Competitors grieve Bishop’s lost athletic season

Peter Lujan, Erin Ross and Hailey de la Vara
Transcript correspondents
pllujan@owu.edu
emross@owu.edu
hhdelava@owu.edu

When the novel coronavirus closed Ohio Wesleyan, all athletic events ground to a halt for the remainder of the spring semester, wiping out the aspirations of more than 500 athletes from 25 teams.

The abrupt ending to the season sent everyone packing, heading back home while leaving many heartbroken and devastated. For senior athletes, the last semester of playing for the Battling Bishops vanished before their eyes.

Senior Cirrus Robinson, a four time national champion with five All-American titles in women’s track and field, was at the nationals meet in Winston Salem, North Carolina to compete in the high jump when she heard the news.

She never got the chance to compete – the meet was canceled after the team arrived.

“I was surrounded by athletes, many that I know personally by now, with their chances taken from them in real time,” Robinson said. “There were people crying outside and in the hallways. Everyone was on the phone. It was heartbreaking, especially because in retrospect it was only the tip of the iceberg.”

Robinson, who’s participated in six national track and field competitions, said it’s difficult to accept the fact that her time competing for OWU has ended.

“I have zero regrets or longings about my career as a Bishop,” she said. “That said, this is still not easy. My teammates, who are everything to me, deserved more chances to shine and show themselves this season.”

The NCAA has granted another year of eligibility to spring sport seniors, she said.

“I know many of my friends in the NCAC and NCAA will be using this to finish what they started,” Robinson said. “I’m so happy for them and I will surely be hanging on the fence to watch them achieve their goals.”

Most student athletes accumulate a long history of work, so this abrupt ending to the season was heartbreaking, said Julia Dickman, a sophomore on the track and field team.

“This is my first season off from sports in 12 years,” Dickman said. “I’ve never not known a spring or fall season without games, meets or being with my best friends and my teammates.”

Ashley Smiley, on the women’s track and field and soccer teams, was in Belize for a travel learning course when she heard the news. She initially thought everything was being blown out of proportion.

“When I heard that the spring season was cancelled, it didn’t seem real,” Smiley said. “Once I came back and saw how rapid everything was spreading, I understood the decision in order to try and keep everyone safe and healthy.”

OWU’s men’s baseball team was in Florida competing when these rapidly escalating events initially caught senior right handed pitcher Justin Grubb by surprise. But the reality of the season’s end didn’t take long to set in.

“I pretty much knew when we had two games left in our Florida trip,” Grubb said. “It was pretty hard because I had pitched the day before and didn’t think that it would be my last.”

Initially speculation circulated that the season would only be postponed.

“College athletics has not only allowed me to continue to play the game that I love, but also has given me friendships that will last forever.” – Justin Grubb

“At first I thought the decision was very quick to the trigger and not necessary to cancel an entire season,” Grubb said. “However, it doesn’t seem like this virus is going to go away anytime soon, so in the end they made the right decision.”

Despite the strange and sad position seniors find themselves in, Grubb was able to recall fondly his time playing collegiate baseball.

“I’ll remember all the stories I’ve had with my teammates over the years, and how much we’ve grown and changed in just four years,” he said. “College athletics has not only allowed me to continue to play the game that I love, but also has given me friendships that will last forever.”

As much as senior women’s softball pitcher Kendall Kaiser is sadden by the end of the season, she said valuable life lessons can be learned.

“Having my senior softball season cut short so quickly helped me realize to never take things for granted,” she said. “Luckily, I was informed of the news before I had played my final game, so I was able to change my mindset to just play because I love the game and to play with confidence,”

“We will re-establish our purpose and prepare in an even more meaningful way.  I expect we will be even better due to this experience.” – Kris Boey

Delivering the unwelcome news to athletes was an emotional task for coaches, said Mike Plantholt, coach of the Ohio Wesleyan men’s lacrosse team.

“We brought everyone into Branch Rickey arena and I had them sit on the bleachers … I just tried to be straight up and to the point with them on the developments,” Plantholt said. “In our program we try to tackle situations and problems head-on and focus on the things we have control over.”

Though emotions and tensions were high, Plantholt said he went about the situation as calmly and rationally as possible.

“At that point we had zero control over the season being cancelled so we just focused on the next steps. It was just business as usual,” Plantholt said.

Finding a positive, Kris Boey, coach of the men’s and women’s track and field teams, said he believes this extra-long offseason could have benefits.

“I expect it will leave our team hungry and wanting more,” Boey said. “We will re-establish our purpose and prepare in an even more meaningful way.  I expect we will be even better due to this experience.”

