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    Fun In The Sun

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    Hello Wildcats!

     

    The 'Cats kicked off 2014 with an interesting first week of our winter quarter. As Wildcats, we weren't going to allow a few unexpected snow days caused by the sub-zero temperatures, lost fencing equipment at the airport, and stranded teammates in Europe (Hi Stella!) to stand in our way. This past weekend we left our scarves, gloves, and hats behind and flew to Palo Alto, California where we competed in the Western Invitational.


    This year, Stanford hosted the meet and invited us to compete in an exhibition match the night before the duals. On their home turf and in front of many fans, the 'Cats were able to come through with a convincing win. We defeated them 17-10 on Friday night and again Saturday morning by a final score of 18-9. After fencing Stanford on Saturday, we then defeated UC Davis, Caltech, Air Force, and Florida. We completed the weekend with a cumulative score of 113-22 and another Western Invitational championship title.


    We then celebrated our victory by taking advantage of the warm weather and sunshine. Upon returning to the hotel, we jumped into the pool without hesitation. Our competitiveness carried over from the strip to the water, where intense battles of "chicken" and freestyle races ensued. We concluded the weekend with a delicious, well-earned dinner where I witnessed freshman Stephanie Chan eat more than a pride of lions in the wild.


    The next few weekends are action-packed as we compete in the Virginia Beach North American Cup, NYU Invitational, Philly Invitational, and home our duals (Feb. 1-2) at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. Based on our performance in Palo Alto and our hard work at practice, I am more than confident we will come through with more big wins in the upcoming weeks.

     

    As always, Go 'Cats!

     

    Jen Yamin

    On to the Next One

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    It's my favorite time of year again. And in case you were wondering, I'm not referring to dressing up on Halloween, or my endless consumption of pumpkin spice lattes, but the adrenaline I feel on the strip during competition season. I think I can speak for every one of my teammates when I say that competing is what we live for. Finally, it's that time of year where we move from competition to competition, fighting for every touch and every victory, one bout at a time.

    This past weekend, we hosted the USFA Remenyik Open in honor of Northwestern's first head coach, Charlotte Remenyik. It was an exciting event with fencers coming from all around the country to battle it out for the gold medal. Overall, the 'Cats claimed two gold medals and 10 top-10 finishes. Congratulations to junior Courtney Dumas and freshman Alisha Gomez-Shah on securing those gold medals, or should I say battle-axes? (See below).

    Instead of trophies or medals, battle-axes were given to the top finishers of the competition. (I wasn't kidding).

    Preseason is officially over as individual competitions come to an end and our collegiate duals begin. My teammates and I are more than ready to switch from individual competition to team competition. Fencing is an individual sport, but collegiate fencing allows us to fence for more than just ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to flaunt our purple gear, represent Northwestern athletics with pride, and most importantly, win together.

    On Saturday, November 2nd, we're on to the next one as we compete against 11 Midwest Fencing Conference opponents at Patten Gymnasium. The team and I have been working extremely hard with lifts, conditioning, yoga, footwork, drills, and bouting. Our energy is through the roof this year, and I can't wait to see the freshmen experience their first collegiate-dual meet as Northwestern Wildcats. In social media news, make sure to check out Junior foil fencer Tina Umanskiy's twitter (@UtheMANskiy) for some deep thoughts, misused sarcasm, and overall comical entertainment.

    Happy Halloween and go 'Cats!
    Jen Yamin

    Technology Meets Fencing

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    Hello 'Cats!


    As we tackle midterms one exam at a time, we say goodbye to pre-season and enter the early season quadrant. Our next few weekends are stacked with both home and away competitions. The team and I are beyond excited to represent Northwestern and show the other schools what we are made of.

     

    A new addition to our practices this year has been the iPad. In the past we have used video cameras to record our meets and analyze the actions of our opponents. Now, we have the opportunity to video record our footwork, drills, and bouting at practices. The iPad is a great benefit because now we can easily identify what we need to work on at both the individual and team level. Having a visual aid during our practices is an extreme advantage, and we hope to continue to use it throughout the season. So thank you, iPad.

     

    Another form of technology that we've experimented with was the GoPro Camera. Junior foil captain Mary Spohn, after struggling with duct tape for several minutes, finally stabilized the camera inside her mask at a recent practice. The GoPro Camera allows us to view our fencing from a completely different angle. Rather than watch my fencing from the perspective of a bystander, I can now analyze my own actions from the perspective of my opponent. Unfortunately, placing the camera inside the mask didn't allow the clearest view of the action. But no need to worry, Mary plans on placing the camera on top of her mask during future practices. Hopefully I can post some awesome video footage here soon!

     

    Overall, our practices have been going extremely well and the energy we garnered at the beginning of the year is still going strong. This upcoming weekend we compete in the USFA (United States Fencing Association) Remenyik Open at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion both on Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27. The following weekend we host Club Duals in Patten. We'd love to see everyone out to support your fellow Wildcats!

     

    I want to give a special shout-out to the foil squad for such hard work and dedication this week. "We came in like a wrecking ball and can't stop!"

     

    Good luck on midterms everyone and until next time,

     

    Jen Yamin

    The Final Byte: Why It Was So Hard To Leave The 'J'

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    With the Northwestern Softball alumni game just a day away, Kristin (Scharkey) Jensen looks back on her four years in Kate Drohan's program in the final installment of Schark Bytes.

    I remember the first time I met Kate and Caryl Drohan.

    Marisa Bast Attends USOC F.L.A.M.E. Conference

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    By Marisa Bast

    This summer, I attended the F.L.A.M.E. (Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere) program in Colorado Springs, Colo., an educational experience catered to minority students that is put on annually by the United States Olympic Committee. I spent four inspirational days at the training center, surrounded by an overwhelming amount of excellence -- excellence that presented itself in the form of Olympians and Olympic hopefuls, Paralympians, staff leaders, executives and 27 other college students.

     

    Marisa Bast with National Team fencers Ivan Lee (left) and Jason Pryor (right).


    The program, in its 20th year, consisted of an itinerary that was teeming with motivational presentations, leadership seminars and other workshops led by F.L.A.M.E. alumni, current and former Olympians, USOC staff and current Paralympians. Speakers included five-time Olympic medalist and basketball legend Teresa Edwards, speedskating Olympic medalist Derek Parra and Paralympic Judo medalist Dartanyon Crockett, whose story you may have seen featured on ESPN's "Outside the Lines." In conjunction with these presentations, we were able to partake in Olympic and Paralympic sport demonstrations including fencing, sitting volleyball and team handball, in addition to venturing outside the training center and visiting the beautiful Garden of the Gods, a national natural landmark featuring a magnificent set of red rock formations.

