Colin Eustis is single-minded as he churns his legs harder and harder in pursuit of the finish line.
Matt Makowski focuses solely on the blur of the soccer ball as a laser kick streaks toward his goal.
Cassandra Ricketts thinks only of snapping another ace when she toes the service line.
That these three elite collegiate student-athletes are in the zone on their fields of play is not unique among their American University teammates, Patriot League opponents, or NCAA brethren.
It is their level of achievement in the classroom that sets them apart.
Eustis, Makowski, and Ricketts each were named Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year in their respective sports this fall.
The trio’s triumphs are a remarkable accomplishment for AU.
A junior goalie on the men’s soccer team, Makowski started 15 matches in 2010, registering four shutouts en route to All-Patriot League Second Team honors. Makowksi has started all 52 games of his career while maintaining a 3.93 GPA. Impressive, but not easy.
“They’re both very big time commitments,” the Quakerstown, Pa., native said of academics and athletics. “I think a lot of people have trouble balancing them coming in. To be honest, it was actually one of the more difficult parts of coming to college for me. I try to eliminate some of the extraneous details and focus on school and making that a priority.”
Doing so, while maintaining a high-level commitment to soccer, requires keen time management skills. A biology major who’s contemplating switching to literature, Makowski realizes he can’t live his life by the seat of his pants.
“If I know I have a game on a Tuesday afternoon, I have to be very diligent about doing my work on a Monday afternoon because I can’t pull an all-nighter. I need to be rested and ready for the game,” he said. “You have to know what your workload is and be committed to getting it done.”
Just as Ricketts has been throughout her entire four-year career, which ended when AU fell to UCLA in this year’s NCAA Volleyball Tournament.
A biochemistry major, Ricketts’s 3.95 GPA includes only one “B,” in freshman English. Rumor is the professor hadn’t handed out an “A” in nine years.
“It was the first ‘B’ I ever got in my entire life,” said Ricketts, who ranked third in the conference with a .325 hitting percentage and 10th in aces per set. “It sounds crazy, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”
A trait her future patients surely will appreciate. Ricketts is applying to medical school, and she hopes to one day become an orthopedic surgeon who works with athletes.
“I tore my ACL in high school and had a great doctor who inspired me,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to live without athletics, so I’d like to incorporate my sports background into my career.”
The 2010 Patriot League Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Colin Eustis maintained a 3.699 cumulative GPA as a business administration major. A five-time Patriot League Academic Honor Roll selection, the senior earned his second First Team All-Patriot League honor with a fourth-place finish at the Patriot League Championships. His time of 24:42 was a personal best.
All three of these student-athletes know their athletic careers will one day end. When the inevitable arrives, they’ll be ready.
“I can’t say I like all aspects of school—sometimes the homework kind of gets to you,” Makowksi said. “But I enjoy learning, and some of the material I’ve been able to learn in college has been [fascinating]. I’ve enjoyed my academic experience.”