GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) is proud to announce its Sportsmanship and Inspirational Award Winners for the 2015-16 academic year, as chosen by the conference’s executive committee.
The Wilson College women’s soccer team was selected as a recipient of the NEAC Sportsmanship Award, which is presented annually (if applicable) to at least one female student-athlete, male student-athlete, female team, male team, and/or one institutional winner. The winning selections have consistently demonstrated good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in his/her/their daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. They have exemplified the values of respect, caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility, while also demonstrating good citizenship outside the sports setting.
The NEAC Inspirational Award is presented annually (if applicable) to an individual or individuals who have endured personal hardships that have led to bravery and/or dedication within athletics through participation, volunteerism, coaching, and/or administrating. This year’s recipients include Bryn Athyn College’s Colten Harrish (Thorsby, Alberta), Gallaudet University’s Taylor Mickelson (Fargo, N.D.), Rutgers University-Camden’s Sean Sanchirico (Haddon Township, N.J.) and SUNY Cobleskill’s Anthony Yevoli (Amsterdam, N.Y.).
Wilson College Women’s Soccer Team
The 2015-16 Wilson College women’s soccer program faced much adversity due to a small roster size that was decimated by injuries. The team had to fight hard to get through each practice and game and in many cases suffered lopsided outcomes on the scoreboard. Yet, despite playing with those stresses and frustrations throughout the season, the team was still determined to play with class and sportsmanship every time they stepped onto the field.
This was evidenced by the Phoenix being selected by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) for the prestigious Platinum Team Ethics and Sportsmanship Award. They were one of only eight intercollegiate teams across the nation to receive the Platinum award for completing the entire 2015 season without receiving a yellow or red card. The award is given in Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze versions to teams across all levels, including NCAA Division I, Division II, Division III, the NAIA, and the junior college ranks. The award recognizes teams that exhibit fair play, sporting behavior and adherence to the laws of the game, as reflected by the number of yellow caution cards or red ejection cards they are shown by referees throughout the season based on the number of cards accumulated divided by the number of games played.
“We are very proud of our women’s soccer team for earning this honor and for their efforts in showing true sportsmanship during the season,” said Wilson College Athletics Director Lori Frey. “To go out and compete each week, knowing the challenges that lie ahead, shows the tremendous amount of integrity each member of the team possesses. They have shown you can compete with great character while showing respect to the opponents and officials.”
Colten Harrish, Bryn Athyn College
Colten was born with a clubfoot, which has caused him to walk with a significant limp throughout his life while making routine movements and steps extremely difficult. This would also make playing sports difficult, but Colten never uses it as an excuse while competing.
“As the new men’s lacrosse coach at Bryn Athyn, I met Colten in January of this year for the first time,” explained head coach Tucker Durkin. “Not once in our six months together did I hear Colten mutter a single complaint about the challenges that I saw him dealing with on a daily basis.”
During tough days at practice, continuous sprints, and even during games when he would notice him struggling, Durkin often suggested that Colten take a breather or sit out a drill. But Colten (left) would simply brush off that plea for a break and keep pushing through. Not once did he ask for a break or a drill off; not once did he complain. Rather, Colten became a leader both vocally and through his play on the field. He was a starting defenseman for the Lions and consistently played at a level where they simply could not take him off the field, nor would he allow it.
In a sport where change of direction and agility are so pivotal, Durkin explains that Colten was able to adjust his footing and battle through his challenges to play as well as any defenseman on the team, making him “not only our team’s hardest worker, he was the epitome of mental toughness.”
“As a player I have had the opportunity to play with and against some of the best lacrosse players, competitors and athletes in the world,” said Durkin, who also plays professionally as a defenseman for the Florida Launch of Major League Lacrosse. “I can honestly say Colten is as mentally tough as anyone I have ever been around. He has been forced to endure extreme adversity, and has done so in a way that only a coach and mentor can dream of.”
In addition to excelling on the field, Colten would do the same in the classroom and in the community.
“Colten epitomized the term student-athlete,” said Bryn Athyn College Athletics Director Matthew Kennedy. “He was our college valedictorian, managed several community service efforts and played the sport of lacrosse at a very high level regardless of his adversity. We are very proud of all of the great things Colten accomplished while a student at Bryn Athyn.”
“He is a guy that will succeed in whatever challenges he faces throughout his life, and will do so with a smile on his face and not a complaint out of his mouth,” added Durkin. “I am fortunate to know Colten and he is an inspiration to anyone who meets him.”
Taylor Mickelson, Gallaudet
Deaf and born with one hand, Taylor is an outstanding athlete and scholar with an engaging personality. As a Gallaudet swimmer and diver, she has contributed significantly to the success of the team and she barely acknowledges her physical challenges. As a swimmer, she participated in the most challenging events, swimming butterfly and the 400 individual medley. Limited by her hand, she perfected the underwater dolphin kick to her advantage. As a diver, Taylor has struggled with knee issues that limited her practice time and intensity. Yet, she developed the required competitive dive list and scored all-important team points.
"Taylor's enthusiasm and determination make coaching her a great experience for me," said Gallaudet head swimming coach Larry Curran. “She faces challenges without hesitation and the leadership role she plays on the team contributes a lot to the team's success. She's in a class of her own!"