     

    Needless to say, being a F.L.A.M.E. participant was an amazing, eye-opening and motivational experience. I was also able to gain an inside look at the U.S. Olympic committee, foster my own personal and professional growth, improve my leadership skills and communication strategies, expand my network and learn the values of hard work, integrity and perseverance from Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls and standouts.


    In just four days, I was able to learn about sports, the Olympic games, various business tactics and strategies as well as the values of respect, friendship and sheer determination. My biggest takeaway from this program, however, was that hard work trumps all and is vital to one's success; in other words, you are capable of anything if you set your mind to it. As cliche as this sounds, it is 100 percent true. Hard work is blind to socioeconomic status, race, age and educational background. It rewards those who remain loyal to it, and abandons those who are fearful and shy. Hard work can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

     

    Hearing how Olympic and Paralympic standouts like Derek Parra and Dartanyon Crockett overcame adversity, jumped over hurdles to attain success and lived like champions within and outside the boundaries of their respective sports was incredibly inspiring. They instilled a sense of passion and thirst for greatness within me simply by sharing their journeys to the Olympics, journeys laden with hardship, grit and determination.

     

    Thoughts from Katie: Spring Lessons

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    By Katie Landgrebe - Northwestern Women's Soccer

    Katie Landgrebe is a sophomore on the Northwestern women's soccer team and the journalism major will give fans an inside look into the program with her blogs. Katie's first entry takes a look back at the Wildcats' spring soccer season that just wrapped up in early May.

    The end of spring season is always a little bittersweet. We're closing the book on some fun contests with regional rivals but also stepping into our offseason preparation for our main Big Ten season in the fall. I personally love those summer months, preparing my body to tackle preseason, setting goals for what we will accomplish in the fall and anticipating the memories we will make as we take the field on Chicago Friday nights. That said, spring season is a great time to put to work all of the things we focus on in the winter offseason and is always a time of growth for our team. This spring season was no exception.

    Our first weekend back from spring break we played two games against University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Valparaiso and brought home a win and a tie. It was an uncharacteristically warm Saturday in April and playing on Lakeside Field for the first time in six months was awesome. (And also reminded us why we work so hard on fitness in the fall; that 120x76 yard field can really take it out of you.) Against Loyola we played some of the best possession soccer that I've ever seen out of our team and picked up a tie. In a matchup with our Big Ten rival Wisconsin, we brought home a 1-0 win and generated many promising attacks, which has been the focus of much of our training in the past few months.

    The wins and ties this spring, understandably, make up many of the highlights of the past month. Despite that, I think that we collected some of our best learning in the losses we've had, displaying one of the reasons I believe spring season is so integral to collegiate programs: that because these games don't matter for conference wins and losses, we can try new things and work on our weaknesses in a highly competitive game environment without too much pressure. Our team did just that, learning against Marquette that our team organization against a great possession team needs to be better. We collected one of our hardest lessons late in the spring season against DePaul when we were out-worked and didn't compete with a full team effort.  

    The DePaul loss was a hard one to stomach and is still a fresh wound for many of us, but I think it presents one of the greatest opportunities for growth that our team has ever received. After the game we talked about how disappointing it is to have great trainings and see real progress, then not have it translate in a game situation. We talked about perseverance and focus, communication and attitude. Every team, at every level, works to put together a complete performance, harmonizing all of the technical and mental aspects of the game, each time they step on the field. Our team talked about how we need to expect that out of ourselves every single time we take the field too, that anything less is not an acceptable way to represent the Northwestern name or ourselves. Again, a bittersweet way to end the spring, but one that presents hope for even more growth in the months to come and holds a quiet current of expectation for how it will all come together in the fall.

    For me, a lot of things came together this spring season soccer-wise, and it ended up being one of the periods when I've most enjoyed playing at Northwestern. I learned about how important it is to identify areas of weakness in your play and then what it looks like to put in time and thought that is focused on combating those problems. I've begun to have this thought process that revolves around rejecting doing things half-heartedly and focuses on committing to things fully and doing them out of passion and love. My relationship with soccer has definitely not always been this way, and this spring was one of the first times in college that I have tackled things on the soccer field out of a genuine desire to fulfill what I've begun to see as a very worthy commitment in my life. Not that I've viewed soccer as some sort of side-job in the past year, but I've become much more aware that this is an opportunity I don't want to see pass by without knowing that I did all I could to get better at soccer, serve my teammates and have fun playing. Like most things, this way of thinking is a work in progress, imperfect and not always acted out, but it's been pretty transformative in how I approach playing soccer (and living life!).

    Wrapping Up the Experience of a Lifetime

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    Northwestern junior field hockey member Nikki Parsley wraps up her experience playing for the United States at the Four Nations Tournament in New Zealand.

     

    Since my last game in New Zealand, I have spent over 24 hours traveling, taken three flights, and slept only eight hours in the last two nights combined.  The good news is: I am finally home in Evanston.  

             

    But, before I said my final farewell to Kiwiland and since my last blog, we wrapped up the second Four Nations tournament.  During our seventh game of the trip we played Argentina again. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, which qualified us for the bronze medal game against Korea. Previously we had beaten them 2-1 and lost 4-1. 

     

    In my opinion, this was the most exciting game of the tournament for us. Not only did we end up winning 1-0, but we were finally able to execute the majority of our pregame plan. Throughout the eight games, we spent countless hours talking about adjustments we needed to make on and off the field in order to produce more wins. It was amazing to see all of the time spent watching film and studying our opponent's pay off, because hard work does not always guarantee success. However, throughout each game we made significant improvements, and by the end of the tour we finished better than we started.

     

    Over the last few days, I have had a lot of time to talk with others and privately reminisce on my first tour with the National team. I have determined that even if I had time to write a book, I could not properly articulate the uniqueness of my trip. This is most likely due to the wide array of emotions I felt on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis. I have never experienced so many highs and lows in such a short amount of time. Additionally, having the chance to turn one of my lifelong dreams (i.e. competing for my country) into reality is still a bit surreal.

     

    Much like other tours I have went on, it has been somewhat difficult to make the transition back into "regular" life. Even though I am unbelievably excited to be home and surrounded by my best friends and teammates again, I often find myself sidetracked by thoughts of the trip. Because this tour has the potential to greatly impact my future, it is easy to overanalyze the experience. Consequently, my current challenge is to put my blinders on and move full speed ahead, trusting that I left everything on the field in New Zealand.

     

    "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." -Philippians 3: 12-14

    Striving For Greatness

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    By Nikki Parsley

     

    Northwestern junior Nikki Parsley is currently competing for Team USA at the Four Nations Tournament in New Zealand. As her journey winds to a close, she checks in with another update.

     

    On the 22nd day of my trip "I Love It" by Icona Pop routinely flooded my ears. As the alarm sounded, I half consciously rolled out of bed, and noted that my legs ached, but only dully.  This was progress, because over the past few days my body had pleaded, on more than one occasion, that I stop the madness. 

