Spectator’s guide: How to watch the Panthers in action
With fall sports firmly underway, here is a look at the home events in the week ahead.
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With fall sports firmly underway, here is a look at the home events in the week ahead.
Women’s golf placed second in the 2021 NESCAC Fall Golf Qualifier on Oct. 9–10, earning admission to the four-team NESCAC Championship next spring. Amherst College, who won the event, will host the championship.
Maggie Wise ’22 has helped lead the Middlebury volleyball team (8–0) to its strongest start in program history — and she was named NESCAC Player of the Week in the process. In the team’s 5–0 opening week, Wise hit .417, averaging 3.8 kills per set. After a home opener straight-set sweep over St. Michael’s College, the Panthers attended the Wheaton Invitational, where Wise, an outside hitter, earned 28 digs, six block assists and six service aces. Though Wise and other seniors are in leadership positions this year, they were sophomores when they last competed. Several players in Wise’s class have been getting playing time since their first year, which has helped with the transition process. “We essentially have two freshman classes because the sophomores have no real game experience,” Wise said. “The St. Mike’s game was a good way to get everyone playing time.” Wise said she knew the team could go 5–0 at the Wheaton tournament after their win against St. Michael’s College. “Our level of play has been awesome, and I think everyone, in spite of not having that playing experience, has stepped up to the plate,” she said. In her last competitive season in 2019, Wise was named to the Second-Team All-NESCAC and was ranked seventh all-time for kills per set at Middlebury, averaging 2.90. Head coach Sarah Raunecker remarked on Wise’s seamless shift despite the missed season. “Maggie arrived as a very talented hitter and has grown in her ability to mix up her shots, her consistency and is hitting with even more power now,” Raunecker said. “She made an immediate impact with her physical skills but has emerged as a more vocal and confident leader over the years.” Wise commented that the year and a half off due to the Covid-19 pandemic did provide some silver linings for the team as they were able to take time to reassess their team dynamics. One way the team has worked on this is through creating a list of various words and themes — including composure, grit, grace, respect and integrity — for the team to stand by. Wise mentioned that these words hold more meaning behind the scenes and noted they have been a beneficial way for the team to remain focused on their values and goals, even when not playing competitively. “Maggie is consistently one of the best players on the court yet remains so humble about her abilities as an outside hitter,” teammate Lucy Ambach ’23 said. “Off the court, Maggie has such a good relationship with everyone on the team. MCVB is so lucky to have such a responsible, strong and confident leader.” Off the court, Wise is an Economics major and Architecture minor as well as participates in community friends, a program that connects children in Middlebury with college students. Middlebury’s volleyball team has been running workshops and practices with Middlebury Union High School’s newly-created volleyball club, a great help to the school given that volleyball is not widely played in Vermont. Since Maggie’s Player of the Week nomination, Middlebury has bested Colby-Sawyer, Colby and Bates, each 3-0. The Panthers have only dropped one set thus far in its 8-0 campaign. Middlebury hosts a conference game against Amherst, who is also undefeated, at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24.
Women’s softball (6–10) finished fourth in the NESCAC West Division this spring, marked by a season of ups and downs. After winning their first game, the Panthers went on to lose five games straight, followed by a three-game win streak. The same pattern continued, as the Panthers then lost their next five but won their final two games. This season was like no other, as the team played all their games on the weekend, with frequent double or triple headers against one opponent. Given the dense schedule, there was little time for rest between weekend games, forcing the team to adapt. “This season was so much fun, and I’m so grateful we got the opportunity to play,” said Tori Papaleo ’23. “We all couldn’t be more thankful that we got the chance to play, and I’m looking forward to next year.” The team had a total batting average of .278, with Jen McGann ’22 leading the way with an average of .333, followed by Noelle Ruschil ’22 (.326) and Sophia Marlino ’22 (.315). Ruschil, Marlino, and Kaylee Gumm ’21 each had two home runs this season. From the mound, Chloe McNamara ’23 had an ERA of 3.62 and a WHIP of 1.89 on the season, and Jewel Ashbrook ’23 had an ERA of 4.18 and a WHIP of 1.74. The team will be graduating three seniors in Melanie Mandell ’21, Emily Moore ’21 and Gumm ’21. With a strong squad of underclassmen remaining, the Panthers should have a competitive look next season.
