SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Showing yet again that Santa Clara student-athletes are just as much students as they are athletes, Ashley Armstrong of women's basketball was named the Valedictorian of the class of 2013. Armstrong has already been accepted to Cambridge University to get her Masters of Philosophy beginning in the fall. Armstrong will graduate with a major in Anthropology and minors in Economics and International Business while posting a 3.9 GPA. She is a two-time WCC All-Academic selection and has been named to the Commisioner's List all four years.
In addition, Kevin Oliver was one of six people to receive Student Life Awards to recognize their contributions to improving the overall quality of life in the University community.
Fresh off finishing 17th at the NCAA West Region Outdoor Track Championships in the 10,000m May 23, Bronco senior Oliver was also named to the Capital One CoSIDA All-District Academic All-American list. Oliver sports a 3.97 grade point average as a double major in Economics and Political Science. He was Santa Clara's Senior Academic Award Winner as well and he will be attending Law School at the University of Chicago next fall. "He did this all while running as much at 100 miles a week and countless hours of supplemental training in addition to all the miles he has put in," said Bronco head coach Felipe Montoro. "On top of all of that, he has probably managed to have the most fun of anyone in the program. A consummate student-athlete, Kevin represents the best of Santa Clara!"
The news didn't come as a complete shock to Armstrong, as she had been through the selection process.
"I knew I was in the running for valedictorian because a percentage of the top students were asked to write an essay, and then eight of us were selected to present sample speeches," explained Armstrong. "Father Engh then invited me to meet with him, and I thought he was interviewing the top-three candidates. The night before I was preparing answers to questions I anticipated he might ask, but I tried not to get my hopes up because there were so many great candidates. When he abruptly told me that I was valedictorian, I was stunned. I replied with an inarticulate 'really?' and then expressed how honored I am to have received the award."
The honor was not something that Armstrong specifically set out for in college, but it wasn't something completely new to her either.
"In high school, I specifically worked toward being valedictorian from my first day of school freshman year," said Armstrong. "However, in college, I really gave it no thought whatsoever. I had the mindset that I will work my hardest. It still does not mean that I did not have a breakdown when I received my first B, which Coach Mountain can verify."
Being named valedictorian is quite an accomplishment for any student, let alone a student-athlete. Armstrong used the lessons she learned playing basketball to help her reach academic success. That doesn't mean there weren't challenges.
"Being a student-athlete has definitely helped me in the classroom because sports reinforce the importance of work ethic and discipline," said Armstrong. "Athletics also has helped me learn to accept constructive criticism from teachers. I honestly enjoy learning so class work is not really seen as a burden. The hardest thing balancing athletics and school is trying to get enough sleep."
There is also the matter of the graduation speech, which can be a daunting task no matter how comfortable one is with speaking in front of crowds.
"Although I am very comfortable with public speaking, I am a little nervous about giving my speech at graduation because I typically do not speak in front of a crowd of 10,000 people, but my main reservation is that my speech is not funny enough," said Armstrong. "I think my friends and family expect a really comedic speech because I thrive of sarcasm and humor. However, I have to tailor my speech and make it somewhat serious so it can appeal to a more diverse audience. I just hope I live up to everyone's standards."
With all that she has accomplished, everyone knows Armstrong is up to the task.