|ISU students: be proud of Redbird athletics and its bright future|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Sports Columnist|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 09:27|
As Illinois State students, we are constantly compared to the University of Illinois in nearly every facet of college life—parties, nightlife, academics, and sports. In a YouTube video entitled “Sh*t ISU Students Don’t Say”, the remark, “I got in to U of I, but I came [to ISU] for the athletics,” was made.
Meant to be sarcastically funny? Yes. Completely accurate in the sarcastic sense? No.
As many (if not all) of you know, Illinois State athletics reside in the Missouri Valley Conference. No, we’re not a Big Ten, Big 12, or Big East school. No, our football program isn’t quite as prestigious as the Alabama Crimson Tide. And no, our uniforms aren’t as cool as Oregon’s.
But folks, Illinois State athletics are looking up, and it’s not like they were horrible in the first place. We need to give credit where credit is due, and frankly, credit to the university’s athletics is way past due.
In the past three years, we have brought big names to ISU’s athletic staff, having obtained Gary Friedman as the new Athletic Director, Stephanie Glance as the women’s basketball coach, Mark Kingston as the baseball coach, and Brock Spack as the football coach.
And to those coaches who have been with us longer, like head track and field coach Elvis Forde and legendary softball coach Melinda Fischer, their programs are no strangers to success.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the giant banner of Tim Glover at the intersection of College Avenue and Main Street. For those of you who don’t know, Glover is the reigning national champion in the javelin throw, and is currently ranked No.1 in the nation.
The junior has fallen into a recursive cycle of setting new records and then breaking them shortly thereafter. Glover also recently hit a personal-best record of 266’08” — a throw that was only 70 centimeters away from qualifying him for the 2012 London Olympics. Yes, we have a potential Olympic athlete in our midst.
Plus, Glover isn’t the only student-athlete nationally ranked. Brittany Smith, a thrower on the women’s track and field team, is ranked in the top 10 in the nation for her events. With Smith’s help, the ISU women’s track team has ascended into the NCAA Division I Track and Field National Rankings at No. 12.
ISU’s fall soccer season was a record-breaking one as well, as freshman Rachel Tejada helped lead the ’Birds to an MVC Championship and a NCAA Tournament appearance. Tejada was also the first player in program history to earn All-American honors when she was named to the Soccer America All-Freshman First Team. She not only broke school and conference records, but she became the nation’s third-leading goal scorer and earned a fourth-place ranking for goals per game.
We might not be known for our football program, but us Redbirds have something to prove in the upcoming 2012 season. After having a pretty successful 2011 season, ISU is ranked No. 20 in The Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 final poll.
Spack, who became ISU’s head football coach prior to the 2009 season, is doing everything in his power to unveil what he calls the “sleeping giant.” Slowly but surely, we’re making a name for ourselves.
Our softball and baseball teams have been pretty steady throughout the years, earning multiple Valley titles and being constant, competitive contenders in the MVC.
ISU baseball also sports a long list of previous Redbirds who continued their careers at the professional level, with six currently playing in the pros.
And then, there is basketball. Obviously, big things are expected from the men’s team next year after its outstanding performance in the post-season. Following the upset of No. 15 Wichita State and a nail-biter championship game against Creighton, ISU made it to the second round of the NIT. With all players returning next year, the 2012 season is going to be one for the books. What was your post-season like, Illini? Oh yeah, that’s right…
My point is, ISU athletics are nothing to be ashamed of. We might reside in t he small town of Normal, Ill., but that doesn’t mean we can’t do big things — we can. We are.