And as we live through one of the most rapid spreading pandemics in the world’s history, Plantholt has a message for everyone who may be feeling scared or overwhelmed.

“This quarantine will not last, but our team, the Ohio Wesleyan athletics program, and our university will,” Plantholt said.

Mike DeWitt, men’s basketball head coach, selected as interim athletics director

By Sara Hollabaugh, Online Editor

Men’s basketball head coach Mike DeWitt will serve as the interim athletics director.

According to a campus-wide email from Chuck Stinemetz, provost, DeWitt will take over Ingles position in mid-May.

Roger leaves big shoes to fill, but Mike’s stellar career with the Battling Bishops—as a student-athlete, a coach, and a leader in Division III athletics—makes him the ideal person to serve as interim director of athletics,” Stinemetz said.

Stinemetz added DeWitt’s experience at OWU, especially as the winningest men’s basketball coach at OWU will be beneficial to his new post.

Mike has served as an associate athletics director since 2011 and was an assistant athletics director from 2004-11,” Stinemetz said in the email. “Furthermore, he has been a leader at the conference and national levels, serving on the NCAA Division III Great Lakes advisory committee from 2003-06, and he was on the NCAA Division III national committee from 2009-13, serving as committee chair during the 2012-13 season.”

Stinemetz also announced a committee that will search for the new athletics director, which he will chair.

“I will be joined by the following individuals: alumni Christie Allen, Kevin Hinkle, Bob Morrill; head coaches Kris Boey, Kirsta Cobb, Jay Martin, Cassie Cunningham; faculty Barbara MacLeod, David Eastman, Shala Hankison; admissions Ross Grippi; [and from] advancement, Colleen Garland.”

Stinemetz also said two students will join the committee but they have not been selected yet.

DeWitt said he was asked by Stinemetz to be interim director at a meeting after it was made known Ingle’s was leaving.

“I am honored to be asked by our administration to lead our department in this time of transition, and I am extremely fortunate to work with an outstanding group of coaches that will make this transition go as smoothly as possible,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said he and Ingles will work closely before he leaves.

“Having been a part of the administrative staff over the years certainly will help me be aware of most of these issues as I serve in this role until a new Director of Athletics is hired,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt was not certain of Ingle’s official date of departure and when he will start as interim director.

New athletic opportunities for upcoming school year

By Aleksei Pavloff, Sports Editor

Ohio Wesleyan recently announced the addition of several new athletic teams and a marching band for the coming academic year for new and current students to join.

Before they were approved, OWU offered 23 different sports which were separated into 11 male varsity sports and 12 female varsity sports. Men’s wrestling and women’s rowing now join the growing Bishop family. It is not just sports being added, however, as a marching band will support OWU athletics during games.

“I used to be a part of the marching band in high school so I think that it is really cool that the school will now offer it,” said ju- nior Emma Stilgenbauer.

Athletic Director Roger Ingles said that after the two sports were chosen it took two years before they could be approved. He said this will provide more opportunities for students to continue their athletic careers after high school.

Questions about funding the teams remain. So do questions about where these teams will practice and play.

The athletic department has created a sample budget for the administration’s approval.

According to Ingles, this will provide help for OWU’s goal for admission of 2020 students by 2020.

Wrestling was once offered at OWU but was dropped in 1984. This decision was made before Ingles led the position as athletic director.

“I am excited [wrestling] is coming back,” Ingles said, adding that the sport is growing and popular in the area with maximizing recruiting opportuntiies. During his time as athletic director, Ingles has brought softball, and now wrestling, back to OWU.

He said he is very proud of that accomplishment.

“I think it is awesome that [wrestling] is now a varsity sport,” said freshman Max Aaronson who is in the wrestling club at OWU. “A lot of guys were happy to hear that it was being considered.”

Ingles also said that he spoke with members of the club and that there was a definite interest for it to be a varsity sport.

Women’s rowing was added because of its growing popularity in the area, according to Ingles.

Coaches for the new sports are being considered, and a hiring decision will be made late this spring. Ingles said that he is looking for coaches that are knowledgeable about the sport and that are committed to starting fresh.

Women’s basketball team falls against 15th ranked DePauw

By Aleksei Pavloff, Sports Editor

The Ohio Wesleyan University women’s basketball played the DePauw Tigers and lost by a large margin with the final score 74-46.

On Jan. 21, the women’s basketball team competed against the Tigers for the second time this season. The last time they played, DePauw won with the score 70-59. The Bishops hoped to correct the problems from the first game as they prepared for the second.

