Senior Profiles: Cross Country/Volleyball

Tristan Gavin

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When the fall sports come to an end in the following weeks, so too will the collegiate athletic careers of many seniors. For most, this season marks the peak of an athletic career that will likely never continue at such a competitive level. For all, it is the end of an emotional roller coaster that has shaped their experiences at Whitman College.

Taylor Mesojanik ’13, cross country runner. Photos by Charlie Li.

Senior runner Taylor Mesojednik is set to compete in the regional competitions for cross country next weekend. Mesojdnik, a co-captain, qualified for the NCAA DIII West Regionals with his 26th place finish in the Northwest Conference Championships this past weekend, second only on Whitman’s team to senior co-captain Cory Rand.

“It’s an awesome way to cap off my four years,” said Mesojednik, who has had his best year as a collegiate runner in 2012.

Mesojednik will be running at Regionals on the same weekend many of his classmates take the written exams for his BBMB major, choosing to wait until the spring to take it rather than cut his final season short. The decision was difficult for Mesojednik, who values academics highly.

“The structure of cross country has always allowed me to maintain high standards in academics,” said Mesojednik, who found solace in study breaks spent running with his teammates.

“It will probably be my last time running competitively for a team,” said Mesojednik, who expects running to be something he takes with him after he graduates. “I will probably run marathons, but the support of a group of runners with the same common goal is something I will miss after graduation.”

Mesojednik is set to graduate with a BBMB major and plans to attend medical school after graduation.

Shannon McCarty ’13, cross country runner

Senior Shannon McCarty of the women’s cross country team will join Mesojednik at regionals after placing 24th at the NWC championships and third for the Missionaries. McCarty is also a team captain in her fourth year of cross country and shares sentiments about what could be her final race.

“I came to Whitman and immediately had a community in running. That is something I might not find anywhere else,” said McCarty.

McCarty is also looking at a career in medicine, but plans to take a year to do volunteer work prior to attending medical school. She also expects running to be a discipline she carries on in life, but knows that the camaraderie is something she might not experience again.

“For now, I have a race to focus on before it really sinks in,” said McCarty.

The support she and Mesojednik both referred to is evidenced by the care packages their teammates sent with them on their road trip. The care shown by their teammates is one of the big draws to the sport.

“It has definitely always been about the people,” said McCarty of what drove her to come out year after year.

Olivia Nielson ’13, volleyball player

The friendships fostered by collegiate sports are something senior volleyball player Olivia Nielson knows a lot about. This class of seniors, celebrated in last weekend’s senior night, has been together for four years and make up the team’s first senior class in three years.

“The team has struggled over the last four years, but being able to have your best friends go through it with you makes it bearable,” said Nielson.

The 2012 season has been the team’s best in recent years. Under the new leadership of head coach Matt Helm, the team climbed from a last place finish in 2011 to a respectable place in the middle of the conference.

“It has been an amazing year, and really reflects the time we put in and the sacrifices we made,” said Nielson.

Nielson hopes to attend physical therapy school next fall and cannot imagine life without volleyball.

“I think I will always have it a part of my life, whether it’s through coaching or playing in women’s leagues,” said Nielson.

Every year, seniors wrap up their collegiate careers and take the lessons and disciplines of their respective sports with them into the real world. While the next few weeks will be filled with nostalgia and sentimentality, they will also be a celebration of the dedication and sacrifice made by athletes who will become professionals in fields outside the realm of sports.

Whitman cross country will be graduating Mesojednik, Rand and Whitney Griggs from the men’s team and McCarty, Emilie Gilbert, Katri Gilbert, Claire Baron, Lauren Davis and Lori Mendelsohn from the women’s team.

The volleyball seniors are Nielson, Courtney Brewer, Carrie Cecil and Rachel Shober.

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