Here’s the beauty of NCAA Division III athletics at a dynamic university like St. Thomas: Your rosters are filled with well-rounded individuals who also happen to be good at sports, not simply pure athletes who happen to have a few outside interestsand talents.
Take these four high achievers:
- The captain and leading scorer on St. Thomas’ nationally ranked men’s hockey team, 24-year-old senior Robby Philipp, helps pay his tuition with a work-study job … doing his team’s practice and game laundry.- A swimmer and aspiring photographer, Alexis Rodarmel (top) is a student government representative, has a lengthy service résumé and takes part in a rock climbing club …all while making the dean’s list.- A four-year starter in soccer, Tess Hanson played on an MIAC championship team and holds a research job while she prepares for medical school … and maintains a 3.98grade-point average.- A five-time All-American on the track at 800 meters and a four-time All-MIAC soccer player, Mike Hutton takes classes at the University of Minnesota’s ROTC program … and chose the Tommies over the Gophers, where his twin brother competes in the same event.
While facilities, coaching and tradition are important to the overall success of Tommie athletics, games and championships are won with dedicated and diverse student-athletes like this foursome.
St. Thomas’ 700 student-athletes have an average grade point above 3.00. The Tommie women’s teams have been especially proficient. Last year alone, women’s basketball posted a 3.519 GPA; women’s cross country had a 3.50 GPA; women’s tennis had a 3.44 GPA; soccer had a 3.40 GPA; softball had a 3.38 GPA; women’s track and field had a 3.36 GPA; and women’s swimming and diving had a 3.31 GPA.
St. Thomas has had 74 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, including 51 in the last 10 years in 11 different sports. In four sports last fall, six Tommies made first-team Academic All-District and are on the national ballot for All-America consideration.Robby Philipp explains his daily schedule, which is fairly typical for students juggling varsity sports, academics and activities:
“My typical day involves waking up at 8 a.m., and I try to study before going to class.” he said. “I’m typically at class from 9 to 11 a.m., then it’s off to hockey from 1 to 5 p.m. After hockey, I go to classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 5:30 to 9:15 p.m. After class, I study again and get homework done. My day is jam-packed and stressful, but I believe that it will better prepare me for life in the working world where there are constant deadlines.”
All four agree that their sacrifices and time demands are worth it as they seek the best possible college experience.
“St. Thomas definitely has allowed me a great balance between being a student, an athlete and an actively involved college kid,” Rodarmel said. “Plus, St. Thomas has given me many opportunities and many people whom I can thoroughly rely on.”
A native of Thief River Falls, Minn., Philipp played two seasons of Juniors A hockey for the Fargo-Moorhead Jets after graduating from high school. He turned 21 in his freshman year at St. Thomas, and that maturity helped him appreciate the opportunity he had in the classroom and on the ice.
Coming into December, Philipp led the conference in goals with six in UST’s 6-2-1 start. The Tommies had won their last 10 games when he has scored a goal. He’s on pace toplay in more than 100 college games.
Philipp originally committed to play Division I hockey at the Air Force Academy butchanged plans. “I decided that the academy was not a good fit for me, and decided to go to St. Thomas because I heard a lot of great things about the business program it offers,” he explained. “What I like most about St. Thomas is that it has a small-school feel but you’re in a big city. I’m originally from a small town, so the transition to St. Thomas was very easy for me. Also, the opportunity the college offers in job placement was also a major factor.”
Despite his age and status as team leader, Philipp is a down-to earth guy who does the team laundry at the St. Thomas Ice Arena. His leadership in hockey, his 3.64 grade-point average and his 2010 summer job at a small-town bank in New Folden, Minn., put him in a position to receive (and accept) a full-time finance/accounting job in the Twin Cities at Honeywell.
“Hard worker, fierce competitor,” said UST men’s hockey coach Jeff Boeser of his senior captain. “Rob does not like to lose, no matter what he is competing in. He’s very passionate, wants to be the best and is reliable in any situation during a game.”
Alexis Rodarmel, a junior who competes in the sprint freestyle races, joined the long tradition of UST swimming and diving athletes who contribute so much to campus life outside the pool.
“Her greatest attribute is her ability to channel positive energy into doing good for others, whether it’s lifting someone’s spirits in practice, cheering for someone in a race, or organizing a fundraiser to battle cancer,” said her coach, Tom Hodgson. “She has a remarkable, totally natural generosity of spirit. … She gives with no thought of reward.”
Rodarmel admits she misses her native Colorado Springs but said she doesn’t regret making the 1,000-mile trek to Minnesota.
