Firebirds’ Commitment to Excellence: 2013-14 Year In Review

7 Jul

As an integral part of the District of Columbia’s Flagship University, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at UDC provides experiences that enhance the comprehensive development of students. Therefore, the student-athlete experience emphasizes opportunities through academic achievement, learning in high-level athletic competition, and development of positive societal attitudes in service to community. The balance and integration of these different areas of learning opportunity provide Firebird student-athletes a path to graduation while cultivating a variety of skills and knowledge for life ahead.

Legendary former college football head coach and philanthropist Joe Paterno once said: “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.” To that end, the University of the District of Columbia Athletic Department’s commitment to excellence is not without integrity in its “Life in the Balance” mission. The 2013-14 academic year was no exception.

Three East Coast Conference team championships. Four track & field All-Americans. An ECC Athlete of the Year and Coach of the Year. Nineteen All-ECC performers. Certainly, these are all extraordinary accomplishments over the course of a year; however, they would not be nearly as fulfilling if not for these very same athletes’ exploits off the field and in the classroom.

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Kaydian Jones was a 4x400M Relay All-American and an Academic All-American.

Track & field standout Kaydian Jones is a prime example. A Kingston, Jamaica native and Journalism major, Jones’ career is the epitome of what the NCAA student-athlete experience ought to be. Not only was she a two-time 4x400M Relay All-American (2014 Indoor & Outdoor) who helped her relay team set a school record and finish ranked No. 4 in the country this spring, she is also a Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-American. Twice named ECC Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year (2013 and 2014), she also managed to maintain a 3.53 cumulative GPA, serve as President of the UDC Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and two years as Vice President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. For her efforts, she earned the ECC and UDC’s most prestigious awards. The ECC awarded her the Excellence in Community and Character Award for student-athletes who have distinguished themselves through positive actions and behaviors consistent with the NCAA Division II attributes of learning, service, passion, sportsmanship, balance and resourcefulness. The UDC Athletic Department presented her the Reslyn Woodruff Henley Memorial Award – given to the senior student-athlete who has exhibited nobility of character, deep loyalty to fellow students or teammates, high team spirit and a demonstrated ability to inspire teammates, and who performs well in the classroom in addition to his or her athletic exploits.

Miguel Uzcategui is another case in point. A two-time First Team All-ECC Men’s Tennis performer, Uzcategui is also a two-time Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-American and this year’s recipient of the ECC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. He helped his team to a No. 2 seed in the ECC Men’s Tennis Championship, finishing with a league mark of 5-1 at the No. 1 singles spot. Meanwhile, he has maintained a 3.94 cumulative GPA over his academic career as an Electrical Engineering major at UDC.

All in all, 24 student-athletes graduated from UDC in 2013-14. Eighty-six student-athletes made the Director’s List (earned 3.0 semester GPA or better for Spring/Fall 2013), 36 made the Dean’s List (earned a 3.5 semester GPA or better while maintaining a 3.0 or better cumulative GPA), and 11 qualified for the 4.0 GPA Club.

Firebird student-athletes also participated in many community service outreach projects throughout the year. The Men’s Soccer team was particularly active in the community this year as head coach Matt Thompson, assistant coach Danny Wadeson, and the over 20 young men engaged in five different service activities. Thompson continues to foster a growing relationship with KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) where the student-athletes play soccer with young children of varying characteristics and/or disabilities. Twice, the Firebird soccer team visited St. Coletta of Greater Washington to work with KEEN this year. They also volunteered at the DC Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, Georgetown Ministry (where they visited the homeless), and completed a very successful Youth Day promotion before one of their games.

Meanwhile, women’s basketball took part in three community service projects: Overnight Adventure, Special Olympics, and Food & Friends. The Overnight Adventure was hosted by the Hyattsville, MD Department of Parks and Recreation’s “Xtreme Teen” Program and featured a number of recreational activities for close to 50 local teen girls. Starting a 12:30 a.m., for two hours, the women’s basketball student-athletes put together a basketball clinic where they ran drills and acted as referees and coaches during scrimmages. Also, during Halloween weekend, the Firebird women’s basketball team volunteered at Special Olympics DC’s Fall Sports Classic on October 30th and at the local Food & Friends on November 1st. At the Fall Classic, they supervised several local student-athletes, guiding them through basketball drills such as target passing, spot-shooting and dribbling. At Food & Friends, they renewed a relationship the program has had since the 2007-08 season by helping with everything from packaging meals for delivery to unloading and sorting canned goods and food items for the kitchen.

