Women’s cross-country focused on the long run in life

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Academics and athletics are two separate specializations, but for student athletes, the two become one.

The women’s cross-country team had the highest team grade point average last semester with a 3.659, according to information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act. Men’s basketball had the lowest GPA with 2.607. Women’s cross-country also has the highest cumulative GPA at 3.611 and men’s basketball has the lowest at 2.713—which is well above the ineligibility level of a GPA below a 2.0.

Two of the members of the women’s cross-country team, senior Sadie Darnell and junior Kristen Levi, have been named to their college dean’s list seven times.


Darnell, an elementary education major who has achieved a 4.0 GPA her entire collegiate career, said the team works just as hard on academics as its athletic training.

“We are definitely focused on doing our best in all that we do, so being on top of our school work is a priority to all of us,” Darnell said. “The discipline we know from running transfers over to the classroom too.”

Darnell was a member of the All-MVC Scholar-Athlete team her sophomore, junior and senior years. She has been the MVC Athlete of the Week twice and was her high school’s valedictorian.

Darnell has been named the Missouri Valley Conference’s Elite 18 award the last two outdoor track seasons. An athlete must be nominated by their coach and finish top three in their event to win the award. Darnell finished third both years in the 5,000-meter run.

Levi, an exercise science major, said academics are more important to her in the long run than athletics.

“Most likely, we won’t be professional track athletes,” she said. “So when we’re done athletically, we’re going to need academics to succeed in life.”

Levi was named to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association all-academic team on Feb. 14, 2014. She had a 3.84 GPA at the time, which was 40th highest of 129 Division I honorees.


“I knew how hard I had worked in the classroom to get to that point,” she said.  “When [former] coach [Matt] Sparks told me, I didn’t believe him, but I knew I deserved it.”

Levi said her parents have always pushed her academically and she still takes effort to study. She said she had to work on finding the balance between pushing her studies and taking a break.

The team has an advantage on other sports and is able to take more time with academics, coach David Beauchem wrote in an email.

“We have a rigorous training program,” he wrote. “But we also have some latitude for individual academic conflicts,”

Levi said Beauchem puts academics first, allowing his athletes to pursue academic opportunities, even if it interferes with their training.

Men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson said the GPA of the team has improved since he came to SIU. However, he said academics are not his only method of judging character.

“In our sport, I’m not going to look at GPA,” he said. “I talk to our academic advisers and I measure our guys not based on eligibility or GPA, but by what they can do.”

Hinson said he expects his players to show up and be attentive in class. He said he punishes them when he finds out they do not.

Hinson said he asks people to understand what the players go through on a daily basis.

“Accept our guys for the effort they give,” he said. “An average student doesn’t go through what they go through on a daily basis. For the most part, they’re up at 8 a.m. and they aren’t done until 9 p.m.”

Freshman forward Jordan Caroline said the team should not be happy with the results and  needs to focus in class for their futures.

“Academics are really important, you have to look for a career,” he said. “Even if you go and play professionally, you can’t play forever.”

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.