The seven Western Nebraska Community College athletic teams placed 15 athletes on the NJCAA Academic All-American teams that were released last week. Four of the players were tabbed First Team All-Academic after earning 4.0 GPAs.
Those receiving First Team honors include volleyball player Macey Boggs of Gering; women’s basketball player Emma Johnson of Ft. Collins, Colorado; baseball player Quinn McCafferty of Big Horn, Wyoming, and women’s soccer player Ana Von Ruden originally from Lebanon, Oregon.
“It is an awesome honor to be an Academic All-American. I’m happy to help represent our great school through the work I do in the classroom,” McCafferty said. “It is very special to have so many athletes working hard to be great in both academics and athletics, especially when our sports teams played very well this past spring.”
Boggs, who was a dual enrollee in the fall, taking college classes as well as finishing up her high school classes before graduating from Gering High School in the December, said it is really special to see 15 athletes recognized for their hard work in the classroom as well as the athletic playing field.
“It is special to have 15 athletes be recognized for their academics because it shows the student-athletes that we strive to be,” Boggs, who is working to get an associates in business management, said. “Playing a sport in college does not just mean competing on the court/field, it also means working hard in the classroom. We had 15 athletes prove that this semester.”
Von Ruden, who majored in Business Administration and graduated in May and lives in Oshkosh with her family, said it is an honor to see so many athletes earn academic recognition.
“I know that a lot of athletes work really hard in their academics and in their sport, and I know the hard work and stress that goes with it,” she said. “But it is very possible and I think that those athletes that have reached those achievements have shown that.”
Besides the four that earned First Team honors with a perfect 4.0 GPA, 11 others earned Second and Third Team recognition. Second Team honorees maintained a 3.99 to 3.80 GPA, while Third Team All-Academic honorees had a 3.79 to 3.60 GPA.
The Second Team All-Academic members include four volleyball players in Hyleigh Fornstrom of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, Anabelle Gillen of Mitchell; and Elli Winkler and Arianna Mitchell of Gering; women’s basketball player Ale’jah Douglas of Omaha; softball player Bella Coffman of Aurora, Colorado; and baseball player Luis Alcantara of the Dominican Republic.
The Third Team All-Academic recipients include baseball players Jack Jones of Scottsbluff and Spencer Ohu of Aurora, Colorado; volleyball player Olivia Schaub of Gering; and women’s basketball player Ky Buell of Cheyenne.
On top of that, two teams earned NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year. The volleyball and women’s basketball team earned that recognition while maintaining at least a 3.00 GPA among all of their players.
All-in-all through the NJCAA, there were 820 NJCAA teams with a 3.0 GPA while there were 8,272 student-athletes on the NJCAA level that earned individual All-Academic honors. Breaking it down even further, 2,336 student-athletes garnered NJCAA All-Academic First Team honors, 2,640 student-athletes were named to the NJCAA All-Academic Second Team, and another 3,297 student-athletes received third team recognition.
“It does feel nice to be acknowledged as an NJCAA Academic All-American with a high GPA,” Von Ruden said. “It’s definitely not easy to maintain high grades while in sports, but putting in the effort is worth it, especially since I was eager to learn.”
Boggs said seeing all the hard work payoff is definitely worth it.
“It is awesome to be able to see our hard work pay off,” Boggs said. “I care a lot about my school work, and seeing that be reflected in my grades shows my hard work paying off.”
For all the athletes during the spring semester, it was a challenging time since all seven sports were playing competitively. McCafferty said traveling and studying on the road made things interesting.
“Maintaining a 4.0 was not easy being on the road so much,” he said. “I just had to power through as many assignments as I could during the week, so I could turn my focus to playing ball on the weekends.”
Boggs said her course of action in getting a 4.0 was setting goals.
“Maintaining a 4.0 is never easy especially when you are involved in other activities, but it is always worth it,” she said. “I accomplished my 4.0 through goals and my schedule. I make sure to set goals for myself at the beginning of the course. Next, I schedule time blocks during the day that are designated towards studying for a certain class. My days during this spring normally consisted of 4-5 hours of studying with 3 hours of practice time.”
Von Ruden, who has spent two years at WNCC, said it took some time to get into a routine and that is vital in studying.
“It wasn’t easy at first, but I took the time to make an organized schedule of how I would do my homework, sports, and even have an extra hour for myself,” the women’s soccer goalkeeper said. “It’s hard to not procrastinate and get stressed, so to avoid that, I came up with my own personal schedule that worked for me and wrote it on a whiteboard so that I would be constantly reminded of it. It wouldn’t work all the time, but it made the semester one of the most stress-free semesters of school that I have ever had because of it.”
Boggs advice to getting good grades is just to work hard.
“My advice for other students would be to always work hard in school and spend more time doing homework or studying than you think you need,” she said. “I also advise starting assignments as soon as they are assigned so that you do not feel rushed and have plenty of time to do your best work.”
McCafferty, who started practice the first week of classes in January and continued playing baseball until two weeks after graduation because the Cougar baseball won regionals and played in the district playoffs, said motivation is always the key to getting things done.
“Although motivation is sometimes hard to find to do your schoolwork,” he said, “keep an open mind to the topics you study and find ways to make the assignments interesting and relevant to your own life.”
Von Ruden said that a lot of people put in all-nighters to get work finished. She said that is not wise.
“First, I would say don’t focus on getting good grades, just focus on doing a good job and how you can apply what you’re learning into a real life situation,” Von Ruden said. “If you’re confused about something, take the time to understand that concept because doing it now will help later on. Finally, make sure you set a time to call it a night and to not stay up past midnight doing homework. Doing this will help make tomorrow a better day, and if planned properly, you’ll actually retain more of your learning than if you were to stay up late.”
For all the academic athletes, Boggs probably summarized it the best.
“I am super grateful to be able to have the opportunity to be a student-athlete,” she said.