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Miguel Uzcategui was a two-time First Team All-ECC Men’s Tennis selection and a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American.

The men’s soccer and women’s basketball team were named the co-winners of the UDC Athletic Department’s third annual Competition Cup. The winner is chosen based on three criteria: academic performance, attendance at other UDC sporting events and community outreach.

While women’s basketball accomplished a great deal off the court this year, the Firebirds also enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in program history on the court in 2013-14. They finished with an impressive overall record of 21-8, securing the school’s first ever East Coast Conference basketball championship and earning an NCAA Division II East Regional Tournament appearance as a No. 5 seed. Along the way the Firebirds were ranked as high as No. 20 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and No. 3 in the East Region. Also, junior guard Telisha Turner and junior forward Denikka Brent were both named First Team All-ECC, Turner surpassed 1,000 points scored for her career late in the season, and head coach Lester Butler, Jr. surpassed 150 career coaching wins on Senior Night with a 76-68 victory over Dowling on Feb. 26.

Also in the winter, the Firebirds were heating up on the track in 2013-14, as the track & field team captured its second consecutive ECC Indoor Championship on February 22nd in South Huntington, NY. With just 12 athletes on the team, the Firebirds relied on their dominance in the sprint events to once again reign as conference champions. Kaydian Jones was the team’s work horse as she contributed a whopping 32 points for the Firebirds in the Championship meet. She won the Long Jump with a distance of 5.69M, won the 200M dash in 25.45 seconds, and she ran a crucial opening leg to help the Firebirds’ 4x400M Relay Team secure first place. She shared the Most Outstanding Athlete of the Meet honor with Roberts Wesleyan’s Rachel Hust.

Not only did the Firebirds win their second ECC championship in a row, but Head Coach Alton McKenzie was awarded his second straight Coach of the Year honor. His team produced 17 First Team and six Second Team All-ECC honorees across 20 different track & field events. Also, the 4x400M Relay Team of Kaydian Jones, Jerily Benjamin, Marlena Wright and Simone Grant, went on to compete at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, NC. There, they finished as the 6th best team in the nation with a time of 3:49.40, and were each individually named All-Americans.

The momentum from its spectacular Indoor season would carry over into the spring Outdoor Track & Field season, as the Firebirds continued to get better and faster as the season progressed. The first major highlight of the season came on April 4th when the 4x400M Relay team became the first event champion at the Colonial Relays in school history with a time of 3:46.51. About two weeks later, UDC would complete the sweep of Indoor/Outdoor ECC Championships with its first ever ECC Outdoor Track & Field Championship in Queens, NY on April 19th. Once again, Jones led the way by contributing 48 (28 individually) of the team’s 158 total points. She won both the 100M and 200M dashes, finished 2nd in the Long Jump and was a key member of both the 4x100M and 4x400M relay teams which both took first place. She was named co-Most Outstanding Female Athlete of the ECC Championship meet, and she was also named the Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year for the second straight year.

DSC_9091The success in Outdoor Track & Field did not stop there though, as just five days later, UDC took part in the 120th inception of the world-renowned Penn Relays. There, in front of a captive audience of over 49,000 people, at the world’s largest and oldest track & field relay carnival, the 4x400M Relay team ran a time of 3:44.99 to finish 6th in the Women’s College Final.

The track & field season culminated in yet another outstanding weekend performance on May 22nd-23rd by the 4x400M Relay Team of Jones, Benjamin, Wright and Grant at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championship in Allendale, MI. This quartet shaved nearly two seconds off of their season-best time to finish 4th in the nation with a new school record time of 3:42.63. Again, they were named All-Americans for their performance.

2013-14 was a banner year for University of the District of Columbia Athletics. Best of all, the department’s extraordinary athletic achievements continue to come as the Firebirds stay true to the Division II platform – Life in the Balance.