Women’s softball (6–10) battled Hamilton (6–7) twice at home this weekend, marking their last two contests of the season. After dropping two games to the Continentals two weekends ago, the Panthers had a strong showing this time around, winning the first game, 3–2, and the second, 6–1. In the first match, Hamilton tallied a two-run lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, but a home run from Kaylee Gumm ’21 and a run from pinch runner Kate Likhite ’23 brought the Panthers ahead by one – a lead they would secure for the win. Pitcher Jewel Ashbrook ’23 allowed no earned runs on five hits and struck out two. In the second contest, the Panthers jumped out to an early lead, winning 4–0 at the top of the third. Melanie Mandell ’21 and Lizzie Hannafey ’23 also scored for the Panthers, extending the lead to 6–0. Pitcher Chloe McNamara ’23 allowed only one run in the win, with Hamilton scoring once in the seventh to end McNamara’s shutout. “It was one of those weekends where everything was coming together at the same time offensively and defensively allowing us to play and win two games to finish off the season,” Jordyn Johnson ’23 said.
Prior to the start of the Spring 2021 NCAA lacrosse season, U.S. Lacrosse Magazine named Jane Earley ’23 its Division III Women’s Preseason Player of the Year. Earley — who recently took a gap year to gain an extra year of athletic eligibility — had a standout season her first year, earning Second-Team NESCAC, Second-Team IWLCA All-American and NCAA All-Tournament Team accolades. “The more I watched Jane play her freshman season, the more I understood that she is actually better under pressure,” Kate Livesay, head coach of Middlebury women’s lacrosse, said. “That was never more evident than in the National Championship when she made play after play to keep our confidence high and extend our lead.” The accolade came as a complete surprise to Earley, who was notified at work that she received the award. “I was actually at work so I was fully serving at a restaurant when I got a call from my coach, and she was like ‘oh, by the way they’ve named you preseason player of the year,’” Earley said. “It’s a huge honor, especially since I’ve only really played my freshman year.” Even though the NESCAC Presidents announced that a limited spring season would be possible, with only four players on campus this spring, Middlebury women’s lacrosse will not be able to field a team. Williams, Bowdoin and Amherst also do not have enough on-campus players to participate. Given that the spring 2021 season would have only consisted of about five or six games, Earley does not feel that she and her teammates are missing out on much. The team is still training, lifting and playing wall ball three times a week, as well as having Zoom workouts. “I’ve been able to have my stick in my hands, not as much as I would like to, but I’m getting what I can,” Earley said. During her gap year, Earley has been working at a local restaurant in her hometown of North Falmouth, Mass., as well as substitute teaching at local public schools and coaching for her club lacrosse team in Boston. Over the summer, she participated in a pick-up league in Boston and has played occasionally while with her club team. However, Earley noted that the time away from the field and campus presents challenges. “I’m going from being a freshman to not playing for two seasons, and then being the age of a senior, so a goal of mine is to figure out how to be a leader while not knowing many of the underclassmen,” Earley said. “I want to play well, and taking this much time off is scary because you’re not practicing at the caliber you were before.” Taking a year off was not a difficult decision for Earley, who is now a part of the class of 2023. “I knew once I lost that season, I would want to get a season back, and I knew to do that I would have to take a season off,” she said. Although she was originally committed to play D-I lacrosse at Boston College, Earley affirmed that she’s happy she chose the D-III level. After five months sitting with this decision in high school, Earley realized that D-I was not the path she wanted to take. Earley’s dad played lacrosse at Bowdoin and, knowing positive experience there, took an interest in the NESCAC. “D-I is pretty cool, but I would say playing D-III and playing at Middlebury is just as cool, if not cooler,” Earley said. “I have never regretted that decision; it was the perfect choice for me. And I would argue we could beat a lot of D-I teams.” Earley is still eligible for three more seasons of lacrosse, so she has entertained the idea of taking more time off in the future, which would push her to the class of 2024. At the moment, though, she has her sights set on the 2022 season.
