GW gymnast Darden Wilee and swimmer Wes Teter have had an exceptional year. Teter’s 3.34 GPA earned him A-10 Student Athlete of the Year honors, and as the A-10s top 200-yard freestyle swimmer he was named to the A-10 All-Conference Team.
Wilee, a co-captain on the A-10 Champion Colonials, won the all-around and uneven bars at the A-10 Championships in March. For her efforts, Wilee was named both A-10 Performer of the Year and Student Athlete of the Year for gymnastics.
“It feels good,” said Wilee, who holds a 3.06 GPA. “I’m really proud of it. I’m glad I could represent not only my team but my school with it.”
Wilee said she is proud to finally be honored for academics.
“It’s good to get recognition for being a student,” she said. “You don’t ever get any of that.”
Both are examples of student athletes who not only live within the confines of the athletic life, but feed off it. The life of a student athlete is often hectic. But Wilee and Teter said that without the structure their teams provide, the student athletes said they would not have excelled academically.
“Swimming has brought great structure to my life,” Teter said. “I need that foundation to motivate me as a student.”
On a typical day during the season, Wilee said she has class from 8-11 a.m., practice from 11-2 p.m. and more class from 2-4 p.m. Then she goes to her internship at the National Cathedral School for Girls in Cleveland Park until 11 p.m. or midnight. Wilee said she sometimes interns 40 hours a week. Wilee said she was at the library from 3:30 p.m. past midnight last Sunday, but as a student athlete, she is no exception.
“I think everyone deserves (the Student Athlete of the Year award),” Wilee said. “I can name another person on my team that deserves it a lot more than me. It is so hard to fit in a varsity sport as well as academics. Until you’ve done it you’re not going to understand it.”
Teter said he and his teammates are in the pool for about 20 hours a week. They lift weights for an additional four hours and watch film to improve their technique. In addition, Teter said he carries 18 credits and hopes to graduate with honors. When the swimming season ended in March, Teter worked 20 hours a week at his internship at a D.C. press relations firm.
The students said life as an athlete does not disrupt their academic goals, but gives them the foundation to meet their goals.
“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have gymnastics,” Wilee said. “I think I’d be the biggest bum. I would go crazy. It sets you up for the professional world. We’ve been doing this for four years and we won’t really have to adjust (in the working world).”
Teter, a sociology major, will graduate in May and said he is finished with swimming because he is mentally burnt out. He has been accepted to a Tufts University graduate program to study child development. Looking back at accolades he collected as a Division I swimmer, Teter said he realizes they represent a job well done in the framework of athletic life, which he said he has finally figured out.
“It’s about realizing your place in the whole game,” Teter said. “Competing in A-10’s is not the biggest thing in the world, and your academics shouldn’t kill you either.”
Teter said he does not want to be glorified for his accomplishments as a student athlete and his proudest achievement is his acceptance into Tufts without divulging his athletic past. He said he was accepted because of his brains.
Teter said he has known all along where his swimming career would end.
“I knew college was going to be it for me,” Teter said.
For Teter and most GW athletes, there is no athletic career after graduation. SirValiant Brown will enter the NBA Draft, but for most varsity student athletes, such a future does not exist. Teter said that is why student athletes should place a stronger emphasis on being a great student rather than a great athlete.
“There is no fake reality to play in,” Teter said about being a student athlete. Wilee said athletics have given her confidence that she can excel in life.
“I have so much more confidence and I know that I can do anything. Nothing is going to stop me. And that’s how I feel about academics,” Wilee said.
Like Wilee and Teter, the GW women’s swimming and diving team also had an exceptional year in the classroom. The team holds a combined 3.38 GPA, which is the sixth best in the country among Division I schools, and received Academic All-America honors from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. The team also received a “superior” academic ranking from the CSCAA.
The women’s swimming team finished the season with a 10-5-1 overall record and took second place at the A-10 Championships in February in Buffalo, N.Y.