The Firebird is indeed rising in the nation’s capital. We hope you’ll join us for the ride in 2014-15.

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Inspired by Deceased Mother, Coston Overcomes Adversity to Achieve Her Goals

21 May

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Nova Coston was raised by a single mother in Queens, NY. It was from her mother that she learned a valuable lesson: “Never give up on anything just because you’re tired or hurting or bored with it. Nothing comes easy.”

Coston’s mother collapsed from a stroke and fell into a coma when she was just 19. She and her brother would have to take care of their mother for the remainder of her life.

Still, it was from her mother that Coston continued to draw inspiration as she went on to complete the Police Academy in 2001 and become an officer in 2002.

Later, she joined the United States Army in 2003 and served active duty for six years. While on active duty in 2009, she was hit by a tent pole during a windstorm and suffered a spinal fracture. After enduring months of rehabilitation, she went on to enter a tennis tournament, play basketball and even earn her yellow belt in Tae Kwan Do.

Upon completing her military service, she enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia at the age of 31.

“Obtaining my degree was something my mom was adamant about,” Coston said. “It meant so much to her, because she was told I would never learn like other children.”

Majoring in Psychology, Nova made the Dean’s List her 1st semester at UDC and has remained in good academic standing throughout her college career. Sadly, her mother died in spring 2011 during her sophomore year of college.

“I had no choice but to do what she ingrained in me as a child – complete what you start no matter how bad it hurts,” she said.

In August 2013, Coston visited head women’s lacrosse coach Melynda Brown in her office and asked for an opportunity to learn the sport and earn a spot on the team.

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Coston and Coach Brown hug on Senior Day. “Nova is a perfect example that there is more to a person than what you can see,” Brown said of Coston.

“Nova is very involved in school, and it was clear from day one that her number one priority was graduating from UDC this May,” Coach Brown explained. “But she worked very hard to earn a spot on this team. When she didn’t understand something, she’d ask questions and wouldn’t stop until it made sense. She’d make the time to come into my office and go over game tape, and she’d write everything down so she could go over it again later at home. She’d show up every day ready to learn something new.”

While earning her degree at UDC, Coston said there have been countless opportunities made available to her, but the one she most cherishes is being a member of the school’s first ever women’s lacrosse team.

“I had no previous knowledge of this sport until recently, but now I can’t let it go,” she said.

Even when she recently discovered her knee was torn in two different places and it was recommended she sit out the season, Nova opted to fight through the pain and continue playing.

“My mind does not understand not playing,” she said. “The pain meant nothing compared to being out on the field and doing what I have come to love…playing lacrosse.”

Coston was a featured student speaker at the 37th Annual Commencment Convocation of the University of the District of Columbia on May 13th, 2014. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

“Nova is a perfect example that there is more to a person than what you can see,” Brown said. “She has gone through so much but has still managed to achieve her goals.”IMG954239

Danny Wadeson Interview Feature

30 Apr

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See video of Danny’s “D.C. Social Climber”

Athletics Intern Phil Kim sits down with Danny Wadeson, resident guitarist/singer at the local UDC Potbelly…oh, and also UDC Men’s Soccer Assistant Coach!

Tell us a little bit about your musical background.

I have always loved to sing, and I decided I would learn the guitar rather than the piano as I knew it would be more portable. I have no formal music training nor can I read music; however, I do love to create and test myself. I find writing and playing music an enjoyable experience and have often found it a great way to express myself and relax at the same time.

Who are your favorite artists? Favorite songs?

My favorite artist is Noel Gallagher. He was in a band called Oasis. However, while their reputation was for Rock N’ Roll, I really enjoyed their subtle melodic acoustic songs. The majority of Oasis’s songs were written by Gallagher, and I was hooked. I also love Springsteen, Johnny Cash, and the Kings of Leon. Back home (in the UK), there is a group called the Stone Roses that were extremely influential when I was growing up. I also like Johnny Marr and Paul Weller.

Word on the street is that you write your own songs. Tell us about D.C. Social Climber.