YouPower, Middlebury’s student-run spin club, is one of the most popular ways for students to stay active on campus — its most dedicated devotees will even stay up until midnight when sign-ups for the following day open to secure a spot in their favorite class. One of those devoted riders is Abby Schneiderhan ’23. “I love YouPower classes, but everyone else enjoys them too, so I’ve actually set alarms for 11:59 so I wake up and sign up for a class with my friends,” she said. “The adrenaline rush of that one minute to sign up is off the charts.” YouPower looks a little different this semester because of Covid-19 safety guidelines, but it’s as popular as ever. Covid-19 safety precautions on campus have forced significant changes to the way that YouPower operates. The club typically offers its classes in a studio in the Freeman International Center, but, as the space is too small to be safely used this semester, the club has relocated to the Ridgeline parking lot to allow for ample social distancing outside. The bikes are kept in a storage unit and rolled into the lot before each class. “The process of setting up and putting away equipment is definitely more laborious, but our riders are helpful and are taking more ownership of a space we have been working to make the most inclusive that it can be,” said YouPower President Lilly Kuhn ’21.5. The new environment does present some logistical challenges, though. The club switched from their old sound system — which relied on access to a power outlet — to a bluetooth speaker, and instructors now use a megaphone rather than a microphone. The club also had to find new instructors for the semester. Under normal circumstances, YouPower conducts auditions for new instructors in the spring, but this year they had to be held in the fall. “Auditioning was definitely a bit stressful,” Melanie Chow ’22 said. “We had really short notice to prepare and the weather wasn’t great, so I was only able to attend one class before my audition. We also had to wear masks for our auditions, which was a big challenge given that most of us hadn’t spun in months and were trying to give directions for the very first time.” After those initial classes, though, spinners have been able to spin maskless. YouPower’s usual small, dimly lit room in the FIC creates an intimate atmosphere perfect for spinners, but participants have found pros to the club’s new home in the Ridgeline parking lot. “While I am eager to be back in the studio, the outdoor studio has been a great alternative and can perhaps give us future opportunities to expand and diversify our class offerings,” new instructor Sam Segal ’23 said. “I no longer bump elbows with the person next to me while doing choreography, and I can easily zone out in the mountain views.” Chow expressed a similar sentiment. “The view for the rider is so great, and often you can even catch the sunset. The space in the FIC is great, though, because it allows you to be more anonymous, and you really feel like you’re in it together.” Weather has been the greatest hurdle for outdoor spin, as many classes have had to be cancelled due to rain, snow and cold. Despite these challenges, YouPower has managed to create the sense of community the club generates in a traditional year. “There is a lot of uncertainty about the future right now, [but] it feels special to have a space to move together,” Kuhn said.
Inspired by the role that sports have played in her life, Jamie Mittelman ’10 created a podcast celebrating female athletes who play at the highest level of competition: Olympians and Paralympians. The podcast, called “Flame Bearers,” is part of the Women in Power Conference, a student-run conference at the Harvard Kennedy School that seeks to “spark difficult conversations on how together, through leadership and policy, we can work to remove systemic barriers and elevate people of all genders to places of power.” “Growing up, many of the hardest and most rewarding times of my life were on the [soccer] field, [the ski racing] mountain and on the track. Sport has been the wheelhouse in which I’ve had some of my greatest joys but also the home for embarrassing and cringe-worthy self-realizations,” Mittelman said. Mittelman is on track to receive a Master’s of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, the public policy school at Harvard University. She first became involved with the Women in Power Conference last year as a conference co-chair, a position she still holds. She began “Flame Bearers” to celebrate the triumphs and struggles of female-identifying Olympians by providing them with the opportunity to share the lessons they learned while becoming elite athletes. On the podcast’s website, Mittelman discusses the struggles she experienced during her own athletic career on the Middlebury Women’s Soccer Team. “Before losing my dad to brain cancer, the single most challenging period of my life was when my obsessive-compulsive disorder paralyzed me during my college soccer experience, transforming the game from one of joy to one of constant anxiety and fear,” Mittelman said. The hardships that accompany the intense commitment and training of a competitive athlete are often