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The Scarlet & Black

Seniors on fall sports teams search for purpose

Sydney McClendon ’16 and David Leitson ’16 have now played their last collegiate game. Photo by Takahiro Omura
Sydney McClendon ’16 and David Leitson ’16 have now played their last collegiate game. Photo by Takahiro Omura
Sydney McClendon ’16 and David Leitson ’16 have now played their last collegiate game. Photo by Takahiro Omura

The Bear may appear to be just as crowded as ever during the afternoon, but some racks are in fact empty, as senior athletes lay down their burdens, or at least their dumbbells, and move on to their post-sports Grinnell life. While spring athletes prepare for their seasons physically and mentally, fall senior athletes are left with only their reflective gaze to look wistfully and critically into the past.

Being on a sports team at Grinnell brings many pleasures, such as routine, fitness and someone to sit with in the dining hall, but these benefits come at the expense of that singular precious commodity: time. When these seniors are left with extra time in their schedule, they often turn back to sports to keep them centered and sane.

“After the season ended it was definitely nice to have a hiatus from working out for a little bit, but then you kind of go crazy … [so] I manage for the women’s basketball team,” said Claire Ruegg ’16, a member of the women’s soccer team.

While managing a team, especially one as successful as the women’s basketball team this season, can help keep the competitive edge, athletes agree that playing an intramural sport provides physical fitness without the same demands of competition.

“I basically just switched from playing football to intramural basketball,” said Greg Ruzich ’16, a member of the football team. “It’s a fun, laid-back atmosphere. It’s definitely competitive. I want to win, but it’s nice it’s not an everyday thing.”

The competitive aspect of Grinnell athletics can also be invigorating, and a lack of that of invigoration can be deflating. Although David Leitson ’16 continues to play with the soccer team to make them better, he feels the practices are less meaningful than before.

“It means something different. There’s nothing to [work] for, it’s just to have fun … Before there was an extra meaning to it,” Leitson said.

Ruegg agrees that life without meaningful sports can be rough, as she’s taken a break from soccer before.

“I didn’t play soccer my first year and I missed it a lot, so I feel like even though I’m technically done, it’ll always be a part of my life, because I’ve tried not playing and didn’t like it,” Ruegg said.

With their athletic careers behind them, senior fall athletes are able to pour their efforts into other endeavors. These efforts may be stressful, such as searching for a job, but they can also be social goals, or simply taking advantage of the time that they have left at Grinnell.

“My friends and I are taking a spring break trip to Mexico, so I’m super pumped about that … [And] just being able to do fun things when I want to, like go to Pub Quiz,” said Sydney McClendon ’16, a member of the volleyball team.

Ruzich has big goals for his final semester, some of which help to keep his competitive spirit alive, such as taking home the title at Relays for the second year in a row with his fellow residents at Goat House, among them fellow football seniors Henry Cummings ’16 and Brogan McWilliams ’16. Additionally, Ruzich has been keeping to a modified version of the football weight lifting program for his own spring break trip to California.

“It’s mainly just for spring break,” Ruzich said, “because I’m going down to California, so I want to keep the fat away.”

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