I love to create. I find songwriting an amusing way to put down my thoughts about life. D.C. Social Climber was written about how everyone in D.C. is in a rush, yet nobody really knows where they are going. Too much time is wasted on people worrying about ego and status rather than actually living their lives with little consequence for how their actions affect others. I have a few friends who often get wrapped up in the silliness that can sometimes prevail around here, so I simply wanted to break life back down to basics and poke fun at them at the same time!

How does one even get to play at Potbelly? What’s the process? Any perks? What made you do it?

Potbelly was a great location as they promote live music. I simply asked the manager for an opportunity. The perks are free exposure and the chance to perform in front of an ongoing audience. The irony is that whilst performing, I can watch people going about their day. I also get compensated with free lunch!

I always have an inner drive to better myself, and after playing in bars where you only get maybe three songs, (at Potbelly) you get the opportunity to perform a set for over 90 minutes. What made me do it… why not do it?!

When can we go see you perform there? What’s your schedule?

At present, the college coaching duties are always of primary importance. I would love to go once a week on Thursdays, provided the Potbelly’s management allow me to perform.

Have you developed a following of fans? Any funny incidents? Ever nervous?

No fans. Seeing somebody respond or take the time out of their day to listen is gratitude enough.

Funny incidents… leaving the mic on whilst warming up, tripping over wires… it’s all part of the process when learning. I guess the funny incidents are more apparent to me, because I get to watch people whilst performing! You can normally see who likes who from across the room just from their body language, and they don’t even know you are watching them! I have also had people get up on stage and try to sing with me, which can always be eventful!

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UDC Athletics Staff comes out for one of Danny’s performances. See – he DOES have fans!

Any similarities between soccer and performing?

The key similarity is people… I love people and any form of human interaction is great. Coaching and playing soccer are my vocation and my passion – playing the guitar and singing are my release and balance. If I can improve any of the situations I am in and make people feel better in the process, then I guess I am affecting things for the better whilst improving my skills to communicate with people in order to get a desired response from them, be it on the field or in a room.

Ever nervous?

Yes! There are always moments as you build up experience – mouth going dry, forgetting words, missing the beat, etc. If you weren’t nervous then it would not be a test, right?

Future plans? Bigger stage? Album?

I always want to keep writing and improving. I would love to play at parties for fun in the right environments. I have enough songs for an album, however I need to learn to play in a band before I get too far ahead of myself!

The basics of songwriting, starting from nothing and conveying your thoughts via music, is a wonderful experience as you never know how it will end. With so much fabrication, the chance to put something out where you know the true meaning of the words and how you want the message to be received is something special. To touch someone through a song is a wonderful ability to have, as they can evoke so many memories. I would simply love to be able to capture people’s feelings in a situation and help them out in some way.

Thank you for your time, coach! Please continue to support Danny’s musical endeavors and also Firebirds soccer!

 

Firebirds Boast Two League-Champion Teams During Winter Season

4 Apr

The Women’s Basketball and Indoor Track & Field teams secured East Coast Conference Championships during the 2013-2014 winter athletics season. Both teams succeeded because of a combination of talent, depth, and a complete team effort. Guided by Head Coach Alton Mckenzie, the Indoor Track & Field Team now has earned back-to-back ECC championships, while the Women’s Basketball team will look to achieve the same feat next season.

 

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Indoor Track & Field

 

The Indoor Track & Field team ran in nine multi-team meets this season, and a majority of the student-athletes displayed consistent improvement. The team was led by Kaydian Jones (Journalism–Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) and Shauna-Kay Creary (Accounting–Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS). Kaydian is a senior who was selected to compete at the NCAA Division II Championships this year in the 200M and 4x400M events. She finished 14th in the country with a time of 25.06 in the 200M and her 4x400M relay team finished 6th in the nation and earned All-American status. Jones was also given All-Region honors for her performances in the 60M, 200M, Long Jump, and 4x400M relay.