not discussed, Mittleman said. Playing at the highest level of competition is gratifying and rewarding, but the process to get there can be taxing and stressful. Being a top female athlete comes with its own host of decisions and stresses as women contend with issues such as social pressures on body image and the prospect of having children, among others. Recognizing the highs and lows of sport is central to the goals of “Flame Bearers.” Mittelman hopes to create a space that celebrates both sides of being an athlete by normalizing discussions of the adversities that athletes — and women in particular — face. In August, Mittelman interviewed two fellow Middlebury alumni, sisters Lea and Sabra Davison (’05 and ’07, respectively). Lea Davison is a two-time mountain biking Olympian and 2016 World Championship silver medalist. During the episode, she discusses her experiences as an openly gay cyclist as well as her work with Little Bellas, a mountain biking and mentorship nonprofit for girls that she cofounded with her sister. She spoke about showing up to under-18 races in her youth and seeing as many as 50 boys race each other, in contrast to only five girls competing. The Davison sisters decided this gap in participation had to change. “We use mountain bikes as a kind of vehicle for empowering women and creating a welcoming space and community for our female mentors as well as our Little Bellas,” Lea Davison said. “Another factor motivating us to create Little Bellas was the fact that we didn’t see a lot of positive female role models out there, and so we wanted to give girls a selection of positive female role models to choose from.” Athletics have continued to play a huge role in Mittelman’s life after leaving Middlebury; she completed the New York City marathon and received her yoga instructor certification. Despite her active involvement in athletics, Mittelman expresses that she still feels “athletically unqualified” to host the podcast. She makes a clear distinction between her athletic experience and the intense, life-long training of an Olympian. “Sport has been one of my greatest teachers, and given the many more hours these athletes have dedicated to perfecting crafts than I had, I know that the lessons they’ve gleaned will be that much more powerful,” Mittelman said. With the cancellation of the 2020 Summer Olympics, “Flame Bearers” is even more important, as it provides a platform for these athletes who have dedicated their lives to their sports. Mittelman expressed the importance her podcast holds in the current climate of the world as well. “Our world is locked in a state of constant change and chaos, and people from all corners of the world are alone and in need of hope,” Mittelman said. “I want to create space for hope. These athletes carry their own Olympic torches, and I want to help illuminate their lights.”
In his senior year of high school, Jackson Hawkins ’21.5 was at a crossroads in his athletic career. Introduced to rowing as a sophomore at Tabor Academy, Hawkins rowed competitively in high school, competing at the NEIRA championships for three consecutive years in the team’s first varsity boat. While Hawkins knew that he wanted to row in college, he was not sure he wanted the sport to define his college experience. Ultimately, Hawkins avoided the more competitive Division I programs and landed at Middlebury. Today, he is one of the captains of the men’s crew team. For most of his career, Hawkins sat in the stroke seat of the men’s first varsity boat — considered the most competitive position — setting the timing and pace for the rest of the crew. Hawkins said that club sports at Middlebury offer a great opportunity for students to stay active on campus without the pressure of varsity competition. Yet despite its status as a club sport, Middlebury crew has enjoyed success competing against varsity-level teams. “I did not choose Midd exclusively for its rowing program, but it was a piece of it,” Hawkins said. “I also really enjoy being outside, hiking and skiing, and Middlebury offers excellent access to that. And on top of that I knew I wanted to major in environmental studies, and Middlebury has one of the oldest Environmental Science departments in the nation, which was a huge draw. Hawkins spoke to the team’s desire to achieve varsity status but recognized the college’s hesitation to make this change due to the sport’s expenses. A few of the crew team’s competitors also have club status, including Bowdoin and Amherst, but most are varsity, including Tufts and Hamilton. And while this can present some challenges, Hawkins acknowledged the benefits that come with remaining at the club level. “It’s both a blessing and a curse,” Hawkins said. “With varsity programs, you’re able to have more pull with admissions so you can recruit athletes who have rowed before and you generally get better funding. But with a club sport, it’s a lot easier to bring people into the sport who may not have been exposed to it before. It gives us a scrappy nature.” Outside of crew, Hawkins’s love for the outdoors drives his attention to other activities on campus. He is the co-president of the Middlebury Free Heelers, the campus