BY MARY ANGELA BENTHAL
Whether it’s the stronger development of older athletic programs or the installation of brand new ones like the lacrosse program, Franciscan University has seen progress in the area of athletics, including individual sports, this year.
Chris Ledyard, director of athletics, said that AMCC runner of the year, Bill Jones, currently ranks as one of the best runners in the nation. According to Ledyard, Jones is ten seconds off the Olympic qualifying time, as well as number one in the nation in Division II and in Division III. In addition to Jones’ running success, Nicole Krajewski has excelled wonderfully in cross country this year.
“It’s a big deal for someone like Nicole Krajewski, who’s the first person to become a national qualifier. I mean how many people do you know that qualify for the national championships and it’s from Franciscan?” Ledyard said.
As well as the many achievements in individual sports, Franciscan team sports have also achieved some big goal, such as the men’s tennis team.
“Our tennis team just qualified on Sunday,” Ledyard said, “The team beat everybody in the championship—won undefeated in that conference and now have a national bid.”
Unlike many other universities, Franciscan has a unique approach to the way athletics are viewed and applied.
“The driving force behind Franciscan Athletics is that we do not take sports, rip it out of context of your life, and then push kids to go somewhere,” Ledyard said, “We just simply say, ‘This like everything else is how you’re supposed to live your life. If you happen to be talented in this area and God is drawing you in this area, and this is the medium by which God helps you develop—then use it. Don’t use it mediocrely. Use it well.”
The athletic department at Franciscan is highly dedicated to ensuring that students who are looking to pursue an athletic program are given what they need to reach excellence in every area of their life here at Franciscan.
“When a person is here at Franciscan and they are not athlete, they are a student by vocation in those four years that they are here,” Ledyard said, “When someone says to us, ‘I want to be an athlete,’ then they are to us a student athlete by vocation. Because they are a student athlete by vocation, we have a mandate to teach them how to be a student athlete.”
It is through such dedication to success and care for student athletes that Franciscan athletics has been able to grow and thrive.
“For me one of the high points this year is that Franciscan University won what they call a Peek Performer Award within the conference. That means that we had the highest percentage of student athletes above a 3.2 of any other teams in our conference,” Ledyard said, “We had 64.8% of our athletes in the AMCC above a 3.2. That’s phenomenally high and we know that our athletes really are student athletes.”
As this exciting year of new goals and achievements comes to an end, Ledyard remains confident that Franciscan Athletics will continue to move forward from here.
“The success is built on the fact that we are using sports as a medium, like John Paul II said, ‘sports should be a school of virtue,’ and that’s exactly what we’re working toward. Success comes after that,” he said, “If we are faithful to the details of the growth and the personhood of all the individuals who claim to be student athletes, they will have success whether it’s academic, spiritual, or athletic.”