 

Shauna-Kay Creary is also a senior, and helped the Firebirds score crucial points in the Field to secure the ECC Championship. She competed in five events, which included a 2nd place finish in the High Jump, 2nd place in the Triple Jump, and 3rd in the Long Jump. (Below is a picture of all the gear she needed to pull this off!)1922466_684459544929121_857717213_n

 

“This year was different because we were defending our title, so the spotlight was more on us in comparison to last year where nobody was really looking at our small team to win the Conference,” Creary said. Defending a championship is never an easy feat, but the Firebirds’ consistent improvement throughout the season helped to defy any challengers. (See below the jubilation on the face of Kaydian Jones as she hugs Coach McKenzie after the Firebirds sealed the championship)

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Throughout the 2013-2014 season, the Indoor Track & Field 4x400M relay team was dominant. In fact, they blew away the competition at the ECC Championship meet then had an excellent showing at the NCAA Division II Championship meet. The Relay Team finished 6th in the nation, good enough to receive All-American honors. These all Americans were Kaydian Jones, Simone Grant (Health Education–Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy), Marlena Wright (Journalism–Bronx, NY/Dewitt Clinton HS), and Jerily Benjamin (Health Education–Queens, NY/Phillip Randolph HS).

 

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Head Coach Alton Mckenzie was pleased with the effort displayed by the student-athletes, and is already looking forward to continued improvement. “The main feeling I have is one of knowing that there’s always more significant goals to strive for so we cannot rest on our laurels,” Mckenzie said. “My focus never really centered on how I felt about the team’s success or accomplishments, because I know how hard they worked to attain that success. If anything it was reassuring to see that we’re being consistent with our performances.”

 

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Women’s Basketball

 

The Women’s Basketball team finished their regular season with an impressive record of 21-8 (15-5 in the ECC). This was good enough to earn them the 2nd seed in the ECC Championship Tournament, behind only top-seeded LIU Post. UDC was able to defeat LIU Post on their home court to secure the ECC Championship with a final score of 67-57. Telisha Turner (Criminal Justice–Wilmington, Delaware / Glasgow HS) led the Firebirds with 24 points in the game.

 

“We came in as the underdog to win it and Coach was telling us in the locker room that he never won on this court. They beat us last time we played in there, so we definitely had a chip on our shoulders and felt like we owed them one,” Turner explained.

Telisha Turner was named the ECC Tournament MVP.

Telisha Turner was named the ECC Tournament MVP.

 

It was a very emotional win for the Women’s Basketball team and junior Denikka Brent (Mechanical Engineering–Chesapeake, VA/Booker T. Washington HS). “I would say the most memorable moment of the season was the last seven seconds of the East Coast Conference Championship game. We were up, and we had the ball. We basically were stalling until the time ran out. I remember looking at everyone’s facial expression change as it started to sink in that we were conference champs. That moment was the most overwhelming moment of my life,” Brent said.

 

The Firebirds earned a No. 5 seed with their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament but were defeated in the first round by Stonehill College. This, however, did not detract from their overall stellar season.

 

Head Coach Jay Butler summed up the experience of winning an ECC Championship like this: “It was a special season for us coming off of a 10-win season in 2012-13, and to be able to win the 2014 ECC championship the following year was a great accomplishment.”

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Movember for a Cause: An Inside Look

13 Dec

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Break out the shaving cream, Movember is over.  The UDC Men’s Lacrosse team grew out their mustaches during the month of November to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer.  The quality of the moustaches themselves varied greatly, but the benevolent feeling of raising money for a good cause was unwavering.

DSC_8154Thanks to the moustaches and generous donations, the Lacrosse team was able to raise $520.  “I am really happy with the amount of money we raised.  I really appreciate all of the people who donated to the cause,” said sophomore defenseman Zachary Kjeldsen (pictured above).  He also added that the team is hoping to participate in Movember again next year, and looking to include other male sports teams at UDC.

Junior attack-man Ben Taylor (pictured below) was the originator of the idea to participate in Movember. “My inspiration for organizing Movember at UDC was that every year back home my friend and I undertake this endeavor to try to raise awareness in our town and raise some money for a good cause.  It seemed like the next logical step to introduce Movember to the UDC community,” Taylor explained.

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Taylor also noted that freshman Josh Norton (pictured below) was able to grow the best moustache by far. (This seems to be the team consensus)  Norton described his Movember experience: “Having a moustache for a whole month to me was pretty easy. I’ve had a ‘stache before just for fun and it wasn’t bad, but this time it was a little annoying to have.  You can only have a moustache for so long.”