telemark and backcountry skiing club; a Middview trip leader; a ski instructor; and a member of the band BEVCO. Hawkins also spent the second half of his Febmester hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Senior field hockey player Erin Nicholas ’21 has a decorated athletic career at Middlebury. A two-time National Player of the Year and two-time All-American, Nicholas was a key player for the team’s three-straight NESCAC Championships and three-straight NCAA Division III National Championships. She was named the 2017 Rookie of the Year and the 2019 NCAA Field Hockey Championship Most Valuable Player. Despite her successes, Nicholas did not always have her heart set on playing field hockey in college. In fact, she almost tried out for soccer instead of field hockey as a high school freshman. With some convincing from her sister, though, Nicholas decided the day before soccer try-outs to pursue field hockey instead. Even so, she did not seek to play the sport in college until her junior year of high school. Although she had previously been looking at colleges for lacrosse, Nicholas ended up committing to Middlebury to play field hockey. Shortly after, she reached out to the lacrosse coach and received approval to join both teams. Nicholas has also seen success on the lacrosse field as a First Team All-American selection in 2019. The balance between competitive athletics and rigorous academics, coupled with the opportunity to play both sports, made Middlebury stand out for Nicholas. “I had always heard about [Middlebury’s] reputation for having people who are genuine and down to earth, and I wanted to surround myself with that type of person for my four years of college,” Nicholas said. “And being able to compete for a championship each year is something that’s very attractive as an athlete.” Grappling with the effects of Covid-19 Unfortunately, with the cancellation of NESCAC fall sports competition, Nicholas and the field hockey team will not make a bid for a fourth-straight ring. Despite the lack of outside competition, Middlebury Athletics is striving to maintain the same energy as previous years. The field hockey team is practicing four to five times a week in smaller groups, and Nicholas stressed their continued devotion to playing the game they love. “Practice intensity should stay the way it has been in order to grow and get the most out of our season,” Nicholas said. “We are staying positive and seeing this as an opportunity to improve for next year and the next few seasons for the underclassmen.” Without the need to scout other teams and play their formations, this season offers a unique opportunity to concentrate on team-specific goals and improvement. “We definitely have a ‘be where your feet are’ mindset,’” Nicholas said. “We are living in the present moment, focusing on what’s surrounding us and where we currently are, and allowing that to build up to our success.” Because some members of the team are not on campus, staying unified is an extra challenge this year. However, Nicholas explained that the team’s mindset has set the tone for the field hockey team’s approach to the season. “It’s a bummer to not have games and the preseason we would typically have, but it’s been really cool to see everyone on campus making the most of having to be outdoors,” Nicholas said. “It’s been fun to be forced to be creative with the ways we bond and interact as a team. This time definitely has a lot of challenges but it also has a lot of silver linings that we’re trying to make the most of.” Katie George ’23, fellow field hockey member, spoke about Nicholas’s leadership and importance to the team. “Erin is one of those players that impacts every aspect of the game on and off the field. Once she graduates, the team will definitely be changed, but her drive, passion and skill are passed onto every player when we come together,” George said. “Her leadership and attitude will leave a lasting mark on MCFH and will without a doubt help the program continue to grow.” Off the field, Nicholas is a member of the Pre-Health Society, the PR manager of the club Love Your Melon, and attends Impact Middlebury, an organization that pairs students with pediatric cancer patients to help support them through their treatment process. She is also a member of the Athletic Policy Committee and the SGA Athletic Affairs Committee. Nicholas is a Molecular Biology and Biochemistry major and a Psychology minor. Although she plans to attend medical school in the future and is considering a career as an orthopedic surgeon, she isn’t counting out coaching either. She said she cannot imagine sports not playing a role in her life. “I’ve grown up always playing a sport so I couldn’t imagine a year without it.” Nicholas has a busy schedule; life as a two-sport student athlete and a pre-med student isn’t simple, but she never fails to find the positives amidst all the chaos. “It’s a huge time commitment, and I definitely have to make a lot of sacrifices, but it’s worth it because of the people I get to surround myself with every day,” Nicholas said. “I love the sports, but the people are what make it so special and so incredible. I’m very grateful.”