“I came to St. Thomas because I was seeking independence. I wanted the opportunity to sink or swim (both literally and figuratively) on my own.” Rodarmel said. “I needed confirmation that I could indeed flourish in a new place and succeed at achieving my goals. Coming to St. Thomas allowed me to do all of that. I feel like I’m constantly accomplishing goals, both big and small, almost every day that I’m here. I know I’m constantly learning when I’m in the classroom, and I’m definitely learning about how resourceful and successful I can be so far from home.”
Rodarmel’s experience rings true, for student-athletes or any students.
“When I get into a week that is absolutely crazy, I just stop and make myself take it one day at a time,” she explained. “Sometimes, it turns into one ‘thing’ at a time. There are days that start at 9 a.m. and do not stop until 10 p.m. I watch the time like a hawk. I’m a queen of time management. I look at my week and know that I cannot miss class and I cannot miss swim practice. From there, I look at the free time I have and utilize it for volunteering, meetings, homework and whatever else I have to get done. You should see what my planner looks like some weeks – it’s amazing I can get that much on a single page!”
A rare athlete who competes in fall, winter and spring, Mike Hutton will fulfill his Marines commitment starting next year. He aspires to be a unit commander.
“I definitely can feel overwhelmed at times, but the people around me, including my family, ROTC classmates and my teammates, are the ones who keep me sane,” Hutton explained. “I think that is also why I enjoy sports so much is because you can get a break in your day to do what you love and hang with some cool dudes.”
Hutton has received MIAC Player of the Week honors six times so far during his career in soccer (three times), indoor track (twice)and outdoor track (once). Hutton closed his four-year soccer career with 35 goals and helped the Tommies win all four meetings versus archrival St. John’s. St. Thomas went 23-6-2 in games when Hutton scored a goal. In track, he’s been part of five MIAC champion teams and holds the school record for 800 meters at 1:50.98.
Coach Aaron Macke will miss the intensity that Hutton brings to the soccer field. “I’m inspired by Mike’s determination, discipline and motivation to succeed,” Macke said. “On the soccer field that equates to being exceptionally fit, well prepared and leading by example. I also know that Mike has set numerous records in his (ROTC) Marines regimen.
“Mike’s day is very full with morning training in his ROTC program, classes throughout the day, soccer or track in the afternoon and class work or traveling for athletics in the evening. This full schedule requires extreme discipline and sacrifice to manage his time, take care of his body and mind, and stay focused on the ultimate goal – being the bestat whatever he sets out to do.”
Hutton’s track and field coach Steve Mathre added, “Mike has this rare positive and infectious personality that says, ‘There’s nothing we can’t do.’ His teammates see his example and success and positive attitude and believe in him completely. He helps elevate everyone around him.”
A defender, Tess Hanson missed only one college game due to injury and played in 75 games over her four-year career. She helped St. Thomas record 32 shutouts and build a 47-20-9 overall record. Hanson took a VISION service trip last spring break to Colorado and worked with an Americorp branch that provides outreach to the homeless and migrant populations and cooked food in a shelter. She also has volunteered with Tommie Park and Rec, United Hospital, Elder Network as a youth soccer coach, andcampus community cleanup.
“St. Thomas has provided a multitude of opportunities that have rounded out my education in more than just the liberal-arts sense,” Hanson said. “I’ve been able to meet people and get involved in things that have made my time outside of the classroom just as meaningful as my time in the classroom. I’ve always had amazing support from my professors and classmates in my athletic endeavors, as well as incredible support from my teammates and coaches for my academic and career goals.”
Hanson has applied to 11 medical schools, interviewed at many of those, and already has been accepted into one. “This past semester has been a bit crazier than most,” Hanson said. “Applying to and interviewing for med school has been an additional extra-curricular that was fairly unpredictable and slightly more stressful.”
Coach Sheila McGill said that Hanson is first and foremost a good person, which will serve her well in a medical career.
“Tess is a quiet, kind and reassuring leader,” McGill said. “This year Tess had to balance soccer, med school interviews and her academics, and excelled in them all. She is always the first person to step up and lend a hand, helping others carry equipment all four years, baking for the team and helping a sick or injured teammate. Her smile and kind heart truly will be missed.”
“My time at St. Thomas has helped shape the type of doctor I want to be, not only in specialty but in character,” Hanson said. “I hope to build on these experiences,pursuing the service and academic interests I’ve cultivated throughout my time at St. Thomas.”
That’s the life of a Tommie student-athlete – classes, homework, activities, practice and competition, with a little time left over for rock climbing and laundry.
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