Men’s and women’s cross-country teams receive the NCAA all American academic teams award
The men’s and women’s cross country teams for the University of Dallas have recently received the NCAA all American academic teams award for the fall semester of 2022. The women’s team had a team GPA of 3.23 and the men’s had a team GPA of 3.66. The men’s team had the highest team GPA in Texas.
The cross country team is proud of their hard work and honored by the NCAA’s recognition of their academic achievements. Maria Pecha, a senior biology major and captain of the women’s team, said, “It’s an honor to finally receive notice for all the hard work that we put in.”
Nico Walz, a junior classics major and member of the men’s team, said: “Cross country runners are pretty proud of consistent academic excellence. I’m happy to be part of a team that prizes schoolwork more than we even prize our sports.”
Cross country coach Norman “Nick” Schneigert is also proud of the team, recognizing the effort it takes to be successful both in the classroom and on the track.
He said: “Distance kids, because they run longer distances, have to be mentally tough, and it hurts, it really hurts. That’s why not a lot of people want to do cross country. Typically those mentally tough kids are normally those kids that are very successful in the classroom.”
The award is not only a credit to the cross country team; it also represents the mission of UD.
“I think the University of Dallas is the Catholic Ivy League school of the South. And I had one recruit’s dad that told me the University of Dallas is the little Catholic Harvard on a hill. The classical education is rigorous but it’s also complex. The core is very complex and time consuming. [Other schools] in our conference as well have very rigorous academics but they don’t have that classical education curriculum. And that’s what makes us so different,” Schneigert said.
Expanding on that idea, Walz said: “I think the University of Dallas prizes the intellectual life in all its dimensions. I think that being part of a sports team is just a way of participating in a more holistic education, where you’re training your body in order to keep your mind alert. [Winning this award] says good things about UD’s total approach to education. I think for the cross country team specifically, it says that in a special way we embody what UD is trying to do.”
The cross country teams have received this award on a fairly consistent basis. In the fall semester of 2021, the women’s team received the award for having a team GPA of 3.81 — the highest in the state of Texas.
Schneigert wants to make sure his team consistently performs well both inside and outside the classroom.
He said: “One thing I always tell my students athletes here is that I want them to be successful when they graduate from the University of Dallas or any other school I coach at. I just don’t want them just to come here, do cross country and track and then graduate and then not go anywhere.”
Schneigert has also been making changes in order to help his student athletes. Last year, some cross country members struggled to make the 6 a.m. workouts due to their academic load. So, in the spring semester of 2022, Schneigert instituted 5 p.m. make-up workouts in an attempt to help the student athletes.
“Last year in 2022, I only had three kids that missed either the morning practice or makeup practice and that is huge. If you miss a lot of practices, you start losing focus with cross country. Also you just start digressing. You can’t just consistently start missing practices. So with that 5 p.m. practice, that really made a huge difference,” Schneigert said.
Schneigert is not the only coach who wants his team to be successful in both areas of their lives. “We really are trying to make sure that these kids not only maintain their focus on academics but also maintain their focus with athletics. And all these coaches have been doing a fantastic job trying to figure that out.” Schneigert said.
Schneigert is happy for the team and expects continued excellence in the future. “I am proud of my student athletes. These kids have been doing a fantastic job. I only recruit kids with 3.5 or higher GPA’s so if we get these kids in here, I think we will consistently be NCAA all academic Americans year in and year out,” he said.