In the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, universities across the country are confronting their own issues of racism and exclusivity. Varsity and club sports teams at Middlebury have begun to examine privilege and exclusion present within their own groups, and some are taking direct action to foster an environment welcoming to all members. Varsity teams reexamine recruiting practices An open letter penned by Middlebury athletes across sports and addressed to the athletics department petitions coaches and faculty to shift practices to better serve underrepresented communities, widen geographic areas of recruitment and deprioritize recruiting trips. The letter asks that the athletics department move recruiting efforts online to better reach individuals who cannot afford to fund their own recruiting trips, and to shift away from prioritizing face-to-face recruitment interactions, which disenfranchise certain potential athletic recruits. “Quite simply, we are calling for the demographics of Middlebury student-athletes to better represent those of our country and world,” the letter reads. The Middlebury track and field team is taking the matter into its own hands, developing a new student-led recruiting strategy. “Student-athletes will recruit high school track and field [and] cross country athletes from racially and socioeconomically diverse high schools located in the Middlebury student’s hometown,” said track athletes Greta Sirek ’22, Grace Kirkpatrick ’22, and Kate Holly ’21. The swimming and diving team at Middlebury is exploring a similar strategy. Swimmer Courtney Gantt ’22 is among those who want to make Middlebury’s swim and dive team more diverse and inclusive. “This could include expanding opportunities for virtual recruiting trips if people cannot afford to come to campus or bringing Middlebury admissions representatives to more [places] where there are high POC populations that may not know about Middlebury otherwise,” Gantt said. The swimming and diving team is predominantly White — in fact, there were no Black athletes on the 2019–2020 roster. In addition to addressing recruitment tactics, the team is also working on educating themselves about race and swimming. This meant organizing conversations concerning race and diversity in the sport with Director of Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells. Gantt emphasized the importance of engaging in these difficult conversations as a team in order to make a difference both in and out of the pool. “Our team is making a commitment to educate ourselves about the history of race and swimming and the different access that Black people have had to higher education, jobs, healthcare and all spheres of life,” Gantt said. The swim and dive team also plans to provide more swim lessons to low income families in the area to expand access to swimming. The women’s soccer team also reflected on their presence on campus as a majority White team by hosting team meetings with faculty to discuss anti-racism. “We hope to make efforts to diversify our team and are looking into tangible ways we can do that throughout the summer and when we get back to campus,” Ellie Bavier ’22 said. Club sports take on addressing Whiteness and exclusion Although club sports teams often offer messages of inclusion in their recruiting and mission statements, many face similar issues of exclusion and discrimination. Alyssa Brown ’20 is a member of the Middlebury ultimate frisbee team. In Brown’s memory, there have been few to no Black players on the men’s and women’s frisbee teams. Brown attributes much of this lack of diversity to frisbee’s origins as a countercultural sport that has historically been played in majority White and wealthy communities. “The Pranksters have certainly come a long way since 2016 in terms of intentional learning and commitment to inclusivity, but students of color still do not feel welcome, so there is still a problem,” Brown explained. Because club sports do not receive the same funding as varsity sports on campus, teams often count on players and their families to make monetary contributions. Although Brown said the Pranksters have always tried to be inclusive by providing monetary aid for those who need it, the personal funds needed for team social activities can be hindering. “Being surrounded by a community that is interpreted as ‘wealthy’ can generally be discouraging for low-income students,” Brown said. “This is also important to note because race and class are undeniably linked, although obviously it’s case by case.” Rugby has made steps to decrease the stress that can be created through these required finances. Freshmen are no longer required to pay the annual dues, and players have the option to rent equipment and gear instead of buying. Megan Salmon ’21 also spoke of issues with racist culture that the team had five years ago. “There was an alum who had a position of power on the team who abused it and created a very racist and generally unwelcoming environment on the team,” Salmon said. “In the years since, it’s my personal opinion that the women's rugby team has done an excellent job of turning around the culture by having meetings discussing the harm and racism, and gradually having more and more BIPOCs present in our leadership positions. Not intentional, but it helped.” Salmon and her teammate Lenny Gusman ’21, both athletes of color, recently facilitated a two-hour dialogue about the history of the prison-industrial complex and policing and how they impact the team and team culture. They plan to continue the conversation by conducting similar meetings throughout the semester. The Pranksters are also having conversations about race and inclusion. Since 2018, the team has held a community workshop each semester with the goal of creating a more inclusive team environment. At these meetings, leaders of the men’s and women’s teams discuss the barriers that are presented through the sport of frisbee and set expectations on how to lessen these obstacles. Now, both the men’s and women’s frisbee teams are committed to adopting the format of these workshops to address issues of Whiteness and exclusivity within the sport. The crew team is in the same boat. “Issues of exclusivity on our team are evident from the overwhelming Whiteness of our membership, high rates of attrition of BIPOC from our team and the unacceptable acts of discrimination, notably microaggressions, that many of our rowers of color have experienced,” captain Sophie Smith ’21 