     

    While I have certainly pushed myself physically throughout my field hockey career at Northwestern, playing at the international level requires a new level of fitness entirely. I have observed throughout the tournament that all of the top players in the world share something special in common: they are comfortable being uncomfortable. Even when they walk off the pitch after a 70-minute match, they never show signs of discomfort. While I realize that these women are all in unbelievable shape, I think that this is more of a mental skill than physical ability. This is an attitude that I desire to possess. In fact, this is a mentality I must possess to have success at this level. I am learning that the internal drive to push boundaries is one of the most powerful tools I can add to my arsenal.

     

    As I spent a significant amount of reflecting on this newfound understanding, I was reminded of a scene from "A League of Their Own." As cheesy as recalling this may be, it is the best way I can convey my thoughts.

     

    Jimmy Dugan: Dottie, if you want to go back to Oregon and make a hundred babies, great, I'm in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that.

    Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard.

    Jimmy Dugan: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.

     

    Calling international field hockey challenging is an understatement. But, Jimmy Dugan said it precisely: the hard is what makes it great. The hard pushes me to get up and fight through a mistake I have made too many times. The hard challenges me to make one more recovery sprint at the end of game eight. The hard is what fuels my desire to relentlessly chase the people at the top of the game. 

     

    I am convinced that I have yet to fully comprehend all that this trip has set in motion. I know that I am on the verge of something. Is it success or failure? This I do not know, but of something else I am certain - "I am ready to risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise, and dream more than others think is practical." This trip has reaffirmed my desire to make the national team and eventually represent my country at the Olympics. I am unbelievably thankful for this tour, because I now have a better understanding of what it takes to get where I want to go.

    Volunteer Assistants Make Full Time Impact

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    As I was going through the post-game high-fives with Tennessee this weekend in Palm Springs, I noticed a familiar face perched on the grass hill down the right field line. She was all decked out in her USSSA Pride gear, but I'd know her silhouette anywhere. It wasn't too long ago that I stepped on campus as a freshman 3,000 miles away from home, and Lauren Lappin was our volunteer assistant coach.

    Breaststroke4BreastCancer

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    Editor's Note: Northwestern women's swimmers Jackie Powell and Megan Goss spearheaded the inaugural "Breaststroke4BreastCancer" relay to raise funds for local cancer research. In an incredible display of support and organizational prowess, the first-time event filled 17 lanes at NU's Norris Aquatics Center with more than 150 swimmers who combined to tally 70,000 yards (or 39 miles) of swimming in just one hour. NU's Beta Fraternity won a trophy with the most total yards: 5,350. In addition, special guest Joan Zielinski, a Northwestern professor and invitee of Wildcats' junior swimmer Becca Soderholm, shared her experience with breast cancer with the crowd during a fun, education and powerful evening. Read on for Kristin Scharkey's perspective on how much the event meant to her team and one softball Wildcat in particular.


    On October 24, dozens of Northwestern student-athletes swam in Northwestern Women's Swimming and Diving's fundraiser "Breaststroke4BreastCancer." Our own team swam over 4,000 yards in one hour, raising money for breast cancer research and contributing to the university's final total in which the swimming program more than doubled their target goal. 

    Fast-paced. Innovative. Determined.

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    These were all words I had both heard and used countless times while competing for an internship with Under Armour. Over the years I had followed the company's impressive growth, witnessed the "in-your-face" advertising, and was shocked alongside the rest of the country by their fearless uniform designs. Yet despite all of this, nothing could prepare me for what I would experience first-hand when I arrived in the city of Baltimore. "This isn't like all those other internships. You won't be getting anyone coffee here." This line has practically become a cliché in the world of internships, and every college student looking for work in the summertime has heard it before. Little did I know that when it came to Under Armour, this "line" doesn't just hold true- it is an incredible understatement.





    From the moment I stepped foot on UA headquarters, I was on the go. As an intern in the digital marketing department, I was constantly reminded, "Social media never sleeps, Dayana;" quickly, I realized I wouldn't be doing much sleeping either. I was (literally) sprinting from meeting to meeting across headquarters, interviewing the brand's professional athletes, and working at sporting events around the country. Already, I was beginning to note the striking similarities between life at Under Armour and at Northwestern.





    Oftentimes people say that what one learns in school is useless in the workplace. I would be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind during one of my numerous all-nighters throughout the school year. However, during this internship it became clear to me that my experiences as a Northwestern student-athlete had more than prepared me for my workplace. Considering the unforgiving quarter system, grueling schedules, and multiple cross-campus practices a day, my adjustment wasn't a drastic one. Throughout the summer, the similarities proved endless. As I got to know the company's culture, I began to realize more and more what an incredibly cohesive relationship was being formed between Under Armour and Northwestern. Both ends live and breathe their values of teamwork, determination and excellence. Both ends are seen as the underdogs, yet continue to work relentlessly. Both Under Armour and Northwestern don't just demand respect... they are willing to fight for it.





    Naturally, I was hungry for any Northwestern-related information I could find. I spent any free-time I had badgering the on-field design teams and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over new uniforms and gear. I not-so-casually invited myself to the video shoot for the uniform teaser, where I would stand in a corner attempting to exude professionalism, while I jumped up and down squealing on the inside. It continuously blew my mind the amount of authenticity and attention to detail Under Armour dedicated to anything Northwestern-related.





    On the day of the football uniform reveal, fellow Wildcat and ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell first broke the news. Immediately following, my fellow digital marketing interns and I were given the responsibility of pushing the unveiled designs over social media. I watched the very collages I had put together that morning spread like wildfire over the internet- whether it was my favorite sports blog or my friend's Facebook page, the Northwestern stripe was now everywhere.

     


    Never have I seen such incredibly positive feedback. It didn't matter what critics thought... amongst the Northwestern community, the excitement was undeniable. It became obvious to everyone that Under Armour and Northwestern would serve as a catalyst for one another, immediately catapulting this new partnership to the forefront of collegiate athletics.

    That was when it really hit me. Under Armour didn't just design our uniforms; Under Armour had brought to life the grit, determination, and unbeatable quality our athletes represent everyday. The "stripe" isn't just something aesthetically pleasing, a design to wear on our chests; the stripe is something tangible to get behind, something that is only ours, and something that embodies the Northwestern spirit proudly for everyone to recognize. If there is one thing I learned from my summer experience, it's this: Under Armour and Northwestern did not simply form a new business arrangement. Under Armour and Northwestern have come together to begin a complete and total movement... and this movement begins with reclaiming the stripe.

    Forty Years and Counting

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    EDITOR'S NOTE: Northwestern softball rising senior Kristin Scharkey submitted this piece as her final project in a spring quarter Medill School of Journalism course. We publish it here on her independent NUsports.com blog, Schark Bytes, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Title IX.

