Cougar Corner: Jim Sterk Reflects on WSU Sports

Lew WrightSenior Writer IJuly 29, 2009

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  A Washington State Cougars helmet showing the initials of Pat Tillman next to the American flag during the Arizona State Sun Devils against Washington State Cougars Pac-10 game at Sun Devil Stadium/Frank Kush Field on November 13, 2004 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk recently paused to reflect on the past year of Cougar sports.

It's been quite a year for WSU, both on and off the field.

There were many memorable moments for WSU sports in the 2008-2009 season. Attendance at Cougar home games was nothing short of outstanding.

WSU athletics are an integral part of the college experience enjoyed by students, faculty, alumni, and fans. The Cougs garner support not just around our nation, but around the world.

Spirited competition on the field of play can stir emotions and inspire creative endeavors. College athletics have a charm and captivating quality unmatched in the world of sports.

The tough economic times we have found ourselves in over the past year is hardly news. For many schools, the economy has severely impacted team sports.

WSU is fortunate to have budget wisdom already in place. The belt-tightening by Sterk is barely noticeable when compared with many other universities.

Athletic accomplishments offer an opportunity to rise above the fray and look forward to better times.

In Sterk's review of the past year, his focus was on the wealth of both athletic and academic excellence achieved by WSU students.

He began recognition of WSU student/athletes with a two-sport star, Jeshua Anderson: "Featured in a spring filled with many highlights was Jeshua Anderson defending his title in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Track & Field Championships. Jeshua's accomplishments shine a spotlight on the entire WSU community, and it's something all Cougars can take a great deal of pride in."

Last year, Anderson got off to a slow start for Cougar football while recovering from hernia surgery. That won't be the case this season. The junior from Taft High School in Woodland Hills, CA is poised to terrorize defensive backfields up and down the Pac-10.

For the first time in two decades, Cougar baseball was back in the NCAA tournament. Sterk offered glowing comments for Coach Donnie Marbut's squad: "Baseball earned a berth to the NCAA Championships, the first for the program since 1990, and soccer made its way to the NCAA postseason for the first time since 2002."

The soccer and baseball players not only achieved on the field, but also in the classroom. The soccer team put together a cumulative GPA of 3.41, and 11 members of the team earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors. Baseball had its best academic year ever, with a 2.89 average GPA in the fall and 2.86 in spring semester, for a 2.875 average.

Washington State basketball continued playing at a high level following two seasons where they were invited to the NCAA tournament.

"With a berth to the NIT, men's basketball made its third postseason appearance in as many years for just the second time in school history. In addition, the program claimed four spots on the five-man Pac-10 All-Academic Team, the first time this has ever happened.

"Taylor Rochestie (men's basketball) and Greg Lagreid (baseball) were named the Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for their respective sports, marking the second straight year a student-athlete with these programs were bestowed with that honor (Robbie Cowgill and Jayson Miller earned their respective accolades for men's basketball and baseball last year)."

Though last season was a rebuilding year for Washington State football, the Cougs earned a victory in the one game that means the most to everyone in Washington: the Apple Cup. "(Our) football (team) captured the Apple Cup for the fourth time in the past five years and with 15 student-athletes represented, the program had the most ever selections to the Pac-10 All-Academic team."

Improved facilities have contributed to the progress in golf: " men's golf, Kevin Tucker earned a spot in the NCAA Regional Golf Championships, only the second Cougar to be selected to a regional championship."

Men's sports tend to garner the most attention from media, but Cougar women enjoyed athletic success worthy of note: "Sara Trane was selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Women's Track & Field/ Cross Country national third team, the second consecutive year that this talented runner earned a national third-team honor.

"Three swimmers (Rugile MileisyteMichaela Ahlin and Elyse Peterson) advanced to the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history."

College athletics add to the challenge of earning a degree. The rigors of classroom work are coupled with the dedication necessary to compete in conference play.

It's easy to assess the level of success both in the classroom and on the field: "The aforementioned academic achievements highlighted what all student-athletes accomplished as the group maintained a 3.01 cumulative GPA. For 10 consecutive semesters our student-athletes have averaged at least a 3.00 cumulative GPA.

"Year in and year out, it is our goal to be competitive in the Pac-10 and nationally in each of our programs while continuing exemplary achievements in the classroom. I want to congratulate our student-athletes for their great accomplishments during the 2008-09 season and I look forward to what is ahead in 2009-10. "

Jim Sterk closed his remarks with two words that summarize the spirit of Washington State University: "GO COUGS!"

Add to that a few words from this writer to Mr. Sterk: Keep up the good work.

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