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Football Practice

Bringing their “A” Game

The most impressive stat line for student-athletes at Widener isn’t points scored or games won – it is GPA.

Just last semester, Widener Pride athletic sports teams earned over a 3.1 cumulative GPA and some teams were as high as 3.6, noted Athletic Director Jack Shafer. Since 2009 three valedictorians, one salutatorian and three President’s Award winners have been student-athletes.

Widener is also ranked in the top 10% of Academic All-Americans nationally among Division III institutions.

“I think that it’s amazing and telling that so many of our student-athletes perform well in the classroom and represent their teams with such high academic accomplishments,” said Shafer.

Widener softball recorded its first academic All-American last spring. Shortstop Alie Alkins earned a perfect 4.0 GPA, a stat that rivals her lifetime .398 batting average.

“Softball helps me keep a positive mindset and I carry that into the classroom,” said Alkins, an early childhood/special education major. “And our coach is also about our books before bats.”

As a complement to its success off the field, the university overhauled Quick Stadium this summer. A new turf field was added as well as a state-of-the-art track.

But Head Football Coach Mike Kelly said as great as the new facilities are he is prouder of how his student-athletes, many of who are engineering, nursing, and business majors, balance the rigors of academics with their play on the field.

“Athletics are a window to an institution,” said Kelly, a former NFL coach. “We aren’t here without purpose and that makes this place special.”

In the pool, swimming standout Ian Gaynor led the charge for the team last season as he earned All-American status at the NCAA Division III Nationals in Shenandoah, Texas. The aspiring business owner also earned academic honors for his performance in the classroom.

Gaynor, a native of Ireland, said he owes a lot of his success to the support he gets from his coaches and Widener professors.

“They want you to do well and to enjoy yourself while you’re doing it,” added Gaynor.

For senior basketball player Brianna Wylie, being part of Widener Athletics is about more than being a leader on and off the court, but sharing those skills with her peers so they too can be the best version of themselves.

“Widener is about tradition, it’s a family,” said Wylie, a communication studies major. “So I try to bring the leadership skills I share with my teammates to the groups that I work with in class.”