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The lacrosse team was even able to convince their head coach, Scott Urick (pictured below), to participate in the facial hair charity.  Although, his moustache became a fu manchu by the end of the month.  Overall, the team is very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this creative fundraiser.

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Taylor sums up the experience well: “I just wanted to say that I had a blast doing this, and when I proposed the idea to the team, I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received.  I was blown away by all of the support from the various administrative and staff workers.  It really was an awesome experience, and I’m excited for next Movember!”

Catching Up With Alumni – Ty Abilla

9 Aug

Tadai (Ty) Abilla graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Television Production this past May. The Galloway, NJ native out of Absegami HS was a four-year standout in two sports at UDC – Women’s Basketball and Women’s Tennis. During her time at UDC, she also volunteered her time as a Video Intern for the athletic department. Upon graduating, she accepted another internship position at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) that keeps her working right in Washington, DC. Sports Information Director Eric Zedalis caught up with Ty to talk about her new gig and post-college life.

EZ: Tell me about your two internships. Who are you working for? What do they have you do?

TA: I currently work at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC). I also completed an internship with National Institutes of Health (NIH) in May, right before graduation. At the Office of Communications I am the Communications Specialist. I am responsible for carrying out the agency’s internal and external communication plans. They have me monitor and update the social media sites, capture footage and photos of the events, promote their 911 and 311 services, create newsletters, work closely with my supervisor brainstorming ideas for upcoming events, etc.

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Ty with her parents, Director of Athletics Patricia Thomas and head coach Jay Butler.

EZ: How were you able to find these internships?

TA: I found the internship at NIH through indeed.com. A close friend of mine who works at the Department of Human Resources (DCHR) told me about the District Leadership Program (DLP) through her agency. She encouraged me to apply, and after doing so, she put in a good word for me. At the end of the day, it comes down to who you know. Once you get your foot in the door, it’s your job to take control from there and showcase your skills.

EZ: Do you feel as though your educational experience (school/athletics/volunteer work with athletics) at UDC prepared you for the work you are doing now? And how so?

TA: I can relate everything back to sports in some way. So I would definitely say that my athletic experience at UDC has prepared me for the work field. I was also fortunate enough to have great professors to push and challenge me. Playing basketball at UDC has prepared me for working in a team environment and helped me with my leadership skills, and playing tennis has prepared me for working independently and taking ownership of my work.

EZ: Do you enjoy the work you’re currently doing?

TA: I absolutely love the work that I am currently doing. This opportunity has truly been a blessing and has opened many doors for me.

EZ: What are you ultimately looking to get out of this experience? What do you ultimately want to do for a career?

TA: Through my experience at OUC I am ultimately looking to network with experienced

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Ty with her women’s basketball teammates at this year’s graduation reception.

professionals, gain contacts, and possibly land a permanent job. My ultimate career goal is to become a sports broadcaster, but working at OUC has definitely opened up my eyes to a new found interest.

EZ: How is “post-college” life? Do you like living in the city on your own?

TA: Post college life is great! Besides playing sports, I can’t really say that I miss college…but it’s still early, so I’m sure that may change later on (laughs). During college, just about everything was taken care of for me; now that I’m on my own, it’s all about making money and being able to support my own lifestyle. I fell in love with DC so much that I decided to get my first apartment out here. I enjoy living in the city on my own. It gives me a sense of freedom and independence.

EZ: Have you kept in touch with teammates/classmates?

TA: I keep in touch with several of my former teammates via call/text or through social media.

EZ: Will you continue to follow UDC Athletics!?

TA: I will most definitely continue to follow UDC Athletics. I’m a proud alumni, and I will forever be a Firebird! Hopefully I can collaborate with UDC in the future :)

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Members of the women’s tennis team – aka, Ty’s fan club!

 We’d like to encourage all student-athlete alumni to let us know what you’re up to by e-mailing Sports Information Director, Eric Zedalis at eric.zedalis@udc.edu.

