By Leslie McCarthy
Senior News Director, Washington University in St. Louis
Over the course of about 24 hours Sept. 22-23, four student-athletes from Washington University in St. Louis were tabbed by national coaches’ organizations as “Athlete of the Week.”
It’s an unprecedented honor in school history that Josh Whitman, the John M. Schael Director of Athletics, calls “inspirational.” To put it into perspective, the university received only six such honors throughout the entire academic sports year in 2013-14.
“Even by the admittedly high standards that we have for our Bear athletic program, this was a remarkable weekend,” Whitman said. “All of our teams and student-athletes competed at an exceptionally high level. To have four National Athletes of the Week in a year, let alone in the same week, is a testament to the dedication, hard work and talent that our student-athletes demonstrate, day in and day out, in their athletic pursuits here at Washington University.
“Perhaps the most inspirational thing about these young men and women is that in addition to being incredible athletes, they are also gifted scholars and committed members of our community,” Whitman said.
The student-athletes achieving the honor were cross-country athletes Lucy Cheadle, a senior in majoring in chemical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Drew Padgett, a senior majoring in psychology in Arts & Sciences ; volleyball player Jackie Nelligan, a junior majoring in mathematics and philosophy-neuroscience-psychology, both in Arts & Sciences; and women’s soccer player Lillie Toaspern, a senior on the global health and environment track in anthropology in Arts & Sciences.
“It’s a really great honor to represent Washington University,” said Padgett, who achieved similiar distinctions last year as a junior, “but it’s not why we train and it’s not why we go to meets. We go to meets and train so we can win a national championship.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Toaspern, whose team is currently ranked No. 1 nationally in Division III soccer. “This is a more of a testament to my teammates,” she said. “We’ve been doing well, and I’m just a small part of it.”
A closer look at the student-athletes: