INA - For years, Rend Lake College has ranked among the nation’s academically elite colleges sanctioned by the National Junior College Athletic Association. Leading the way in five of the past six years has been the combined grade point averages of women on the Warriors tennis team.
Brent McLain, Assistant to the President for Athletics, recently informed the RLC Board of Trustees that student athletes at RLC ranked in approximately the 99th percentile of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s 2005-2006 Academic Teams of the Year.
Past Academic All-American tennis teams at RLC – particularly the team of 2004-2005 – blazed a trail for future teams to follow. Finishing first out of all NJCAA tennis teams in the classroom that year, the team embodied a tradition of striving just as hard in the classroom as they did on the court.
“Women’s tennis teams at RLC have done very well both on the court and in the classroom,” said RLC Tennis Coach Diane Metzger. “I am very proud of them. I consider academics the most important part of their education and tennis a fun way to get part of their education paid for.”
The team of 2005-2006, although falling to No. 2 in the nation, took over where their predecessors left off. The team was honored for being second-best, academically, out of 88 colleges.
Overall, the tennis team of 2005-2006 posted an impressive 3.70 GPA and earned a spot in the top 97 percent of all NJCAA tennis teams.
A standout for Rend Lake College was Warriors Tennis’ Lisa Parker. She received a distinguished honor for her 4.0 GPA in 2005-2006 and had the highest GPA of all student athletes at RLC in 2005-2006 while playing at the No. 1 spots in tennis singles and doubles.
Parker was the first Rend Lake College women’s tennis player to win the Region 24 Championship in No. 1 singles and is now playing at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Continuing the tradition are the veterans of the current team - sophomores Whitney Luttrell (Xenia), Kesara Becker (Salem) and Shanna Beasley (Salem).
Off of the court, Becker’s background consists of a different kind of service. Pursuing a degree through the Culinary Arts program, the 44-year-old non-traditional and first-generation college student is busy studying aspects of cuisine and best-practices in restaurant service under the capable instruction of her teachers, Brian Kalata and Loughton Smith. Becker is currently enrolled in courses such as culinary math and restaurant management and has a cumulative 3.0 GPA.
Last year, Becker played No. 2 singles and doubles, made it to the quarterfinals at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Tournament in Alabama and won in singles at the Region 24 Championship. She is currently alternating with Beasley at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and is playing No. 1 doubles with Beasley.
Luttrell, 19, may not find her foreboding forehand to be useful in her studies. But, vice versa, her cumulative 3.82 GPA and an “A” in psychology definitely play a part in entering the minds of her opponents on the tennis court.
In the 2005-2006 season, Luttrell played No. 3 doubles last year and was unable to play singles due to a shoulder injury. After a successful surgery, she is playing No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles this year. Last year, she and her partner, Laney Gillespie, won regionals at doubles and clinched the regional championship for the Warriors.
The 19-year-old Beasley’s calculating nature from the approach shot isn’t far off from her performance in the classroom. She scored a 31 on the math portion of the ACT, is majoring in math with a minor in education and has a cumulative GPA of 3.68.
Beasley played No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles last year and is playing No. 1 doubles and No. 1 and No. 2 singles this year. She won regionals at singles last year and made it to the consolation finals at nationals.
Rend Lake College competes as a member of the Great Rivers Athletic Conference (GRAC), which is one of the premier junior college conferences in the nation. The college and its Athletic Program have gained a great deal of statewide, regional and national exposure due to the athletic and academic success of its teams and team members.
The Athletic Program at Rend Lake College is committed to serving the athletic, academic, personal and social needs of its student-athletes. Part of this commitment is to provide outstanding coaches, top-notch facilities, a high level of competition and quality academic support services.
“We want our athletes to know that we support them, not only athletically, but academically,” said RLC President Mark Kern. “The performance of our athletes in the classroom is one of the things that goes on around here that I’m more proud of than anything.”