     

    Anna Cassell is dressed in all black, accentuating the paleness of legs that have been hidden under shin guards for most of her life. She works diligently on the Northwestern University turf field with two other goalkeepers on the Wildcats' women's soccer team; juggling and taking rep after rep of shots on goal. The blonde-haired freshman started playing soccer when she was four-years-old, and she hasn't stopped since.

     

    "I'm on a scholarship here, and the fact that I can play the sport I love and pay for my college [tuition] that way is really lucky," Cassell says.

     

    I catch this bit of Cassell's practice before heading over to my own on the neighboring field. Our two teams often practice side-by-side on our respective fields like this in the spring, and I can't help but wonder if the opportunity we have is really luck like Cassell says.

     

    This past weekend on June 23 marked the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the legislation that paved the way for thousands of female athletes to have the opportunity to play college sports. Today more than 190,000 female athletes compete at the Division I level, according to data released by the NCAA in 2011. At the birth of Title IX, only one in 25 girls played sports. Now, it is one in three. Perhaps it has not been luck but the work of generations of women who have fought for equality in collegiate athletics.

    The Heart of Northwestern Softball

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    Editor's Note: The original version of this blog was submitted for publication in Softball Magazine. It is reprinted here today in honor of Northwestern's Senior Weekend, which begins at 2 p.m. CT Friday, May 11, 2012, against Illinois at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The three member senior class will be honored prior to Saturday's 1 p.m. CT series finale.

     

    As soon as Adrienne Monka was old enough to attend preschool, her mother excitedly dressed her up with a bow in her hair and sent her off.


    At the end of the day, when she arrived to pick her daughter up, Elba Monka found that her preciously placed bow was gone from Adrienne's head and instead, lay in her cubby. When the preschooler explained that it had simply fallen off, her mother thought nothing of it and sent her back the next day with the bow firmly fastened atop her head. Come pick-up time, however, it was again found lying lonely in the cubby.

    Meet Katie Crandol: Northwestern's Inspirational 'Cat

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    Editor's Note: Northwestern will honor Katie Crandol prior to its noon CT first pitch Sunday, April 29, when it takes on Ohio State in a Big Ten doubleheader at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.


    The first time I met Katie Crandol, it was a sunny Saturday afternoon after our annual open practice. A 16-year-old cancer survivor and aspiring college softball player, Katie and her family had become the newest additions to our team through the Friends of Jaclyn program. As we shared a meal and exchanged stories about our season and their journey, it was apparent to each and every one of us that we were blessed with the opportunity to get know to someone with such a unique perspective on not only softball but also life itself.

    BLOG: Winding Down

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    It's been a busy and exciting time for Northwestern fencing! With the Winter quarter finishing up, so is our season, and everyone can quickly feel the escalation leading up to NCAA Nationals over Spring break. Last weekend, we traveled back to NYC for one more go at some of the best teams in the country. In my last post I promised some exciting news and hopefully some hardware, and I can happily say that I kept that promise!

     

    The foil and saber squads secured bronze medals and the epee squad fought their way to silver, helping Northwestern finish second in overall team standings. With wins over teams such as St. John's, Columbia and Penn, it was a great morale boost heading into the three most important weekends of our season. But with such a whirlwind trip and not getting back to campus until past midnight on Sunday... it was clear that the 'Cats needed some R & R before getting back into to the gym. Have you guys not learned by now that if you pass out, I WILL take a picture of you? Also, shout out to the nice old man who let Kendrick take a catnap on his shoulder.
     


    We spent the week training hard, but keeping it light-hearted as well. It's easy to get caught up in the intensity of post-season action. I know I want to enjoy every moment of the rest of this amazing season, and stressing out never helps! This week we also finished up one of the best fencing clinics we've ever had. Seeing such a fun and lively group of kids get so excited about the sport of fencing really reminds us all why we're here in the first place. Thank you to all the kids for coming out and being so great- I can honestly say we learn from them just as much as they learn from us.
     


    We're loading up the bus and heading out to Notre Dame for the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships, which is sure to be a jam-packed and high-intensity weekend. Saturday is the individual event, while Sunday our squads will duke it out with the best of the conference to hopefully bring home some titles. Follow along on twitter @NCatFencing, and check back for my recap next weekend!

    Go Cats! - D

    BLOG: Special Guest Edition

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    After finishing up the regular season with NU Duals, most of the team enjoyed a relaxing weekend off at home in Evanston. However, six of our freshmen stayed on their grind and traveled to Salt Lake City for the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships! Since my weekend consisted of an extended Always Sunny marathon and staring bewilderedly at my biogeography homework, I thought I'd hand over the blogging reigns for this post. Check out foilist Mary Spohn's recap of the freshmen's exciting weekend out West!

    Salt Lake City, Utah: Home of Skiing, Mormons, and... fencing? Yes, fencing. On February 16th, Sarah Bruhl and I departed from Patten Gym at 3:30 in the morning to make the trip to JOs. Upon arrival, we persuaded our coach to allow a quick nap (translation: 3 hours), got our equipment checked, and prepared for competition the next day. The competition on Friday was exciting and proved to have many ups and downs. In the end, I finished 52nd and Sarah finished 69th, out of a field of 141 fencers.  

    The next day our epee 'Cats competed, and once again freshman Courtney Dumas earned some hardware with an impressive 8th-place finish! Freshman Rose Semmel followed in 22nd, and Sonali Patel in 74th, out of a strong field of 151 fencers.  Claire Carson, our only representing Sabre fencer, drew a difficult first round, but fenced well and showed a good fight. Then, in perhaps what was the highlight of the trip, our epee squad proved its dominance by tearing through the competition in the epee team event. The girls fought all the way to a Bronze medal for the 'Cats!

    All in all, I would say that it was a solid weekend of fencing for the freshmen 'Cats in Salt Lake City. Even better was the support all my teammates displayed, cheering each other on in between bouts. We also had the pleasure of seeing our future Wildcat teammates, all decked out in Northwestern gear already (little do they know they will soon be spending the majority of their lives in purple...). The soon-to-be 'Cats finished with strong results as well and cheered us on every step of the way. While it was a memorable weekend and we were sad to leave the sunny weather and scenic view of the mountains, we are glad to be back on campus and preparing for our final competitions of the year!

    We're all extremely proud of our freshmen and future Wildcats for representing Northwestern so well this weekend! And while breaks are nice, I know I'm already itching to get back out on the strip. This Saturday, our travel squads will be heading back to New York City to compete in the National Squad Championships- a relay style tournament with the best of the best in attendance. It's sure to be an extremely intense weekend, so check back next week for what I predict to be some exciting results!

    Go 'Cats!
    -    D (and Mary)

    Out of Friendship Comes New Rivalry

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    If you know Michelle Batts, you know that she's one of the most outgoing, charismatic people you'll ever meet. She's the life of the party and thrives in social situations; and on the field, her bat talks just as loudly as her personality.

