train at the Chula Vista Olympic training center, and clocked times fast enough to make the Sri Lankan National Team.

    Running in the Asian Athletics Championships in Japan, Merrill won the Bronze Medal with a time of 56.83 to solidify her spot in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea.

    There she ran a 57.05, her second fastest career time, but failed to make the finals. Now, Merrill continues to train with U.S. Olympian Sheena Tosta in Chula Vista, where both athletes are preparing for a run at the 2012 London Olympics — all this from an athlete who nearly saw her college career come to a close after being forced to undergo reconstructive surgery to repair a torn ACL her freshman year.
       
    Merrill is not the only Triton to graduate and continue training. Linda Rainwater, UCSD’s school record holder in the high jump at 5’10.5”, continues to train in preparation for the U.S. Trials.

    Rainwater became the NCAA Division II Champion in the high jump in 2010 and the national champion in the heptathlon in 2008. Since graduating in 2010, she has been working as a volunteer coach for the UCSD track team.
        
    Kelly Fogarty and Stephanie LeFever joined Rainwater as assistant coaches upon graduating in 2011.

    Fogarty was only tenths of a second off the U.S. Nationals Qualifier last year with a time of 11.52 in the 100m school record and her 23.55 school record in the 200m. Fogarty also garnered All-American her senior year.

    LeFever came in second last year at the NCAA National Championships in both the high jump and the heptathlon. Her long jump distance was within three inches of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.
       
    The dedication and ability shown by our alumni is indicative of our school becoming an academic as well as an athletic presence.

    UCSD is showing signs of becoming much more than our popular bumper sticker: “The smart ones.”

    We have as much to boast about our brawn as our brains.
        
    Our athletic program is evolving into something bigger than Division II athletics, a division that is becoming more and more obsolete.
        
    UCSD is becoming good enough to stand toe-to-toe with the big dogs of Division I. 

    We have the coaches, like Brian McManus and his perennially competitive women’s soccer team, Charity Elliot with her No. 2-ranked women’s basketball team and Patti Gerkins leading our softball team to a 2011 NCAA National Championship.
        
    Senior Alex Henley, who picked up her third NCAA Championship title last year, was nominated for Division-II Athlete of the Year honors and is looking for more national titles this year in addition to an Olympic dream.

    I myself am a two time-reigning NCAA Champion in the javelin, and I am determined to take another national title on my way to competing at the London Olympics.
       
    The outside world has already taken notice of the ground-breaking research that UCSD is doing — they may soon be recognizing the university for the athletes it’s producing.
        
    Unfortunately, our student body doesn’t seem to realize how good we really are, and how good we will be in the future.

    For a glimpse of UCSD’s athletic prowess, check out the No. 2 nationally ranked women’s basketball team this Saturday against the only other undefeated team in the CCAA.

    A win on Friday will signal the best starting record ever for the Tritons, and more widely may signal to the student body that our athletic department is something to be proud of.

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