said. Smith explained that the team is planning on changing their financial aid and fundraising system, as well as increasing flexibility to the practice schedule to remove barriers for members who may need to work to support their education. The team is also considering adding new leadership positions, such as a novice captain position, to ensure these changes will be as impactful as possible. Above all, athletes of color emphasised the necessity of a cultural shift in making long lasting changes. “I think it’s important to address the reason why POCs are not joining the teams and tackling them instead of just giving into the consensus that Middlebury club sports are just predominantly White and we can’t do anything.” Gusman said. “Our team still has a long way to go just like everybody in this country, but I am proud of the active steps we have taken. Even if we think we are doing our best we can always do better.” Student athletes raise funds for the Black Lives Matter movement Many sports teams have also stepped up to raise money and awareness in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, using social media as a means to spread information. The women’s swim and dive team organized a fundraising campaign, raising over $4,000 for the Rutland Area NAACP through a 48-hour “sweat-a-thon.” The team donated $1 for every minute of exercise logged and accepted donations through an online fund. Gantt, along with fellow organizer Ellie Thompson ’22, said the fundraiser helped generate conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement among family and community members, who shared posts, educational materials and photos of their workouts on social media. Although she considers the fundraiser successful in garnering support from friends, family and alumni, she isn’t satisfied yet. “We know that it is not enough to raise money,” Gantt said. “We must continue the conversation and do more.” The women and men’s varsity squash teams fundraised a total of $12,260 for the Vermont branch of the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign. The teams chose to support a more local organization to “become more engaged with the problems of [their] wider community” and “to spread awareness about the prevalence of racism in Vermont,” according to their official statement. The teams held several discussions over Zoom and shared their learnings with friends, family, alumni and Instagram followers via an informational sheet as part of their fundraising efforts. The squash program will continue their commitment to antiracism by appointing three “Social Justice representatives” who will lead conversations to “ensure awareness of systemic racism.” The teams also plan on designating one match each season as an annual fundraiser for a cause related to Black Lives Matter, according to their latest statement. The women’s soccer team raised over $2,300 to donate to Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a non-profit organization providing legal representation for prisoners who have been wrongfully convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in jail. Bavier said the team elected to support an organization that actively works to end mass incarceration and inspire lasting change within the criminal justice system. “We appreciated the tangible legal steps implemented to create change, and we found their story incredibly compelling,” Bavier said. The track and field team arranged a virtual 4,000-meter race on July 19 to collect money for the Know Your Rights Camp (KYRC) COVID-19 Relief Fund. Coordinated by Sirek, Kirkpatrick and Holly, the fundraiser supports communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The three organizers explained that they chose the KYRC fund, which was founded by Colin Kaepernick in 2016, for its mission to engender social and economic change in Brown and Black communities across America. So far, the team has collected over $1,500 and expects more donations as the summer continues. Several club sports teams have also joined the fundraising effort to support the Black Lives Matter movement within the sports arena and beyond. Coordinated by Salmon, Gusman and teammate Betsy Romans ’23, women’s rugby hosted a fundraising campaign to support BLD PWR, a Black-run nonprofit organization dedicated to training a more diverse community of entertainers and athletes. The team challenges other clubs to do the same, without disclosing the amount of money raised to avoid performativity. “We believe that group silence contributes to a lack of accountability among individuals which justifies neutrality and inaction — thus serving the agenda of the oppressor,” the team’s social media post stated. “For this reason, we challenge other Middlebury organizations to take the route of action rather than just words.” Similarly, Middlebury’s ultimate frisbee team published a statement of their unequivocal support for the Black Lives Matter movement, outlining a course of action for implementing change in our communities. The Pranksters also raised $4,818 to split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington and Ultimate Impact through donations from team members, family, friends and alumni. The sailing team recently collected funds to support Campaign Zero, an organization dedicated to researching policy-based solutions for ending police brutality and urging other NEISA (New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association) to take action. Middlebury’s sailing team is also part of NEISA’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, which elects one representative from each team in the league to discuss issues of exclusivity within the sport of sailing. Middlebury’s crew team gathered monetary donations for three organizations, including the NAACP, National Bail Out and Row New York, which provides academic and athletic support for youth, regardless of background or rowing ability. While team fundraising campaigns have helped spread awareness and raise funds to support anti-racist organizations, each team recognizes that the pocketbook itself is not powerful enough to create permanent change. “We are hopeful that there will be changes at an institutional level to do more to bring prospective POC athletes to Middlebury and increase teams’ diversity,” Gantt said. “We must increase access to our school and our sport so that more Black leaders can emerge and contribute their voice to the national conversation.” Copy Editor Ideal Dowling ’22 contributed reporting.