    BLOG: The Best For Last

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    Hey Wildcat Nation!

    First and foremost, I want to apologize for my lack of recent bloggage. It's been a hectic time as we've been in the process of closing out our regular season. In addition, it didn't help that my laptop had a showdown with the pavement of Sheridan Rd. (pavement won, unfortunately). But as my coaches have always taught me- "no excuses, just results" and luckily, I have plentyyyyyy of results to share with everyone as well!

    Our regular season dual meets closed out with the 'Cats finally getting to stay a little closer to home. First, we traveled to the always-lovely town of South Bend, Indiana to compete in the Notre Dame Duals.  The day began on a high note and stayed that way, as we worked our way through 8 straight wins over teams such as Lawrence, Florida, Iowa, and Wayne State. It was then time for the match-up of the day: Northwestern vs. the defending national champions- Notre Dame.  

    Due to the recent addition of NCAA fencing to ESPN broadcasting, it was decided that the match would be filmed as a promotional segment for March's NCAA National Championships.  With one of the biggest crowds we've ever fenced for in attendance, we took on the Irish one squad at a time. The Sabre squad fell to the Irish with a score of 1-8, but the Foil squad brought back momentum by defeating their top-ranked foil squad with a score of 5-4. Epée fought hard next, but ultimately a 4-5 loss gave the Irish an overall 17-10 win.

    Some great video footage of each squad's match can be seen on the Notre Dame Athletics website here.



    The last couple of weekends we've enjoyed the luxury of back-to-back home meets- a great feeling after five consecutive weeks on the road. Being able to fence on campus and in front of our friends and family is always an awesome experience. The installments of the NU Duals didn't disappoint- a 15-2 finish for the 'Cats, Coach Laurie picking up his 1,100th win in the process, and of course our traditional Senior Recognition ceremony. So much excitement just reminded again me how truly special it is be a part of this team. Congratulations to Coach, and special thank you to everyone that came out to support us!

    We've officially wrapped up the regular season, and are looking forward to two weekends of fun competition before the chaos of postseason action picks up in March. I know this team has great things in store for Conference Championships, Regionals, and NCAA Nationals- thank you for following along! 

    Go 'Cats!
    - d

    P.S.- To Juice Thompson, if you're reading this right now- our girl Tina Umanskiy wants to know if you'd like to be her Valentine this year....? Thanks!

    If I could've somehow frozen that moment in between fly balls, I would've. That moment when I stood in centerfield and gazed around at the rest of my teammates scattered throughout the field in front of me. That moment when I could turn my head and see smiling fans to my right and smiling fans to my left, dozens decked out in purple and wearing the same logo across their chest as was across mine.


    Philly and NYC

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    Hey Wildcat fans!

    The team has just wrapped up one of our busiest and most important weekends of the season. On Saturday we faced six schools at the Philadelphia Invitational, and on Sunday we went up against six more at the New York University Invitational. Although this was only week three, I already feel as if we've completed a huge piece of the season, and I'm sure my teammates would agree with me.

    Our trip started out early Friday afternoon. Thanks to the blizzard Chicago was hit with that morning, we were held up on the runway for quite some time. The optimistic and dedicated 'Cats decided to use the delay as a chance to put the "student" in student-athlete:
     


    Role Models

    After a relatively short flight, we were finally on the east coast. Arriving in Philadelphia was a lot like arriving in Hawaii, except it was the exact opposite. After what I can only hope was not the scenic route to our hotel, we settled in at The Inn at Penn. Every year we stay at this hotel, and it has quickly become one of our favorites. The rooms are amazing, the people are super friendly, and the breakfast actually inspires me to wake up earlier than seven minutes before our scheduled departure time. This year they even added an iPad to each of our rooms, which was perfect for playing 20 games of Temple Run reviewing some film before turning in for the night.

    We started the competitive weekend off on a high note, cruising through North Carolina, NJIT, Drew and Cornell. Our first challenge presented itself when we faced the host school, University of Pennsylvania. We found ourselves down 12-11 (14 bouts are needed to win a match). It had been a while since we felt that kind of pressure to pull out a win, which was evident when our infamous fencing screaming (which I think caught our new trainer, John, a little off guard) immediately filled up the room. Thankfully, a late win from the foil squad and last-round sweep by epée propelled us to a hard fought 15-12 victory.

     

    The Dream Team: Coach Ed Kaihatsu, Manager Dan Oh and Trainer John Lee

    Our next challenge presented itself in an old rival- Temple University. Each squad knew that this would be our biggest challenge of the day, as Temple is stacked in each weapon. True to prediction, we found ourselves tied at 13-13, with one last epee bout as the deciding factor. Unfortunately, a hard fought bout did not turn in our favor, and the 'we were handed our first loss of the season.
    Next on the itinerary was the trip to New York City. Along the way, the Cats made a pit stop in New Jersey at foilist Becky Grohman's house. Her parents were nice enough to host us for a wonderful dinner, and I'd like to extend a special thank you to them on behalf of the whole team.

    The next day was one full of highs and lows as well. The team started the day with back-to-back wins against Yale and a tough Wayne State team, but experienced déjà vu of the previous day with a close 13-14 loss to Columbia, and 12-15 loss to Ohio State. The day finished strong, however, with a dominant 21-6 win over host school NYU, and the Cats were finally on our way home from the longest weekend of the season.

     

    "Girls focus, don't stick out your tongues."


    While we may have hoped for better results from the weekend, I have to say that the volume levels during our matches rivaled most sporting events I've attended. I can't express how proud I am of the team for supporting each other with such intensity. I'm especially proud of our freshmen starters- Claire Carson, Courtney Dumas, and Sonali Patel -for being forces to be reckoned with already. Anyone can head back to practice and work out technical mistakes, but the passion I witnessed from my teammates this weekend is something that can never be taught in a gym.

    I apologize for the lengthy post- I had a lot of ground to cover with back-to-back meets! After a day off, we're back at it and excited to be training for the upcoming Notre Dame duals. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week, and of course, go 'Cats!

    - D


    PS- Update: Apparently freshman Tina Umanskiy changed her twitter name following my last post, but never fear- @UtheMANskiy (idk... I guess she thinks it's clever?)

    Coast to Coast

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    Hey Wildcat Nation!

    I hope everyone has had a wonderful start to 2012! As I've said before, I'm so excited to keep everyone updated on the team's doings, and I truly appreciate (most) feedback I've received from the first post. I was told that I sounded like I "wanted to beat someone up" in my last post (which I must argue, comes with the job description of being a fencer), so I promise to keep this one a bit lighter. I was also told that I should start bullet-pointing my posts so that they're easier to read, to which I must say, Ian Farr... are you 8 years old? Moving on.

