Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Big finish

Ashante_Little_400mAshante Little ’14 wins national championship

They say first impressions are important. Ashante Little seems to have that nailed down, judging by her first encounter with Dave Cusano, Wheaton’s head track and field coach, during his first season on campus in 2012.

“When I first met Ashante, she asked, ‘How are you going to make me a national champion?’” Cusano recalls. “I knew right from that moment that I was going to have an opportunity to coach someone very special.”

Wheaton Track & FieldTheir teamwork, indeed, has led Little to her greatest achievement on the track. Last spring she captured her first career national title with a personal best time of 54.79 seconds in the 400-meter dash at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championship in La Crosse, Wis.

“Before the final of the 400-meter, coach told me I could do it,” she says. “It had been a long weekend and we still had races to finish, but his trust and reassurance kept me out of my own head and helped me stay as focused and on target as I could be.”

As Cusano recalls, “Was I nervous about Ashante’s race? No, but I could see signs of fatigue from her racing eight times over a three-day span at the biggest meet of the season. But what she expected from herself was greatness and she achieved it.”

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Equestrian holds reins to top 10 ranking

Kurtz Rossi Equestrian 1

Allegra Kurtz-Rossi ’15 competing in the 2013 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals

Allegra Kurtz-Rossi ’15 has been riding horses since she was 11 years old, but she had never participated in a national equestrian competition until last spring as a member of the Wheaton Equestrian Team.

Her first gallop into the national arena paid off big time. Competing against representatives from more than 100 schools, Kurtz-Rossi placed 10th in the nation in the walk-trot-canter category of the 2013 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals held last spring in Harrisburg, Pa.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Kurtz-Rossi, who this year is one of the equestrian team’s captains. “I had never competed in such a large horse show before, so I was pretty nervous, especially being the only representative for Wheaton’s team.”

Kurtz-Rossi had qualified to show at the nationals by becoming the champion in her division at the New England regional finals held at Mount Holyoke College last spring.

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Lacrosse secret weapon: math

Benjamin Brown ’13 walks onto the field with the lacross team.

Benjamin Brown ’13 walks onto the field with the lacross team.

Benjamin Brown ’13 puts analytics to work to help team

Benjamin Brown ’13 has a secret that very few people know. Although he never played the sport, his extracurricular project helped the men’s lacrosse team improve its game, ending the season with a 7–8 record against tougher opponents than they had contested in the past.

Ian Casey ’13 and Brown (on right).

Ian Casey ’13 and Brown (on right).

Brown, who double majored in economics and mathematics, created his own form of lacrosse analytics. His system focuses on the Lyons’ opposing players and teams, using video from the games and box scores to establish a rating system that complements the coaches’ scouting reports. The box scores provide in-game statistics of shots, shots on net goals, assists and saves, while the video displays certain patterns by the opposition that helped Brown with his analytic scouting reports.

“Ben worked extremely hard on this project,” said men’s lacrosse coach Jamie Lockard. “When he came into the office we spent 40 minutes talking about his reports on the various games, and we needed every single minute of our meetings.” [Read more...]

Victory lap

Caroline Isaacs ’13Swimming co-captain graduates awash in success 

This year in February, before the men’s and women’s swimming teams competed in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championships, coach Barrett Roberts ’07 gathered the group for a pre-meet pep talk. He highlighted some of the great moments from past championships, as well as talked about various swimmers who had surpassed expectations.

Wheaton Women's Swim Team“This year, I spoke about John Kuckens ’06, Zachariah Hicks ’07, John Ahern ’10 and Christian Woods ’12,” said Roberts, a former member of the Wheaton swim team. Next year a name that surely will be added to that list is Caroline Isaacs ’13.

Isaacs, the women’s swimming team co-captain, graduated in May as the program’s most successful distance swimmer, according to Roberts, with records in the 500-yard, 1,000-yard and 1,650-yard freestyles as well as the 400-yard individual medley. She also was a two-time NEWMAC Academic All-Conference Award winner; the recipient of a 2013 Banning-Ford Prize in Education; and she achieved the highest grade point average on the team for the fall semester, which secured the Lyons a spot on this year’s College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Team Scholar All-America list.

“She will definitely be remembered as a major contributor to our program and an example to follow for years to come,” said Roberts. “When she first joined the team, she wasn’t considered a potential record holder, but Caroline improved dramatically since her freshman year. She willed herself to an elite level of competition and earned every bit of her success.” [Read more...]