“We were pumped, motivated, excited, locked in on what we needed to do,” said OWU wing junior Hallie Sinko. “We knew they would come out strong. We were so close last time, we figured if we gave a little bit more, it would be a more matched up game, but that wasn’t the case.”

DePauw came into Branch Rickey Arena scoring 24 points in the first quarter, while OWU scored 7 points. At the half, the Tigers scored 42 points. Sinko said the team’s motivation to turn things around was apparent in the locker room at halftime. DePauw held onto their lead with the final score 74-46.

“Communication, consistency, every individual needs to be fully locked in the whole game and bring the same intensity for all 40 minutes,” Sinko said. “Just take it quarter by quarter.”

Sophomore point guard Lisa Zeller said, “We didn’t do our best but we are all we need. We just need to be consistent.”

Senior captain Megan Kuether reached her 1000th point in her college basketball career. Zeller said she was glad to see the senior pass a huge milestone that only few have reached.

“She inspires all of us,” Zeller said, adding that Kuether and the rest of the seniors will be missed because they contribute a lot to the team’s success. She also said that being consistent is what the team needs to do for in preparation for its next game.

The women’s team have a 7-12 overall recod and are 4-6 in the NCAC.

Winter is coming

By Matt Maier, Transcript Reporter

With one of the best fall seasons yet, it’s time to take a look back at some of the accomplishments the Battling Bishops earned this fall.

The men’s football team finished with a 6-4 record this fall, overcoming last season’s 5-5 record. That’s not all the football team accomplished.

Senior quarterback Dominick Orsini set a school record for total offense, including the second highest single-game rushing performance in school history.

Orsini ran for 252 yards in a win against DePauw, while throwing for 242 yards. Other members of the team won NCAC honors as senior Gary Brodek was first-team All-NCAC, senior Brad Dotson and senior Tim Shadoan were second-team All-NCAC and junior Brad Brodeck and senior Mason Tomblin were honorable mention picks.

In the NCAC championship meet, the men’s cross country team finished fourth, as junior John Sotos repeated as a first-team All-NCAC selection.

The women’s cross country team finished fifth at the NCAC championship meet, where senior Sarah Fowler earned Runner of the Year while also winning All-Amer- ican honors for the second year in a row.

The men’s soccer team finished with a 10-5-3 record and a trip to the NCAA tournament first round.

“I think overall, we had a great year and it was a year that our team learned a lot,” said senior goalkeeper Ben Farynowksi. “We are young and I think the guys coming up are going to do a great job continuing on the legacy of OWU soccer.”

The men’s soccer team had five All-NCAC picks: senior Kyle Baum was a first-team selection, senior Nick Norman was a second-team All-NCAC pick, while senior Ben Farynowski, sophomore Will Sharer and freshman Brady Whittekind were honorable mention selections. Norman was also voted to the Academic All-America first-team.

The women’s soccer team finished with a 7-10 record, greatly improving from their 1-15-1 record in 2015. Three players were selected to the All-NCAC team including sophomore Mackenzie Brunke and senior Alyssa Giarrusso being first-team all-conference, with sophomore Hannah Joseph being an honorable mention selection.

The women’s field hockey team finished with a 5-14 record and three All-NCAC selections. Junior Courtney Peterson was selected as a first-team All-NCAC selec- tion, with senior Candace Chanelli and junior Paige Haenig being selected to the honorable mention team.

The women’s volleyball team finished with a 19-13 record and three players were selected to the all-conference teams. Junior Iris Anderson was a first-team pick, and seniors Shelby Ksiazek and Shannon Schlater were named to the second-team All-NCAC teams.

The fall season proved to be a defiant time for the Battling Bishops. Winter sports have started and the Bishops are off to a great start.

Bishops third in NCAC all-sport championship, trailing DePauw, Denison

By: Ross Hickenbottom, Transcript Correspondent

All seven fall sports NCAC championships have been decided, placing DePauw University in first, Denison University in second and Ohio Wesleyan trailing the pack in third. The Tigers of DePauw captured their first­-ever NCAC title in women’s soccer and took second place in both field hockey and football, while placing third in men’s soccer; women’s cross country and volleyball, wrapping up the fall sports season with a total of 56.5 points, a nine­-point lead over Denison (47.5) and a ten and a half point lead over OWU (46.0).

Denison, with a half-­point lead over Ohio Wesleyan, earned top­ five finishes in six fall sports, including women’s soccer placing second for the Big Red’s top team finish of the season. Ohio Wesleyan placed two teams, men’s soccer and volleyball, in second place in the conference for the season to gain a four-­point lead over the fourth place team, Kenyon.