    The beginning of the year has been extremely busy for the team, with non-stop training, traveling, and competing. We opened the season with a trip to Air Force for our first dual meet, and then this past weekend some 'Cats ventured a little farther west to Portland for a Division 1 North American Cup, which I'll recap later on.

    And while the chaos has taken its toll on us all....

    The hard work is paying off already!

    At Air Force, the Wildcats defeated schools such as Stanford, Cal Tech and Florida to finish the day undefeated against six teams. Overall, the team won 153 of the 162 bouts of the day and went on to become the Western Invitational Champs. It was great witnessing everyone reach their individual goals, and an awesome note to start the season off on as a team!

    Typically, our first meet of the season is somewhere in California, so I was a bit salty to travel to a city (Colorado Springs, CO) arguably colder than Chicago. However, witnessing the plethora of rules and super strict culture at Air Force Academy opened my eyes to how much freedom I do have fencing for Northwestern, for which I am eternally grateful. (Shout-out to the coaches for letting our multiple self-granted water breaks at practice slide, truly 'preciate ya)

    This past weekend, a handful of 'Cats traveled to Portland, Oregon, for the Division 1 North American Cup. Upon arriving in the city, it was clear to me that I could throw a rock in the air and it would hit at least five disgruntled hipsters on its way down, so naturally Devynn Patterson was back in her element. I made the long trip out West with Dev and Camille Provencal, two fine ladies who have been forced to endure my company around the clock for the past two-plus years. It was nice to have some time to explore the city and we even make a stop at the Food Network famous Voodoo Doughnuts!

    Seven of us 'Cats competed this weekend in Portland. Although the tournament is non-collegiate, everyone was excited to get back on the strip, though perhaps a bit disappointed in our overall results.

    Post-competition, I received some great advice from a wise reader: "You can't let one thing beat you twice." Competing at such a high level provided us with great practice for the upcoming matches we have, and allowed us to get in some high-quality bouts with girls we are sure to face in the near future in collegiate play, so I'm confident that the team will only grow and learn from the experience.

    This upcoming weekend, we're bracing ourselves for a marathon of fencing- Philadelphia Invitational on Saturday, then on to the New York Invitational on Sunday. Needless to say, we've become regulars at O'Hare once again and I'm beginning to feel a little like Tom Hanks' character in the Terminal, but I wouldn't have it any other way (the frequent flier miles don't hurt, either). I've seen what this team is capable of, and I know that we can't wait to prove ourselves against some of the absolute top competition in the country this weekend.

    Thanks so much for following us along our season, and of course, go 'Cats!

    - D

    PS- Be sure to follow the team on Twitter! @NCatFencing

    PPS- Follow foilist Tina Umanskiy (@tweena11) as well, if you're into the excessive ramblings of an angsty freshman (you're welcome, teenie).

    "Fencing's not a real sport!"

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    "Fencing's not a real sport!"


    Countless times I've heard this statement thrown my way, the sender usually laughing absentmindedly and possessing no remorse for the discouraging words they've hit me with. Growing up, I was quick to retort with a carefully calculated comeback. I could hope to impress them with facts ("a fencer's sword is the fastest moving object in sports after a bullet!") or hit them with some history ("fencing is one of only four original Olympic sports!"), but usually it was to no avail. I learned to sit back and play it cool as my life's passion was turned into a mockery for the sake of conversation.

     

    Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow when basing your life around a sport that receives little to no attention on the collegiate level is the feeling of wasted passion. Completing your tenth practice of the week, jetting back and forth between continents, and finishing schoolwork on the side is no easy feat; it is also never one fencers demand credit for. However, one cannot help but feel a certain sting when told that all this hard work is for something silly and trivial, something that can be mocked, and something that is not even considered a "real sport."

     

    The overall experience of competing in an often-unrecognized sport led me to think about sportsmanship and athleticism in general. Who gets to decide which sport is "real" and which is "fake"? Who has the authority to call one person an athlete, but deny that title to another? And finally, what is truly the makeup of a real athlete? I observe my teammates day in and day out, and am constantly inspired by their determination and work ethic. Watching such an outstanding group of girls over the last couple years has made me truly recognize what athleticism is at its best.   

     

    It's getting one more workout in when you're already tired and falling apart. It's staying after practice because you know going the extra mile will ultimately pay off in the end. It's meetings with coaches, watching film, and taking endless amounts of notes. It's spending every waking moment with your teammates, and knowing you can count on them just like they count on you- both inside and outside of the gym. It's the unparalleled feeling of life that will elevate any athlete, no matter how many people are in the stands, when given the chance to finally compete and prove yourself.

     

    In the end it's living and breathing your sport and devoting yourself to something that becomes a part of you. This is an experience any athlete can relate to, regardless of the sport that they have dedicated their lives to. Most importantly, it is knowing that while the work may seem painful and endless, the reward is greater than anything every imaginable.  

     

    I'm truly blessed to be surrounded by a team that is the epitome of athleticism. It's been a busy first week back, full of workouts, yoga, practice and a Purple and White meet. Soon, we'll be on our way to the first meet of the regular season at Air Force [Saturday, Jan. 7]. For the past six years, Northwestern Fencing has been unbeaten in season-opening dual meets- a tradition we fully intend on continuing with the six teams we face this weekend.

     

    Thank you for following us along on our journey, and I'm so excited to keep everyone updated all season long!

     

    Go 'Cats!

    - Dayana Sarkisova

    Editors note: Last weekend, the B1G Mobile Tour came to Northwestern to showcase the new Stagg-Paterno Big Ten Championship Trophy and help spread the word about the conference's new Legends and Leaders division names. Kristin Scharkey served as our blogger for the Tour, finishing her experience with a final blog entry about what Honoring Legends, Building Leaders means to Northwestern student-athletes. Read the entire entry and watch a video on the B1G Mobile Tour blog featuring many of NU's most successful student-athletes as they share what competing in the B1G Conference means to them.

    Meet Tyler Jorgensen!

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    Hey 'Cats fans! This week I got to sit down with Assistant Director of Sports Performance Tyler Jorgensen, the newest addition to our sports performance team and Northwestern Softball's personal coach! We've already had three great weeks of work with Tyler and are looking forward to what we will accomplish with him over the next year!


    Kaylee's Corner: Get To Know the 'Cats

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    It has been a crazy past two weeks of field hockey for the 'Cats! After losing to Indiana for our first Big Ten match of the season, we beat then #7 UNH two days later--giving me family bragging rights because my sister starts for them. This past weekend, we defeated Michigan State in the pouring rain 3-0 and then drove to Penn State. After coming back from being down 2 goals at halftime, we lost in a heartbreaking overtime. We hope to see Penn State and Indiana again in the Big Ten Tournament!

