Graduates pay tribute to sports community

Senior captain Julia Cunningham has earned numerous honors during her time at Vassar, including NCAA All-American Honors for her 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

From school records to big upsets, 2017 has one impeccable senior class of student athletes. In the 36- year history of Division III Vassar athletics, this year’s graduating class is arguably one of the most accomplished and decorated. This Sunday, approximately 95 student-athletes will walk across the stage in front of Sunset Lake to receive their diplomas. In honor of these student-athletes, The Miscellany News would like to highlight just a few of their Brewer memories.

Elijah Winston, of Gilbert, AZ, was a four-year member of the Vassar men’s basketball team and a two-year member of the track and field team. In the final meet of his career on May 17, Winston put his name in the record books with a school’s best time of 49.67 in the 400-meter dash.

“It is important to focus on your sport and be dedicated,” Winston expressed in an email when asked what advice he would give to future Brewers. “[Having] a goal or ‘why’ can give people the drive and focus necessary sometimes. At the same time, it is D3 athletics at a great academic school so enjoy that too. Don’t let sports limit you…simultaneously focus on academics, because at the end of the day we’re at Vassar to set up our futures.”

himself in the classroom, as he will graduate on Sunday with a major in physics and correlates in math and political science. Next year, he will attend graduate school at Arizona State University, with hopes to then forge a career on the West Coast in sustainable solar energy.

“My experience as a student-athlete has been more of the community I’m a part of instead of the sport I’ve done,” Winston said. “One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is grit and perseverance in the face of disappointment and adversity. I developed a resiliency for what life throws my way.”

Senior captain of the varsity men’s cross country team Gabe Fishman also reflected fondly on his Vassar experience. For Fishman, what he will miss most is simply being able to run alongside his teammates.

“Many of my favorite memories were of our weekly Sunday long run,” Fishman said in an email. “The cross country team heads to New Paltz every Sunday to run and not only are these long runs beautiful but we while we ran we discussed classes, politics, literature or art, all with a serious commitment to the conversation. I found at Vassar that there is a really high level commitment to collectively furthering our education.”

Fishman will graduate with a degree in history, and is hoping to work in the Boulder, CO, area. This summer, Fishman will take a much-deserved break and embark on a sixweek roadtrip with a friend, touring the country’s national parks.

“One of the reasons I loved being a student athlete and getting to run cross country and track here was the amazing friendships and community I got to foster,” Fishman stated. “Being recognized as a captain my junior and senior years was quite an honor. Being able to share my love of the sport with a team that cares and supports each other was a real privilege.”

Fellow senior athlete Rory Chipman, a four-year member of the women’s soccer team, also spoke to the community she was able to find at Vassar.

“I became incredibly close with the students in my fellow group and they have become my best friends,” Chipman said in an email. “None of them play varsity sports and I have been able to experience so much more at Vassar because of them.”

When it comes to athletics, Chipman is most of proud of receiving the Iron Brewer Award her junior year, a nod to her outstanding achievement in the varsity weight room.

“I would advise student athletes to hit the weight room and make as many friends as possible,” Chipman said, looking back on her time as a Brewer. “As for something I would change, I would say that I would train harder for preseasons. What I would keep the same is how I made it my team role to support all my teammates on and off the field.”

Chipman will graduate with an urban studies major and correlates in history and studio art. For the summer, she will be working at Back 40 Farm in Connecticut with two Vassar alumni who were also student-athletes.

Another prominent student-athlete graduating this year is Trent Berg, of Milton, MA, a four-year starter and senior captain of the baseball team. He commented on his overall experience at Vassar: “My experience at Vassar was great. I made lifelong friends and was able to compete at a high level athletically and academically.”

Even with Liberty League Accolades and four stellar seasons under his belt, Berg said, “[I am most proud of] being voted captain of the baseball team and having the opportunity to play with awesome guys throughout my four years.” This leadership, which earned him his role as captain, has helped the Class of 2017 become the winningest class in Vassar baseball history. Berg will graduate with an economics major and a film correlate and will be working at Gelber Group in Chicago as a proprietary trader beginning this summer.

Lastly, Julia Cunningham, a member of the women’s swim team and two-time NCAA All-American, spoke about the strong bonds she has formed with her teammates and friends at Vassar. One of her fondest memories took place her junior year, when she competed in the NCAA National Championship in North Carolina:

“Not only did my teammates who were local show up to support me, a friend from New Jersey made the long trip with my parents…This experience really showed how deep the connections you make at Vassar run.”

As Julia prepared to graduate with a double major in economics and Chinese, she reflected, “The hardest part about leaving is realizing I won’t be thirty feet away from my best friends at any given time. Moving forward, however, I am excited to see where we all end up and how we can ensure that our connections remain strong.”

Vassar College’s class of 2017 is full of true student-athletes, accomplished both on the field and in the classroom. We at The Miscellany News commend them for their excellent careers at Vassar and wish them the best of luck as they begin a new chapter of their lives.

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