Sports Feature: Unprecedented athletic success at Mines

CSM has gained national recognition for its reputation in academic excellence and its rigorous curriculum has earned respect from employers across the globe. As a result, in January Mines was awarded $10,000 in funding from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. That is not surprising news. What may be surprising though is that while Mines continues to rise to higher levels in the classroom, the athletic realm has followed closely behind, witnessing unprecedented success in competition across the board.

In the 2011 Directors’ Cup standing, an awards which judges schools based upon their athletic success, Mines finished 18th in the nation among all Division II schools. That’s not bad for a bunch of nerds. For not only must Oredigger athletes spend countless hours studying for classes like so many students at CSM, they must also work to achieve the same level of success in their sport by defeating athletes from other schools who devote their entire focus to athletics.

It is a feat that contains no shortcuts, according to Athletic Director Tom Spicer, “There’s no secret to it. There’s no formula. We take away all the excuses and believe that hard work pays dividends. The harder you work, the better success you have.”
And working hard is what they have done. During the 2010-2011 athletic season, Mines witnessed improvements and progress throughout all the sports. Of the 17 varsity sports offered at Mines, 14 advanced on to the postseason last year. Here are some of the results:

Men’s Cross Country – Placed 4th at the NCAA DII National Championships, the highest finish in program history

Football – Finished 13-1, RMAC Champions, advanced to the 16 team, NCAA National Tournament

Men’s Soccer – Became the first CSM team to ever be ranked first in a national poll, advanced to the second round of the NCAA National Tournament

Volleyball – Advanced to the NCAA Central Region Tournament as the 8th seed, it was the only the third ever postseason appearance in team history

Women’s Soccer – Advanced to the first round of the NCAA DII Tournament where they fell in a PK shootout to Metro State

Track and Field – 43rd at NCAA National Championships, one individual National Champion (Russell Drummond), 19 athletes named All-RMAC

Swim and Dive – Sent two athletes to the National Championships, Andrew Zerwick finished fourth in the 200 backstroke

Men’s Basketball – Finished 25-6, RMAC regular season champions, advanced to the NCAA Central Region Semifinals

Wrestling – Finished 9th in the Super Regional Four, sent Jordan Larsen to the NCAA DII National Championships where he finished 1-2

Softball – Finished with the third most wins in program history (36), advanced to the NCAA DII Central Region Tournament

Golf – Finished 13th in the NCAA DII Super Regional, Jim Knous top-ranked golfer in the RMAC

Mines has witnessed athletic success in its history, but never to this extent or as widespread as it is in its current state. But creating a winning atmosphere at Mines is no easy feat. Spicer knows this, and he and the rest of the athletics staff have done their best to capitalize on the uniqueness of CSM rather than try to overcome it. “The main challenge is to understand the academic mission of the institution and fit it into our athletic programs,” explained Spicer. “Students here already have focus and discipline. Our job is to take advantage of that focus and discipline already there and bring them along, develop their skills and teach them time management.”

Oredigger athletics has found the formula to help develop these young athletes while still promoting a high level of academic athletes. One prime example is found in former CSM Golfer Marty Jackson. Jackson left Mines and began his career working with Ping, designing, of all things, golf balls. Or consider Anthony Se, who played baseball during his career as an Oredigger, and has returned to his Alma Mater as a coach.

That is what Spicer enjoys about his job. It is not the national championships, or record breaking performances. “It is all about helping the athletes in chasing their dreams and their destinies. If those dreams don’t result in a professional career, they have got another career to fall back on. And even if they do make it as a professional athlete, it will end someday and they will have a great engineering career to pursue.”

But what does Spicer love the most about his job? What does he love the most about watching Miners achieve success in competition? “The fact the people don’t like to get beat by [Mines students]. They can’t stand it and they don’t understand how we can be both academic and athletic.”

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