    Two years ago, I was a freshman in the dorms and field hockey sensation Chelsea Armstrong was an Australian transfer student who just happened to live next door. Her roommate was my best friend and teammate so I frequented their room often, many times only catching little bits of conversation with Chelsea before she ran off to one of her legendary late-night study sessions in the library. Her accent garnered a slew of hall-wide fans; a number that vastly increased when everyone figured out just how tremendous she was on the field. It became normal for floor mates to cover Chelsea's door in newspaper clippings that heralded her performances.


    Eric Chun Seeks Return to Glory at Asian Amateur

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    Northwestern golfer Eric Chun knows what it's like to have success at the Asian Amateur Golf Championship.

     

    In November 2009, Chun was the runner-up at the tournament's inauguration, which earned him the right to qualify for the 2010 British Open at the International Final Qualifying Stage. There, the senior shot rounds of 67-71 and sank a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to land a spot in his first Major Championship at legendary St. Andrews.


    Kaylee's Corner: Maryland: Crab Feasts and Field Hockey

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    In my first season here at Northwestern in 2008, one of our first road trips was to the University of Maryland, not far from my hometown. That year, my parents hosted our team for dinner, which consisted of a wonderful spread of food highlighted by a crab feast. Four years later, our team returned to Maryland, and also to my house, on a weekend that coincided with my birthday. It is ironic that we happened to be playing in my hometown when I turned 18 and then again when I turned 21. My 21st birthday may have been celebrated much differently than most, but I will take our wins over American University and Ball State, a crab feast and spending time with my teammates, their families and my coaches at my house any day.

    Football Players Participate in 'Cats in the Classroom

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    In conjunction with last week's Paint Evanston Purple festivities, as well as Evanston Day at Ryan Field last Saturday, Northwestern football players took to three local elementary schools--St. Athanasius, Lincolnwood, and Kingley--to participate in the 'Cats in the Classroom initiative.

    Sophomore punter Brandon Williams took time out to detail the Wildcats' visit to St. A's which is located just one block away from Ryan Field.

    Photo Gallery

    Watch Video of the 'Cats at Lincolnwood Elementary

    After being told about an opportunity to share with grade school age students at St. Athanasius, five of my teammates and I were eager to sign up. To be honest, we expected to be sharing to a smaller group of maybe 30 or 50 students so you can imagine our surprise when finding out that we were to be a large part of the school's first yearly assembly. At first, no one was sure about talking to more like 350 students, but once we arrived at St. A's, we realized we were in good hands.

    Mrs. Castagna, the principal, invited us into her office when we arrived at the school after a short walk down Ashland Avenue from Ryan Field. None of us had been called to the principal's office in years, but after some jokes about us being in trouble, we were introduced to what would be happening in the assembly.

    Mrs. Castagna shared with us the school's theme this year of, "Called to Learn, Love and Lead," something that resounded with each one of us as members not only of the Northwestern football team, but also as students at a prestigious academic institution. We have understood this idea from the moment we stepped foot in Evanston knowing that learning takes priority over our athletic careers, but also that learning is not limited to merely academic knowledge, but also includes our social lives. Learning to love over 100 teammates as a family and learning to lead, not only on the field but also in the community. It's safe to say we have learned a lot.

    Jeff Budzien, Jake Gregus, Pat Hickey, Chris Gradone, Steve Flaherty and I took our seats in the front of the gymnasium as the students poured in. Ranging from kindergarteners to eighth graders and arranged by age, they slowly filled the basketball court from front to back. Mrs. Castagna kicked off the assembly by introducing the year's theme and welcomed the students. The student council then asked us questions about aspects of being part of a team. We were able to share with them everything from how we balance school and athletics, to how we deal with issues within our team. The students listened attentively and, after the student council finished with their list of questions, eagerly asked us about our positions on the team and about how much we could bench press. Since two of us are punters, two more kickers and a long snapper, we allowed Jake Gregus (a defensive end) to answer and his response of 350 pounds, resulted in the loudest applause of the day.

    After we shared with the students, we were able to spend time autographing posters for them and talking to some of the faculty. We were excited to learn about the football game being played on Ryan Field directly following our game against Eastern Illinois this upcoming Saturday between St. A's and Wilmette Catholic. The game was all part of Evanston Day, Saturday, Sept. 10, which is all part of the larger Paint Evanston Purple campaign that included a pep rally on Thursday and participation from numerous Evanston businesses.

    The support from the city of Evanston towards Northwestern Athletics is something that not only is appreciated, but something that is needed. We are so lucky to be in a city like Evanston where we are supported and being able to step out of the bubble of college football to share with grade school children about something bigger than athletics is something that we all were excited to be able to do. We realize the importance of our being actively involved in the community and that our participation could never come close the support we've felt from the community towards us. The 'Cats in the Classroom program, which is in conjunction with the Paint Evanston Purple campaign, is just one way that we are able to give back to the community that we have been blessed to receive so much from. We appreciate every opportunity to be a part of this amazing town and look forward to seeing everyone at Ryan Field.

    Go 'Cats and Go Redhawks!

    Kaylee's Corner: Preseason Secrets

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    Kaylee Pohlmeyer web.JPGWith the Wildcats off to a 3-1 start to the 2011 campaign, senior Kaylee Pohlmeyer takes time out to reflect on what was an eventful stretch of preseason training, on and off the field hockey field.

    We have a new group of National Pro Fastpitch Champions.

     

    And former Wildcats Robin Thompson and Tammy Williams are among the heralded.

     

    On Sunday, Aug. 21, the Chicago Bandits beat the USSSA Florida Pride 10-3 in the second game of a best-of-three series to win their second postseason title in franchise history. Williams went 1-for-4 at the plate and scored a run, while Thompson also scored after being inserted into the game to pinch run. Former Northwestern softball coach Lauren Lappin also played second base in the game for the Pride squad.

    Kaylee's Corner: A New Perspective

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    Kaylee Pohlmeyer web.JPGJust 10 days away from our opening game against Kent State, the 'Cats field hockey team is starting its second week of preseason. With a young squad this year, we have had intense practices and workouts to get everyone ready for a challenging season.

    My name is Kaylee Pohlmeyer, and I am No. 19 for the Wildcats. This fall will be my senior season at Northwestern, something I have been looking forward to for a long time! But it's going to be much different than I expected, for I am playing a role on the team that still hasn't sunk in quite yet. Name a position, and I have most likely played it: defense as a freshman, midfield as a sophomore, and a mix of midfield and forward as a junior. But as it turns out, I have found myself in a new position for my senior season, and that is on the sidelines.

    Click here to see Brittany in action with Habitat for Humanity


    Hi Wildcat Fans!

    Hello from Findlay, Ohio!  I have left the big city of Evanston for the summer for an engineering internship with Marathon Petroleum Company LP (Marathon Oil Corporation and Marathon Petroleum Corporation recently split...I am now in what they call the "downstream" side of the company, Marathon Petroleum) in Findlay, OH.  I have replaced nonstop traffic and skyscrapers for peaceful open roads and farmland this summer.  It is surely an adjustment, but I have truly enjoyed my time here thus far.

