The Success of Llama Sports: On and Off the Court

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Matthew Meyer ’12

pearl-and-katrina.jpgThe fact that Bard College at Simon’s Rock is a small school hasn’t stopped its sports victories. This year has seen perhaps one of the College’s best years ever in terms of athletic success. Last fall the Llamas won 16 out of 33 contests across three competitive sports: basketball, swimming, and soccer. The Men’s and Women’s basketball teams had impressive 4-2 records, the Men’s and Women’s swim teams came in third and fourth respectively in the SUNY-Delhi Invitational (a division 3 equivalent), and the Women’s Soccer team ended its four-game season with three wins.

On top of all that, Pearl Weggler (’12) became the first athlete in Simon’s Rock history to appear in Sports Illustrated. Pearl was highlighted in the weekly column “Faces in the Crowd” for her outstanding performance in back-to-back games playing for both the Women’s and Men’s Basketball teams. Pearl and teammate Katrina von Burg filled in when the Men’s team wound up short a player.

pearl-action-2.jpgThere’s no question academics are students’ first priority at the Early College, “We never want to undermine that. Simon’s Rock is an intelligent campus built on the focus of academics for the ready,” explains Dave Collopy, director of athletics and facilities of the Kilpatrick Athletic Center (KAC). “But from what I’ve seen, both as the soccer coach and as a director, we’ve shown we have something more to prove.”

Indeed, students bring the same drive and dedication that gets them through finals onto the playing field–or into the pool. When coach Bill Meier talks about competitive swimming, he says there’s more to it than practicing and winning. “Participation, balance, and sportsmanship each play an interweaving role. The dedication is more apparent every year. A lot of students have full plates with their classes and everything else,” he says. “But they show up for every practice possible and do everything they can to support their teammates and the team as a whole.”

Meier beams, “And then I watch them at a meet, win or lose, talking and laughing with the other team. It’s inspiring.”

Both Dave and Bill say it’s easy to form teams despite the size of the school. Simon’s Rock is a place where students are encouraged to new things, and each year, they say, sees a greater number of sign-ups and participants.

Many newcomers, like swimmer Abi Pena (’09), hadn’t participated in any team sport before coming to Simon’s Rock. After a few years of “the world’s best coach” and team spirit, it’s now a habit. “I know that going to swim practice helps me feel physically and mentally better.”

katrina-action.jpgIt’s this kind of effort and support that creates the athletic success on campus. The students show a natural drive and dedication that pushes them to victory, whether in points scored or the sportsmanship shown afterward.

Dave Collopy puts it this way, “Yes, this year is one of the best we’ve had. But this is just one season showing what we get from students every year. This time, their talent and dedication shone through in the scores. When you have so much of the student body participating, seniors that have played every year, and freshman standouts [like Pearl], this is what happens.”

To illustrate what he means, Dave paraphrases a favorite quote from Jesse Owens that he feels defines the passion and versatility of everyone here, “Your medal will tarnish, your emblem will fade, but the experiences you derive from sports mold a code of practice that will remain with you all your life.”

He added, “They shine on the court, and when the game is over show their game face everywhere. That’s what I teach here.”