OWU Athletics Director Roger Ingles explained that Denison, DePauw and Ohio Wesleyan are a typical top three in the NCAC All-­Sports Championship race approaching the winter sports season, but has confidence in teams such as the men’s basketball squad to pull out another conference championship, rearranging the order, and hopefully placing OWU on the top of the podium at the end of the winter sports season.

In the history of the NCAC, OWU leads the pack in terms of total conference championships, with 145, Denison in second (130) and Allegheny falling behind in third (113), but in fact, has not won an all-­sports title, outright, since the 2007­-08 season. The past several years, DePauw and Denison have teetered the title.

Returning starter, and Freshman of the Year in the NCAC men’s basketball poll, Nate Axelrod has ‘high expectations’ for the team this year, and believes they can repeat, adding to the All-Sports race effort, but explained, “we just need to take it one game at a time and stay focused to reach our goal.”

Looking forward to spring, Doug Sanders, a dual­-sport athlete and junior, playing both football

and baseball, has high hopes for the baseball team, believing they can bring a championship back to Delaware.

“I believe this team has the hunger and drive in order to win the NCAC Tournament, as well as making some noise in the NCAA tourney. It should be a great year for Ohio Wesleyan baseball,” he said.

With that, OWU athletes look to turn the race results around with the winter and spring sports seasons, surpassing DePauw and Denison.

Women’s rugby continues to grow and prosper

By: Ross Hickenbottom, Transcript Reporter

The OWU rugby logo for both the men's and women's teams. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
The OWU rugby logo for both the men’s and women’s teams. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

The Ohio Wesleyan women’s rugby club continues to expand and excel as an organization after recording a successful season, finishing 4­-2 for the season.

The team competes in a league consisting of Wittenberg University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Denison University and Oberlin College, but competed for the title of best in the OVWRC with teams such as Findlay University, Tiffin University, Ashland University and Ohio Northern as well.

Under coach Josh Longenbaker, the organization “really grew” this year, said junior rugger Robyn Madrishin. With a team consisting of 26 ruggers, only six were veterans, meaning a lot of new players were introduced to the team and its success.

A lot of women try rugby for the first time once they enroll at OWU, and considering that, Madrishin, who has played for the past two years, said, “The new players came to every practice ready to learn and the veteran players were always ready to teach.”

As a new rugger, freshman Logan Garber tasted this sport for the first time this year, along with the toughness it takes to play it.

“I had never played rugby before OWU,” said Garber, “but after my first hard hit on a girl in my first game against Wittenberg, I knew that rugby was something I’d be trying to play for as along as my body could take it.”

The team contributed its success to the willingness to learn a new sport and play it to your full potential that the new ruggers showed all season, from the first practice to the last game and also, the “passion that our organization has,” said Madrishin.

Senior N’Toia Hawkins, who just finished her last fall season with the Bishops felt as if the team served as a “home away from home,” and she “loved spending time with them because I trust and love all of them with my life.”

As far as an old program, the lady Bishops do not have one, but a passion is something they do have. The ladies look to not only improve current players’ ability to play rugby at a high level, but also to recruit new players who enjoy trying new sports and building camaraderie among teammates to impact the future of this young and overlooked program.

Bishops finish football season with a flurry

By: Brian Goldaber, Transcript Correspondent

An OWU football player attempts to evade a player from Oberlin. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.
An OWU football player attempts to evade a player from Oberlin. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.

It’s not how you start, but how you finish.

The Ohio Wesleyan football team finished its season on Nov. 14 with a 59-­28 win against the College of Wooster. The blowout win marked the culmination of an up and down season that fills the Battling Bishops with anticipation for next fall.

The win against Wooster raised OWU’s record to 5­5. While a .500 record may not seem impressive, those close to the football program think otherwise.

After losing three of their first four games, the team rallied to win three of its last four behind some stellar offensive and defensive performances.

“It took us a little while to get rolling, but once we found our groove and started playing good football, we got really tough to beat,” junior quarterback Dom Orsini said.

The Battling Bishops also faced the toughest part of their schedule at the beginning of the season. They opened the season with difficult losses to Mary Hardin-­Baylor, who was ranked third in the nation and the perennially tough conference rival Wittenberg University.

The season finale was also a great way to send off some of the seniors on the team. Finishing the season on a strong note was satisfying for the graduating seniors to finish their football careers.

“A win like this was a great way to go out,” senior captain Zain Kieffer said. “Even though we got off to a bad start to the season, we knew we didn’t suck. It feels good to beat up on teams in front of my whole family. Couldn’t have asked for a better end to football.”

