Kerekes: Yes, Virginia, CWRU does have varsity sports
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If you were to ask a random Case Western Reserve University student about the school’s athletics programs, they would probably be very confused. “We have varsity sports?” they might ask, giving you the facial expression of anyone trying to take an organic chemistry exam.
Yes, CWRU does have varsity teams, 17 in fact. A grand total of 471 student-athletes are on rosters for those teams, almost 10 percent of the undergraduate population.
Another student response might be to question how good the teams really are. A small engineering school known for making geek chic can’t possibly have good sports teams. Especially one in a city known for sports failure.
Yet the opposite is true. Did you know the football team started their season with nine straight victories? Or the men’s tennis team is ranked as the No. 8 team in the country? Or the baseball team earned a trip to the NCAA championship at the end of last season? Or that third-year cross country runner Sam Merriman finished 21st at the NCAA meet, earning All-American status? Or even that, just this past weekend, third-year thrower Cassandra Laios won the University Athletic Association title in both the weight throw and shot put?
If you didn’t know, it is also likely that you didn’t show up to any games. For the eight sports that tabulate attendance, the average number of people at a Spartans home game is 347. Excluding football (1,706 spectators per home game) that average plummets to 152. It’s also safe to assume that a sizeable percentage of those home crowds are parents. And, since many of the universities the Spartans face are located close to Cleveland, parents of opponents are also included. Thus, the average number of CWRU students at games is probably in the double digits.
The sports that do not count attendance are more than likely the least popular among students, and are unlikely to garner a large crowd. Those include tennis, swimming and diving, track and field, cross country and wrestling. However, it’s in those sports, particularly tennis, that Spartans students shine the most.
A lack of school spirit has been a problem for CWRU for a while now. And I don’t blame students for not attending games that last multiple hours when they have other, more important commitments like research, jobs or exams.
However, I do blame them for not being aware of what is going on.
Shockingly, CWRU sports teams actually do really well. Every year since 1998, the school has produced at least one All-American. And when Spartan athletes do well, the whole university does well. There’s a reason “CWRU” is on all of the team’s jerseys: The athletes are competing for the school.
One of these days, a CWRU team is going to win another national championship. Perhaps then the student body will begin to recognize that the university teams do indeed exist and are good at what they do. And maybe, just maybe, more students will respond with pride instead of confusion.
Eddie Kerekes is a second-year chemical engineering student and also serves as The Observer’s Sports Editor.