UI spring sport student-athletes find success academically amid a semester of canceled seasons and online classes

The Hawkeyes had 107 student-athletes named to the spring Academic All-Big Ten team after spring sports were canceled and students were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Abby Watkins

Student-Athlete Constituency Senator Marissa Mueller raises her hand in response to a question given by Dr. Maria Bruno during a UISG meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union on Thursday, February 18, 2020.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter


After a spring that saw sports canceled and classes moved online, the Hawkeye spring sports teams persevered to find success in the classroom.

Iowa had 107 spring student-athletes named to the 2020 spring Academic All-Big Ten team.

According to the Big Ten website, to be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection students must be on a varsity team, as verified by being on the official squad list as of March 12 for spring sports. Students must have been enrolled full-time at their institution for a minimum of 12 months and carry a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

“Student-athlete academic services have done a fantastic job of pushing everybody, especially in the classroom, to do the best they can and equip us with the resources that we need for success,” said Marissa Mueller, a senior on the women’s track and field team. “They encourage us to talk to professors, provide tutoring, provide academic advising, and they play a massive role in student-athlete academic success.”

Hawkeye men’s and women’s track teams both set school records for the number of athletes selected to the Academic All-Big Ten team with 23 and 30, respectively. The softball team set a school record as well with 11 of its players selected.

“It was a pleasant surprise, but I can’t say that it was shocking because I know that we have a really great group of girls,” Mueller said. “I know that everyone was giving it their all both on and off of the track this year.”

RELATED: Eight Hawkeyes named NWCA Academic Honorees 

Students had to deal with a very unusual spring semester as the switch to virtual learning posed a new challenge during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Not only were athletes away from their teammates and coaches, they were away from their professors and classmates.

“Things going online and needing to go back home because of the coronavirus was quite the challenge,” Mueller said.

The Iowa men’s tennis team also found success after the move to online learning. The team finished with the highest grade-point average of any of the men’s spring sports teams with a 3.84 GPA.

“[Academics] is something that we talk about a lot, and we want to make sure that guys are giving their best and excelling both on the court and off of the court,” Iowa men’s tennis head coach Ross Wilson said. “We have a lot of smart guys on the team, so I just want to make sure they are maximizing their efforts off of the court.”

The men’s tennis team, like several Iowa sports teams, has international student-athletes on its roster. Learning from home provided a unique challenge for them. Despite the added obstacles, 14 international student-athletes from the Iowa received Academic All-Big Ten honors.

“It’s impressive because it’s a different system, like if you are coming from the U.K. then you are doing a lot of short answer questions because they do not use multiple-choice over there,” Wilson said. “When you are looking at test-taking, they have to totally change their thought process when they are trying to take tests here to be successful.”

With the loaded training schedule that Division I athletes endure over the course of the year, being successful in the classroom can be even more of a challenge than usual.

Mueller said balancing both aspects can lead to healthy habits.

“When I am in the classroom, my head is in the books and the lectures, but when I am on the track, my head is away from the books,” she said. “I think that doing both makes you better at each because you need that type of balance.”

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