Taylor (right) is also fully engaged in academic and campus activities. Majoring in mathematics, she has been inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma National Collegiate Honor Society. She is also the women’s swimming & diving team representative to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and a SAAC representative to the Student Body Government. Always setting personal “stretch” goals, she is also well on her way to obtaining her Private Pilot license.
Those that know Taylor describe here as being “unlimited” as she approaches life. Where others may accept limitations when faced with challenges like Taylor’s, she throws herself into reaching her next goal.
"Taylor is a true inspiration for others, as she doesn't let her disability interfere with her ability to be a valuable member of the Gallaudet swimming program,” said Gallaudet University Athletics Director Michael Weinstock. “The entire athletics department is very proud of Taylor on this achievement."
Sean Sanchirico, Rutgers University-Camden
Sean Sanchirico started feeling ill prior to his senior year at Paul VI High School located in Haddon Township, N.J. His condition continued through illness, weight loss and numerous medical visits, yet through the ordeal, he still played scholastic soccer and golf as best he could.
He joined the Rutgers-Camden golf team as a freshman during the 2013-14 academic year, where he played one competitive round during both the fall and spring seasons, despite battling his illness. He started his sophomore season in the fall of 2014 and played another competitive round, but illness and double vision prompted a visit to an ophthalmologist, where a problem was discovered. Sean was taken to the University of Pennsylvania’s hospital for an MRI, which revealed a massive brain tumor.
Less than two weeks after his one round of collegiate golf during the fall semester, he was undergoing eight-and-a-half hours of surgery on October 6, 2014. The surgery was followed by weeks in intensive care, where he battled through radiation therapy and rehabilitation. He would have to build up his motor skills again, needing to relearn how to walk before even thinking about playing golf again. This forced him to be out of school during the spring 2015 semester.
Triumphantly, Sean returned to Rutgers-Camden and the golf program during the fall of 2015, with his sophomore eligibility restored. He played his first competitive round at Rutgers-Camden’s own Scarlet Raptor Fall Golf Invitational held on October 26, and this past spring he played in three rounds as Rutgers-Camden went on to win its fourth straight NEAC championship.
Sean (left) owned a 91.9 average in seven career rounds entering this season, but the inspiration he has provided to his teammates and everyone around him is immeasurable. At Rutgers-Camden’s end-of-the-year Athletic Awards Banquet last May, Sean was presented with the William P. Carty Memorial Award, which is given annually to the school’s most courageous athlete.
Head golf coach Bob Cardea, who nominated Sean for that award, noted that he was the “most worthy person of this award that I have ever seen,” while adding that it is rare to have that one person on a team that everyone loves and gets along with, but Sean is that one person.
“He is truly remarkable,” Cardea said. “He just keeps on fighting. His game is getting stronger and stronger every month. He is well liked by all, and is without a doubt an inspiration.”
Rutgers-Camden Athletics Director Jeffrey Dean agreed, adding “Sean is truly an inspiring young man. He has shown all of us what it really means to never give up.”
Anthony Yevoli, SUNY Cobleskill
Anthony Yevoli was looking towards the 2016 men’s lacrosse season as a breakout year. After a freshman season that saw him score seven goals, pass out two assists and scoop up 34 ground balls in 14 appearances as a midfielder, all indications pointed in that direction. Upon the completion of the fall season, though, Anthony started having flu-like symptoms, which prompted an initial visit to his doctor.
Around Thanksgiving, his condition worsened to the point where he had to be admitted to the hospital. He would undergo a serious of tests, which revealed that he had contracted an aggressive form of Leukemia and would have to immediately begin an intense treatment program. He was admitted to Albany Medical Center just after Christmas, where he would spend the next five months undergoing chemotherapy, drug treatment and bed rest to battle the disease.
Throughout that time in the hospital, Anthony stayed in touch with his teammates and coaches in as many ways as he could, using social media, email, text messages and phone conversations to offer encouragement to his fellow Fighting Tigers on a near daily basis. While dealing with the ups and downs of his own situation, Anthony kept encouraging his teammates and coaches to keep battling as they went through a tough 2016 season. His support in the face of his own problems went a long way in inspiring the entire program to keep focused throughout the year.
“I have so much respect for Anthony and how he approached his battle with AML,” said SUNY Cobleskill head men’s lacrosse coach Ryan Gunzinger. “Six rounds of chemotherapy treatments absolutely wiped out his immune system and took a toll on him physically. It was an emotional time for his family but he stayed determined and optimistic throughout his recovery.”
As of May 2016, Anthony (right) has been diagnosed as cancer free and is currently planning his return to the field for the 2016-17 season. When this announcement was made at SUNY Cobleskill’s Athletic Awards Convocation that same month, the collective cheers and applause could best be described as deafening.
“Having Anthony healthy and back on the field will be a special moment that we’re all looking forward to,” Gunzinger said.
“Anthony is a true fighter,” said interim SUNY Cobleskill Athletics Director Mary Irving. “The strength he displayed throughout his treatment and his positive attitude is inspiring to all of us in the athletics program. I can’t wait to see him back on this field this spring.”
The North Eastern Athletic Conference has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College. Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Penn State Altoona (M Volleyball) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf). The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of field hockey and men’s and women’s tennis.