The team has 11 seniors, but the majority of the team will be back next fall.

“The end of this season leaves us all hungry for next fall,” Orsini said. “We’re keeping most of our offense and a lot of key contributors on defense. Now that we have a whole season under our belts, the sky’s the limit.”

This off season promises to be a productive one for the Battling Bishops, as head coach Tom Watts has placed the team on a strict workout plan. The players must keep up with strength training, conditioning and speed and agility drills until next fall to ensure that they come back ready to win.

Bishop Ballers back in action

By: Ross Hickenbottom, Transcript Correspondent

NCAA basketball is back, ladies and gentlemen, and the Ohio Wesleyan University men’s and women’s basketball teams are ready to tip it off the right way.

The men’s team, led by NCAC Freshman of the Year Nate Axelrod, now a sophomore, looks to repeat as NCAC champions and improve from last season, where they went 22­6, 16­2 in the conference. After a heartbreaking loss in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to St. Olaf College, an appearance in the 2016 tournament is on their to­do list, along with bringing another conference championship back to OWU.

Axelrod, who averaged 16.2 points a game last season, looks to improve his personal play, as well as team chemistry to contribute to the hopeful upcoming season.

“I think we all have high expectations for ourselves this year, considering our success last season and how much we’re returning,” Axelrod said.

As far as returning players go, the Bishops have an abundance of talent returning to the squad from the 2014 season, including senior Claude Grey, who led the team in scoring and junior Ben Simpson, key defensive contribution to the effort, who led the team in rebounds, steals and blocks last season.

“We should be very successful this year, much like last year,” Simpson said, “however, we definitely have a target on our back this year.”

“We’re a big game on everyone’s schedule this year,” Simpson added.

The women’s team returns from a 15­-13 season, 9­7 in the conference, which is not ideal for their level of plays. After being knocked out of the NCAC tournament by Wittenberg University, the ladies’ season was over in a bitter fashion.

On top of that, after graduating, five seniors, including LaNiece McRae and Sarah McQuade, who led the Bishops last year in multiple categories, the younger, less experienced players will have to boost their contribution to the team this year in order to achieve success.

Junior Taylor Dickson believes the underclassmen will do just that.

“We definitely have a strong, promising underclassmen presence on our team this year. Our newcomers worked extremely hard over the summer and have proved since stepping on campus that they have the drive and work ethic to get better and compete at this level,” she said.

Dickson, who played in all 28 games last year will look to contribute a lot to the team’s winning

effort, along with junior Megan Kuether, and the two seniors of the team, Kelly Still and Hanna Fedorka. Dickson, Kuether, Fedorka and Still are the only returning players with varsity letters, so this year’s success will rely heavily on the contribution from the younger, more inexperienced players.

Well­wishers will fill the Edwards Gymnasium this year, in hopes that not one but both of the OWU basketball teams will see their hard work come to fruition.

Swimming and diving kicks off season at Kenyon Relays

By: Ross Hickenbottom, Transcript reporter

 

Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.
Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.

The Ohio Wesleyan men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams participated in the Kenyon Relays this Oct. 24 in Gambier, Ohio.

In the men’s meet, the Kenyon Lords won their annual home opener with 124 points. OWU finished fifth with a total of 44 points.

The Denison Big Red won the women’s meet, scoring 120 points. OWU finished with a total of 16 points, placing seventh.

Junior Greyson Goodwin, was a part of the fourth place 200 meter freestyle relay team. He said the team’s hard practice week paid off.

“Our teams performance was representative of the amount of work we’ve put into our practices,” Goodwin said. “The team defied the expectations we had, and managed to come together to have an exceptional meet.”

Freshman Shannon Bermingham’s introduction to collegiate competition did not disappoint.

Bermingham, from Orchard Park, New York, said the electrifying meet was of a caliber she had never experienced before.

“After the meet I was very tired, but it was a great feeling to have a team fully behind you and cheering you on,” she said. “I loved the atmosphere and I’ve never had support like this before. I thought we did really well as a team.”

Bermingham plans on giving this season her all. She will be happy, regardless of the results, “as long as I have my coach and my teammates by my side anything is possible, even the hardest of times.”

Despite only being in the water for around five weeks, the Battling Bishops were very impressed with their results, but agree that improvements can be made.

Freshman Alicia Margello, a member of the 400 medley relay team that finished eleventh, now knows what it’s like to finish at the end of the pack. She plans on “improving by working hard throughout the season during practice.”

With the first meet on the books, both the men and women look to improve their results for their upcoming home conference opener against Wittenberg College on Saturday, Oct. 31.