Utah Tech emphasizes the ‘student’ in student-athlete

The Western Athletic Conference announced the 2023 Academic All-WAC honorees for the fall sports seasons, including 51 Utah Tech student-athletes who earned all-academic honors. Balancing academics and athletics is no easy task, especially with all the focus and pressure on Division I athletics today. Mason Britton | Sun News Daily

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The Western Athletic Conference announced the 2023 Academic honorees for its fall sports season Jan. 18. Utah Tech University led the conference with 51 student-athletes earning all-academic honors.

These student-athletes on the list go through practice, full-time class work and games. It goes to show how hard these students have worked the past year to receive this award.

The WAC states that to be eligible for the honor, a student-athlete must have completed at least one academic year, have at least a 3.2 cumulative grade-point average and have participated in at least 50% of the team’s contests.

Mike Olson, associate athletic director for academics and student welfare, said: “For me, the WAC is my conference championship…I oversee academics, so anytime we can do well and represent the top end of the WAC, it’s important to me.”

For Olson, it was an achievement to have this many students on the list this year.

“I wanted to make it a priority to have grades that I didn’t have to worry about,” said football player Kana’i Eldredge, a senior mathematics education major from Honolulu. “That meant prioritizing my school work early on in the week, making sure I spent time completing assignments so that by Friday and Saturday I only had one thing on my mind.”

Athletes who received this honor had to give effort to both school and their athletics.

Women’s volleyball player Elise Porter, a sophomore population health major from South Jordan, said: “I focused on being present in what I was doing and giving 100% to that, so whether I was on the court or the classroom, I gave it my all.”

Olson doesn’t set any goals for student-athletes. Instead, he hopes they are committed to school just as much as their sport.

“We want them to apply the same discipline, the same commitment and effort into academics as they put into their sport,” Olson said.

The WAC all-academic honors list is announced after each semester, and this year, the list of students doubled from last spring’s 25 honorees.

Being a student-athlete is incredibly important to these students, and it shows how hard they work as well as the incredible support system that Olson has given them.

“Being a student-athlete has been everything for me,” Eldredge said. “I couldn’t imagine my time in college without being able to be around amazing teammates and coaches who have done nothing but support me and make my experience as a student-athlete all that it has been.”

This support and gratitude is shared among other athletes as well.

“I’m super grateful to coaches and teammates who push me on and off the court to be the best I can be at whatever I’m doing,” Porter said.

The 51 student-athletes who earned all-academic honors have displayed discipline and dedication to their teammates and coursework.

“[This award] is important to me because I know I worked really hard to achieve this award,” Eldredge said. “I think pushing yourself to achieve great things is an awesome thing to do.”