Senior Frances VanderMeer has had a collegiate athletic career many would dream of. A captain of the women’s swim team, she has earned All-NESCAC praise, attended NCAAs three out of her four years here and broken her own school record. For VanderMeer, though, swimming is about so much more than an impressive list of accolades. “I don’t think any of this would have been possible without the team that I have,” said VanderMeer. “It’s great to break your own records and go to NCAAs, but if you don’t have a team behind you, it doesn’t mean nearly as much” VanderMeer has been swimming for as long as she can remember. Her mom rowed at Cornell and her dad was a member of the surf team at the University of California, Santa Barbara — swimming was a skill they wanted their children to learn as early as possible. VanderMeer joined her first competitive swim team at age seven. But her high school — Notre Dame High School in Elmira, New York — did not have a swim team when VanderMeer began attending (she played tennis instead). The summer before her sophomore year, VanderMeer, her parents and another family worked to create a swim team, which started out as a mere squad of five. Because that team was so small, Middlebury has been her most authentic team experience. She did not always plan to swim in college; during her sophomore year of high school, her parents, both being college athletes, encouraged her to pursue collegiate swimming. VanderMeer was unsure, as she had not yet experienced the bond of being on a team and wondered if swimming in college was something she wanted. Her parents knew from experience, however, how different swimming for a college team would be than VanderMeer’s club and high school experiences. She expresses her gratitude for having decided to swim in college. “All of those people who were there [my freshman year] and all the people who are here now and everyone in between has made this sport absolutely incredible,” said VanderMeer. “The support that we have for each other as a team, that is what has made this special, and that has been the best part of all of it.” Being able to experience the dynamics of being a part of a close, supportive team has been more meaningful to Vandermeer than her accomplishments in the pool. Her numerous accolades, however, cannot go unnoticed; she will be attending her third NCAA Division III Championship this year from March 18 to March 21. She earned a qualifying 50-yard freestyle time of 23.60 in the NESCAC tournament, which was her second-straight conference title in the event. She also earned her third straight All-NESCAC honors in the 50-yard backstroke, while simultaneously breaking her own school record in the event with a time of 25.69. Senior teammate Hannah Kredich ’20 spoke about Frances’s strong work ethic. “Even when she went abroad to Bordeaux the fall of her junior year and did not have the opportunity to train as much as she would have at Middlebury, she came back even more determined to improve and work hard, and because of that fire I don’t think it is a coincidence that that was the first year she got an individual title,” said Kredich. Coach Bob Rueppel is excited to watch Frances compete in her final NCAA championship, “Our goal is to achieve what she has never done before so I am very excited to see her perform,” said Rueppel. “I am confident she will have a great week at NCAA’s.” Though Frances is preparing for the competitive race, she stresses that her goal “has never been to get to the [nationals] meet. [My] primary goal was to have fun with it and see where that took me and funny enough, when that’s your goal and you don’t put pressure on yourself, good things tend to happen.” VanderMeer’s composed demeanor carries into her leadership position as a captain of the team. “She has an amazing presence on deck at meets and is someone that, even when she has not had a good swim, will be the first to get right back behind the lanes to cheer for her teammates and to offer words of support and encouragement to anyone who needs it,” said Kredich. Coach Rueppel also commented on VanderMeer’s leadership skills “Her impact on the group has been incredible,” said Rueppel. “My hope is that her legacy will continue after she graduates.” VanderMeer is an International Politics and Economics major, as well as a member of the Middlebury Consulting Group and the Academic Judicial Board. She will be moving to Washington, D.C. this summer to work at Accenture Federal Services, a consulting firm with a focus on the federal government. In terms of swimming, VanderMeer plans to take a break from the pool for a little while. Without her teammates, swimming would be different. She can see herself coaching in the future, but in the short-term, VanderMeer plans to play more tennis. Swimming will always be important to VanderMeer’s life, though. “This sport has taught me so much in terms of work ethic, teamwork, getting along with other people, and leading a large group of people, and those lessons will be with me forever,” said VanderMeer. “And in that way, I guess swimming will always be a part of me and what I do.”