Greatest Games of 2012-13: Week 5 – Women’s Track & Field

18 Jul

East Coast Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships

February 23, 2013

South Huntington, NY

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On February 23rd, 2013, the Firebirds captured the inaugural East Coast Conference Indoor Track & Field Championship in an improbable upset of heavily favored Georgian Court. Recently, Sports Information Director Eric Zedalis caught up with ECC Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year Alton McKenzie to reminisce about that historic day.

EZ: Going into the meet, did you think that the order of events was in your team’s favor?

AM: I wouldn’t say it was in my team’s favor…I just knew that if we planned meticulously we could pull off having a few people compete in several events despite the meet being one day and having a very tight schedule. We trained to deal with competing multiple times in a Championship meet so we were prepared for the challenge of competing with very little recovery time.

EZ: Given the results, it is safe to say that it worked in your athletes’ favor that they knew they would have to FIGHT for every point they possibly could get since Georgian Court was bound to win all the throwing-based events. Were you at all concerned going in that your athletes might put TOO much pressure on themselves because of this?

AM: Not at all. Matter of fact, we felt little to no pressure…that is, until the 200M when we were actually in a position to win! (laughs) But all jokes aside, I was of the opinion we had nothing to lose as having such a small squad of 13 athletes, it was going to be tough to pull out the win. BUT, leading up to the meet, [Coach Kevin Bembridge and I] just kept instilling in them that we could in fact pull it off. And with Track & Field, nothing is guaranteed. You have to line up and compete. So we never focused on what anyone else would do….we knew what we could do, which was go out there and compete to the best of our ability.

EZ: What was your thought process/strategy going in?IMG_20130223_230152

AM: I figured out that the way for us to win a Championship would be by maximizing all the points in every event we entered our athletes. We only have sprinters and jumpers, so our only chance is to have them compete in multiple events – and they’re trained to do just that. Shauna-Kay was in 5 events, Kaydian 4, Simone 4, Jerily 3, Callister 3, Rochelle 3. THAT is how UDC has to win a Championship. (Smile)

EZ: Talk about your key performers – and obviously Shauna-Kay’s impact on the meet.2

AM: Well, we had the performer of the meet in Shauna-Kay who had the meet of her career in my opinion. Winning the Long Jump and High Jump, finishing 2nd in the Triple Jump and 200M, then 3rd in the 60M pretty much sums up that exceptional day she had, and this is all in a three or four hour span. Keep in mind, she was competing in the Long Jump and High Jump at the same time. Her performance in those two events, which were the first two events of the day, set the tone for what we did the rest of the meet. Kaydian was in four events (4th in the Long Jump, part of the winning 4x200M relay team, 2nd in the 60M and winning the 200M) and Simone (winning the Triple Jump, 4th in the Long Jump, 3rd in the 200M and part of the winning 4x400M relay team) certainly played huge roles in helping us come out victorious. But it was truly a team effort as everyone contributed…if not in points, in how hard they competed and rallied around their teammates. Almost the entire time ran the 200M, and like I said, that’s the only time I spoke to them and gave them a point standing and actually explained what we would need to do to win. They went out there and placed 1-4, and 6th in the 200M.

EZ: Down by 30 points after GCU dominated  the shot-put and the weight throw, what was your mindset at that point with the 60M, 500M and a couple other sprint events still to come?

AM: That we were right where we needed to be. Because I felt we overachieved in the Long Jump, Triple Jump and High Jump. The East Coast Conference has some very competitive jumpers so once we were able to come away with wins in those three and multiple scorers in both the Long Jump and Triple Jump, I knew we’d take care of business on the track in the sprints. We couldn’t do anything about what GCU would do in the Throws, as they’re truly just dominant in those areas, so our job was to make sure we played to our strengths in the sprint events, and I felt confident we’d do just that. And we certainly did.

EZ: Which do you think the team was more happy about: that they won a championship, or that you had to dance in the infield after?

AM: Well, considering how many said, “Coach we have you on camera!” I think they were more thrilled that they gave me a reason to dance. It was my pleasure to have them enjoy the moment, and I enjoyed it as much as they did. I had to give them a reason to forget how tired they all were after putting in such an amazing effort to win UDC’s first Indoor Track Championship!

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