    I am working in a group within Marathon Petroleum called M&TE (Marketing and Transportation Engineering).  I have been placed in a major project called the Woodhaven Flare Project, working on a site in Woodhaven, Michigan.  Working from the Findlay site, I get to examine the workings of salt caverns storing propane and butane underground, large brine tanks to supply these caverns when empty, pipeline transporting crude oil around the country, and as implied, a large flare which releases pressure within these above and below ground pipelines.  Well, needless to say, after 4 weeks of being on the job, I have sure learned a lot about big oil! One of the fun things I have been able to experience is the safety outfits required to wear when on site at one of these major facilities.  I have provided you a picture of me in my outfit for your own personal enjoyment. (See Photo Album at top)

    This past week (week 4 of my internship) has truly been the biggest test of my abilities as an engineer.  My supervisor and project manager have been on vacation for the entire week and I have been left in charge of the project to answer questions and any problems that might arise during construction.  I would've never expected this much responsibility so early on but this internship has really prepared me for my entrance into the working world within the next year.

    After working 8 am to 5 pm every day, I have still managed to get my Wildcat workouts in and even participate in other activities to keep in shape this summer.  I ran a 5 mile race on the Fourth of July and have signed up to compete in a sprint triathlon at the end of August.  I have one unique story which shows how important it is to make a good impression everywhere you go.  During my lunch hours, I am a frequent visitor at the Findlay YMCA across from Marathon Petroleum to play pickup basketball for about an hour or so.  The other day as I am leaving, I notice this man running to follow me out of the gymnasium door.  As I'm walking out he asks, "Were you at the Chicago Autism Speaks walk this spring?"  Flabbergasted, I turned and confirmed that I had been and he went on to explain that he was at that walk in Chicago and thought he recognized my face from walking on stage.  It goes to show that wherever student athletes go, we are always representing Northwestern and need to make sure we present ourselves with class. 

    Another experience I was fortunate enough to take part in while an employee at Marathon Petroleum was Habitat for Humanity.  On July 12, I took my carpentry skills to a plot of land down the road from the main Marathon Petroleum building to help construct a new home for a wonderful couple.  The week previous to the build, I was able to attend an informational session during my lunch to learn more about this couple we were working to help and about the project itself.  It tugged at my heart as this woman explained her struggles with epilepsy and the high cost of medication putting her and her husband into unstable financial grounds. 

    It was awe inspiring to see these two show up the day of construction and help me and my coworkers build the very house they would be living in.  As far as the building went, it only took me about a good 15 minutes and 3 fingers to get used to hammering nails into wood. Okay, I have to admit, I'm lying about the 3 fingers; as a basketball player, I was very precautionary in order to protect the tools which have allowed me to dribble and shoot for all of these years.  But I was able to pound nails into the very structural framework of the house and see a roof and garage get built before my very eyes.  I have included some pictures from my day of work.

    This experience not only at Habitat for Humanity but while working at Marathon Petroleum has allowed me to take a step back and realize how truly blessed I am to be a Northwestern Wildcat.  The challenges faced everyday as a college athlete while studying at one of the top academic programs in the country has prepared me well and allowed me to develop the necessary skills to become a successful engineer.

    Brittany Orban


    PersaStrong (adj.)

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    Where do words get their meaning? How are they derived?

     

    Take the word 'strong,' for example. First used by Jakob Grimm in 1841, the word comes from the Germanic base strangaz, meaning "physically powerful," "powerful in effect" and "severe."  Over time, it has been redefined by people and events; shaped and molded into various connotations.

     

    There's 'strong' in the sense of having the ability to perform physically demanding tasks and 'strength' defined by skills and qualities that enable success. There's strong impressions, strong currents, strong cups of coffee, etc etc.

     

    And then there's 'PersaStrong.'

     

    PersaStrong (adj.):

     

    1. To possess strength, determination and/or talent like that of Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. (i.e. "There's strong, then there's PersaStrong.")

     

    2. To establish yourself as an unquestionable leader and field general, capitalizing on your innate ability to escape the pocket and turn almost certain losses into big gains.

     

    3. To expect the same excellence from your teammates as you do from yourself (i.e. watching countless hours of film with as many teammates as you can bring along), attempting to not only elevate your own game but take the entire football program to another level.

     

    4. To not be satisfied with anything less than perfection and attend as many extra workouts as possible.

     

    5. To go 19-for-21 with three touchdowns in the 2010 season opener against Vanderbilt, when few believed you'd be able to fill Mike Kafka's shoes.

     

    6. To excel on and off the field at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, earning 2010 All-Big Ten first team honors on top of Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honors and two consecutive Academic All-Big Ten honors.

     

    7. To be the first player in Northwestern football history to be named to the program's 10-man Leadership Council four times, a group of players elected by teammates to be liaisons and leaders in program development.

     

    8. To compile stats that would compare favorably to past Heisman Trophy Winners. (i.e. If the passing yards Dan Persa accumulated in 2010 -- prior to his season-ending injury -- were projected over a full season, he would have thrown for 3,355 yards. The last nine Heisman-winning quarterbacks together have averaged 3,354 yards.)

     

    9. To stand on the brink of college football immortality as a preseason favorite to win college football's most prestigious individual award.

     

    But there's more to the definition than what might be tangibly found in a dictionary; more than the Big Ten record-breaking 73.5 percent completion rate and the fact that he's has already been declared a candidate for this year's Walter Camp Award, Manning Award, Davey O'Brien Award and Capital One Academic All-America honors.

     

    It's the willpower I see in Dan Persa's eyes during rehab as he works diligently to complete exercises, carrying the weight of a team that depends on him.

     

    It's the resolve I notice in his stature from my place in right field bleachers at Wrigley Field, as he watches our team battle Illinois in the chilling temperatures of November -- braving the cold on the sidelines -- not even a week out of surgery.

     

    It's the elation that comes when he evades would-be sackers and glides into the end zone; the excitement that follows as he marches the team down the field with passes that fly straight into the hands of Jeremy Ebert and Demetrius Fields.

     

    It's Ryan Field busting at the seams, packed in like sardines, simply because no one wants to miss the magic he has for us next.

     

    Dan Persa has the talent and opportunity to send shockwaves throughout college football this year reminiscent of those felt after the '95 season following Northwestern's storybook run to the Rose Bowl. There has been a lot of speculation, a lot of questions and concern about his health, but Persa has created his own brand of strength that is rooted in the intangibles described above; determination, willpower, resolve.

     

    When asked about the greatest lesson he's learned, Persa had just two words, "Never quit." In regards to the 2011 season, I have five...

     

    Let the Heisman campaign begin.