MARQUETTE, Mich. – The United States Olympic Education Center announced the athletes of the 2006 fall semester for each of the five training programs.
“Athletes are selected by their coaches based on athletic and academic accomplishments during the semester,” said USOEC director Jeff Kleinschmidt. “It’s been a terrific semester for USOEC athletes in general, but a handful stood out. For some award recipients, their strong performance was a continuation of their outstanding achievements. For others, it was their turn to break out and make a name for themselves. They are all well-rounded, dedicated individuals who are well-deserving of the honor.”
Wrestler Harry Lester (Akron, Ohio) was named USA Wrestling’s Greco-Roman athlete of the semester for the third time. He was also the 2004 athlete of the year. Lester started the semester winning bronze at the World Championships in Changzhou, China. He defeated Seref Eroglu (Trukey) 4-3, 4-3 in the medal round, becoming the first wrestler to medal at the World Championships since the establishment of the program in 1999. His win affirmed the program’s evolution to an elite status. He also won silver at the Turneul International tournament in Brasov, Romania, and gold at the World Team Trials while retaining his No. 1 national ranking at 66 kilograms. He’s a senior history major at Northern Michigan University.
USA Wrestling also selected Liz Short (Lombard, Ill.) on the women’s freestyle team to receive the award for the first time. She captured her second career world medal with a bronze at the University World Championships in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, at 48 kg. She also won bonze at the Sunkist International Open in Tempe, Ariz. In the medal match, she overtook Ingrid Santos (El Salvador) 6-0, 7-0. At the USOEC Duals in Marquette, Short defeated Melissa Girard (University of the Cumberlands) 3-0, 4-0. Recently, she competed at the Canadian National Duals at LakeheadUniversity, finishing with a 7-1 record. Short is a senior athletic training major at NMU.
David Clark (San Diego, Calif.) is USA Boxing’s award recipient. He started the season competing at the National Police Athletic League Championships in Oxnard, Calif. His No. 2 national ranking at 119 pounds recently earned him an invitation to compete against the 2004 Ukraine Olympian Maksm Tretyah. Clark, a 2004 U.S. Olympic Team alternate, lost the 23-21 decision, but gained experience. He was also invited by the Chinese Olympic Committee to train and compete in China during winter break. Clark will graduate from NMU Saturday with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He has a cumulative grade point average of 3.18 and hopes to attend law school and become a judge after his competitive boxing career ends. As a three-time recipient of the award, Clark knows the discipline it takes to be a USOEC student athlete.
“I didn’t think I’d be doing this [attending NMU and boxing at the USOEC] four years ago,” admitted Clark. “I thought I’d have to quit boxing to go to school in San Diego or just box and quit school. I can do both because of the USOEC, but it has been a tough juggle between academics and boxing. There are times I’ve gone on trips and had to study right after a fight because I’d have a test when I got back, but it’s worth it.”
Cherise Wilkins (Syracuse, N.Y.) was U.S. Speedskating’s selection for the award. She’s in her second year as a resident athlete at the USOEC and it’s the first time she’s received the honor. Wilkins accomplished several personal best race times during the semester and has had several stellar performances. This fall, she took fourth at American Cup I in Milwaukee, Wis., which earned her a position on the World Cup I-II Team. While on the team, she competed in the 500-meter distance and the relay in China and Korea. Later in the semester, she finished third at American Cup II in Midland, Mich., to capture a spot on the World Cup III-VI Team. She raced in both World Cups III and IV in Canada, and will compete in World Cups V and VI next semester in Europe. Her third-place finish at American Cup II also qualified her for a position on the World University Team, which will compete at the World University Games early next year in Torino, Italy. Wilkins is a junior biology major at NMU.
It’s the second time Emmy Vargas (Panorama City, Fla.) received the athlete of the semester honor from USA Weightlifting, earning it for the first time in fall 2005. She’s savoring the award as she intends to move to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., after the fall 2006 semester.
“I didn’t even really know I was nominated [for the award],” she said. “It’s nice to be acknowledged. It’s a nice way to cap off my time here [at the USOEC].”
She was nominated for the award based on her second-place finish in the 75-plus-kg weight class at the American Open earlier this month in Birmingham, Ala. At her peak, she snatched 226 lbs. and clean-and-jerked 288 lbs. Vargas reached a national ranking of No. 7, earning a position on the U.S. National Team. She has dual citizenship in the United States and El Salvador, and is bilingual, speaking English and Spanish. The NMU senior studies clinical lab science. Vargas plans to take a semester off of school to adjust to the OTC, resume school and train for the 2008 Olympics.
All five award recipients will be eligible to win the athlete of the year award this spring.
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