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Matthies Mug

Steve Matthies

Less than one month from today, another season will have started at Oregon Tech.

When the men host a soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 21, the home season begins and the Hustlin’ Owls will have a lot of work if they hope to better the efforts from last season when seven of its 13 teams placed in the top 10, and another was in the top 15.

That only was on the field of competition.

Tech had another great year, too, in the classroom. For the sixth time in the last seven years, all of its athletic teams fielded grade point averages of 3.00 or better. As a department, OIT’s 13 teams finished with a combined 3.30 GPA.

OIT and The College of Idaho both had department GPAs of 3.30, with Northwest Christian at 3.25 and Northwest University 3.17. Carroll College (3.38) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (3.20), also were noted, and both are members of the Cascade Collegiate Conference in some sports.

All six had at least 60 percent of their athletes achieve conference academic honors, which means being at least a sophomore in standing and a 3.20 GPA.

Four individuals — soccer player Brennan Gazdik, volleyball player Chase Bohman, and runners Cindy Reed and Danielle DeCastro — gained regional academic honors through the College Sports Information Directors of America, and CoSIDA honors are difficult to attain.

With Mitchell Fink’s Ad Rutschman Award as the top small-college male athlete in Oregon, and the OIT women’s cross country team to be accorded an Oregon Sports Award for its national championship, to say Tech had a great year would be a monster understatement.

The year was topped when DeCastro was added to the United States roster for the recent World University games in Napoli, Italy, one of fewer than 10 NAIA athletes to represent the country in all the various athletic competitions.

A 4.0 mechanical engineering major, as well as an All-American in both cross country and track and field competition, DeCastro met what OIT track and field coach Jack Kegg said: “Truly represents the World University Games motto: ‘Today’s Stars, Tomorrow’s Leaders.’

“Our hope was that Danielle went out and competed well (in the women’s 1,500) and enjoyed herself, that she enjoys the people around her. That she interacted and communicated with others, learned about other cultures and countries, and just enjoyed the whole event.”

It bodes well that Tech coaches are not only bringing good athletes to campus, but quality students, too.

Athletic director John VanDyke told me the added monies to help finance student-athletes means more quality athletes, which means more trips to national tournaments, which means raising more funds to help send OIT around the country to represent the school, the community and the state.

While it might be a bane to some, it is a good thing.

“Earning President’s academic excellence is a great accomplishment,” Cascade Collegiate Conference commissioner Rob Cashell said in a press release earlier this month. “It represents the highest academic honor our departments can earn from the conference, and recognizes the outstanding efforts in the classroom.”

It was Cashell’s first release from the conference’s new offices. The league has moved its headquarters from La Grande to Corvallis, which is much more centrally located for the bulk to the league’s soon to be 12 schools.

“I’m so proud of our student-athletes, and that they truly reflect what being a student-athlete is all about,” VanDyke said. “The Oregon Tech community should be really proud of not only their athletic talent, but also their academic achievements.”

He is right on.

It must be noted that not every high school athlete should become a college athlete.

Not every quality individual from our area should head to Oregon Tech, although anyone geared toward engineering and the medical fields might not find programs as good as OIT has, especially while also being an athlete.

An individual who wishes to become a classroom teacher might be better suited for another school, and the state has plenty of good ones, rather than Tech because it would mean a year or two more before joining the workforce.

That, too, is OK.

One only hopes, throughout the entire Klamath Basin, that people appreciate what Oregon Tech brings to the community — on and off the field of competition.

Steve Matthies is Herald and News sports editor. He can be reached at 541-885-4411, or at smatthies@heraldandnews.com.