Road trips are where UCSB’s Golden Eagles dare.
Sophomore scholar-athlete Joseph Rotheram wasn’t shy about spreading those wings, belatedly calling shotgun as the Big West Conference champion Gauchos were about to motor home from a tennis match at San Diego.
“He actually kicked a senior out of the front seat so he could spread his hand-made, 3×5, color-coded study cards out on the dashboard to study,” coach Marty Davis said. “So it’s no surprise that Joey Rotheram is our Golden Eagle award winner.
“The only thing that surprises me is that he’s never been car sick.”
Rotheram, a Global Studies major with a 3.48 grade-point average and 15-11 singles record, was one of 20 Gauchos honored for their academic prowess at the 32nd annual Golden Eagle Awards Banquet, sponsored by Peter and Gerd Jordano of Pacific Beverage Company.
His “meticulousness,” as Davis calls it, included packing a second travel bag with everything from an extra shoulder strap, extra rollout ball, and even an extra water bottle “in case his bottle of water bursts.”
“In fact, when we played in Denver this year, he broke out a canister of oxygen after a tough game in the altitude,” he said.
Golf coach Steve Lass wasn’t thinking that his own young star, Big West Freshman of the Year Brett Bennett, was so well-prepared when they were returning from a trip to Sacramento.
“Brett informs me that he’s got a 10-page paper due the next morning, and I’m thinking, ‘No chance in the world this is getting done,'” Lass said. “He said it has to be single-spaced, no fudging on the margins … There’s no real chance he’s getting it done.
“So he pulls out his laptop and starts pounding away on the key pad, and literally two hours later he says, ‘I’m done.’ And I’m thinking, ‘There’s just no way this turned out well.'”
A week later, Bennett informed his coach that he got an A on the paper.
“So that’s Brett,” Lass said. “He’s a remarkable young man.”
He’s also a 3.43 student in sociology.
Some of UCSB’s scholar-athletes turned into teachers during the Golden Eagle banquet. Cross country runner Alex Barr, the Golden Eagle ring winner with the top GPA of any Gaucho male (3.89 in Economics), lectured on his own unique secret to success:
“Sometimes you’ve got to get your head out of the books and look around and see where you are, because stress will get to you,” said Barr, who admitted to a severe case of homesickness when he first arrived at UCSB. “You’ve got to realize that there’s a beautiful life out there, any way you might find it.
“Even though it is stressful – we’re American, we’re on the clock, time controls us – it’s always good to look up and see that there is a beautiful life. I think any success we do find is through our happiness, and finding what makes us happy in life.”
For junior Sarah Snyder, the Golden Eagle in women’s water polo (3.65 GPA in Psychological and Brain Sciences), success as the MVP of one of the nation’s top-ranked teams came from failure.
“Every time I fall short of my goals, every time I miss a shot, every time I get points marked off on my assignments, I’ll be honest, I hate it,” she said. “But I’ve learned and worked that much harder to reach my goals the next time around … and honestly, that’s what matters.
“I learned to hold the ball a split-second longer before I shoot. I learned to not start my assignments the day that they’re due and give myself adequate time to finish. I learned through copious amounts of failure that the only way to succeed is to fail, and that the response to failure is what defines you.”
Andrew Pickles, the Golden Eagle for men’s basketball (3.32 GPA in Cell and Developmental Biology), got his support – as well as motivation – from the oddest sources, such as professor John Lew.
“You really wouldn’t know that this guy cares about more than just academics because he’s a biochemistry professor … He’s a nerd,” Pickles said.
“In the middle of a test – this is during finals, and we’re supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament – he punched me on the shoulder and said, ‘What the (expletive) are you doing? You’re supposed to be in the tournament!’
“So like, they’re really personable people.”
The humor of coach Tim Vom Steeg helped Joseph Ammer, the men’s soccer Golden Eagle (3.82 GPA in Economics), get through an injury-plagued two seasons with the Gauchos. Vom Steeg introduced the German star in his native language, ending it by noting the banquet’s importance for “recognizing the student-athletes who have worked really hard when nobody is watching.”
“As always,” Ammer said soon after, “my coach has stolen the show … Thank you for giving me a great time … Even though I was a little light on the soccer side, I’ve had an amazing two years.”
Senior Hope Bender, a two-time All-American in track and field, got her motivation from within, saying she felt unworthy when she won the Golden Eagle Award as a sophomore.
“I was finishing up my worst track season, and I was in the middle of my worst quarter in my four years here, and so I just wasn’t entirely sure why I was here,” she admitted. “Coming off that year, and kind of reevaluating myself, I set the goal that I wanted to be back here because I knew just what an honor and privilege it was to have this.”
She earned it with a grade-point average of 3.75 in Biological Sciences, not to mention a fourth-place finish last week in the NCAA women’s heptathlon.
For baseball Golden Eagle Kyle Johnson, UCSB’s starting first baseman with a 3.78 GPA in Economics, the motivation was about getting the upper hand in his team’s smack talk.
“It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of the position players, successfully ending the three-year reign the pitchers have had on this award,” he said through a devilish smile. “I think it’s about time the better athletes received this award, as I’m sure you would agree.”
James Douglass, the Golden Eagle in men’s track and field (3.79 in Bio Chemistry), directed his teaching moment at his fellow athletes, noting that he has close friends who’ve suffered through terrible events as serious as rape.
“Those sorts of tragedies aren’t just immediate events, they stay with people for the rest of their lives,” he said. “So if you can take anything away from me today, it’s to just to be there for those people, no matter what.”
Women’s swimming Golden Eagle Haley Schreiber (3.73 GPA in Communications) did just that, serving as a counselor for others even while she was suffering with mononucleosis.
“She was really a huge help to people away from the pool, whether it was academic struggles or personal struggles,” coach Matt Macedo said. “Haley was often referenced as someone who really stepped up to be a shoulder to cry on at times, and help some of our athletes through some tough times.”
The other Golden Eagles were Stephanie Yamada in women’s tennis (3.37 in Sociology), Julia Wang in women’s outdoor track (3.75 in Communications), Miranda Ross in women’s cross country (3.86 in Communications), Annie Hasselmann in women’s volleyball (3.80 in Economics), Brandon Hopper in men’s volleyball (3.47 in Environmental Studies), Thomas Fellner in men’s water polo (3.67 in History), Natalia Bruening in women’s basketball (3.67 in Global Studies), Sammy Fabian in softball (3.25 in Psychological and Brain Sciences), Calvin Kirkpatrick in men’s swimming (3.56 in Microbiology), and Ryan Kokoska in women’s soccer (3.89 in Environmental Studies).
Kokoska won the Golden Eagle ring as the top female student-athlete, although her coach stole her punch line at the banquet.
“The University of Indiana has accepted Ryan into medical school, starting in the fall, which has been her dream,” coach Paul Stumpf said.
It should be another successful Gaucho road trip.