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    Swimming and Men's Cross Country Win Team GPA Awards
    Ann Miller has a 3.94 GPA in food science and human nutrition.

    Ann Miller has a 3.94 GPA in food science and human nutrition.

    May 10, 2010

    The men's cross country team and women's swimming and diving team were honored with the Fighting Illini Outstanding Team GPA Awards at the Scholar-Athlete Reception on May 3rd. These two programs had the highest team GPA among the University of Illinois' 19 varsity sports teams. Although not the first honor of the sort for either team, it is an accomplishment that continually brings pride to everyone involved.

    The women's swimming and diving team continues to excel academically year after year. They consistently have one of the best team GPAs on campus because they make it a priority. According to Coach Sue Novitsky, the women set a goal this year to average a 3.4 GPA, which they exceeded by obtaining a 3.43 GPA.

    "We just remind them that's why they're here," Says Novitsky. "The importance of going to class and everything is there responsibility as a student. It's important to them that they do well and they're very proud of their accomplishments in the classroom as well as the pool."

    As a means of encouraging the importance of academic success, all freshman are required to do study hours their first semester. After that, if the GPA is high enough, the hours decrease or are not required at all.

    Continues Coach Novitsky, "I'm very proud of them and all their achievements and everything they do. They know that they do work hard and it's nice to see them be rewarded for the hard work. It's just fun to see them be able to pat themselves on the back and say `we can do both and be successful.'"

    Not only are they one of the top athletic teams academically on this campus, but they are also in the top three in women's swimming and diving programs in the nation. Twice a year, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (WSCAA) rank the top Division I swimming and diving programs in the country by GPA. In the fall of 2009, the Fighting Illini swimming and diving team tied for second place on the Scholar All-American list, reaching their highest ranking in 10 years.

    Along with the team award, two individuals from the women's swimming and diving team were honored with Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Awards. This award goes to the male and female letterwinners with the highest grade-point average in each class. Sophomore April McKee and junior Ann Miller were both recipients of this award, demonstrating once again the academic success of this team.

    The men's cross country team is also not new to this type of honor. This year, the team boasted a GPA of 3.25. They consistently have one of the best GPAs and put an emphasis on academics, starting with recruiting.

    "I think it's just kind of a culture amongst our program. Within the cross country distance group, there's almost a kind of a peer pressure to do well academically. There's some pride in winning this award. In the five years I've been here we've won it four times," says Coach Wendel McRaven. "When we recruit kids we talk about how in our sport you're coming to college to get a degree and you're coming to college to be a student athlete. There aren't too many million dollar contracts to sign at the end of your four or five years of being a track athlete. "

    As well as with the women's swimming and diving team, the men's cross country team are also required to do similar study hours. The same rules apply, freshman must do study hours but after that, if the GPA is high enough, they are no longer required. However, that doesn't stop some of the men in the program.

    "I'll be giving tours to recruits at Irwin Academic Center and we'll have sophomores, juniors, seniors, guys that have GPAs well over 3.0, in there using the resources that are available," added McRaven. "We have guys that are really driven; if it means the difference between getting an A- and an A they'll spend another 90 minutes to 2 hours studying."

    The Fighting Illini men's cross country team also ranks highly in academics throughout the entire country. The team was honored as a U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic team for the fall 2009 season. This marks the team's third consecutive year winning the award.

    To further display the success of the team academically, with his 3.89 GPA in business, Hunter Mickow was the sophomore, male recipient of the Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award, which is given to the highest GPA winner from each class.

    The Fall and Winter Academic All-Big Ten honors go to student-athletes who are second year athletes and letter-winners, that carry a career GPA of 3.0 or higher. The men's cross country team had nine members receive this honor, and an astounding 20 members of the women's swimming and diving team qualified, both representing well over half of the teams' rosters.

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