BY CHRIS MARKHAM
After an extremely successful winter season, the University of Mary Washington athletics now holds second-place in the Richard C. Cook All-Sports Commissioners Cup standings, its highest ranking all year. UMW won three of the six conference championships this winter but still trail behind Capital Athletic Conference newcomer Christopher Newport University by seven points in the standings as the spring season gets underway.
Every year, the CAC recognizes one school in the conference for its success not just in one season, but all three combined. The Richard C. Cook All-Sports Commissioners Cup is an award that honors the best athletic program while taking into equal consideration all sports and their successes. It gives motivation for each sport to excel and provides friendly competition for each program to contest for.
“At UMW, we have a commitment to broad-based success within our athletic program,” said UMW Athletic Director Ken Tyler. “We have incredibly talented and dedicated student-athletes and amazing coaches.”
In addition to moving to second place in the overall All-Sports standings, the Eagles climbed to second in both the men’s and women’s categories.
In the winter, the Eagles were recognized on the national level in multiple sports. The men’s basketball team captured the hearts of Eagle fans everywhere while they made an unexpected run to capture their second ever CAC men’s basketball championship en route to an NCAA tournament berth.
The squad finished the year ranked eighth in D3Hoops.com’s final rankings, their highest finish in school history.
The men’s and women’s swim teams rounded out the rest of UMW’s CAC titles in the winter, as both squads dominated the field on their way to a sweep in the conference championships.
Senior swimmer Alex Anderson represented UMW and the CAC at the NCAA championships taking home two national championships in the 200-yard butterfly and the 400-individual medley.
“Coach Rod Wood (men’s basketball) and Coach Abby Brethauer (men’s and women’s swimming) did a great job and we had a committed and talented group of student-athletes,” said Tyler.
The indoor track and field teams contributed as well to UMW’s strong performance in the conference championships.
Since the point system used by the CAC gives more points to those who finish higher in the standings, the women’s team contributed greatly with their second-place finish in the conference championship meet.
“It was a great winter,” said Tyler. “Hopefully the winter success will springboard into a great spring.”
The success enjoyed by UMW athletics this season is nothing new, however. UMW won the cup last year for the first time since 2005, after they won four consecutive cups dating back to 2002.
The addition of CNU to this year’s cup race raised the competition more than ever in CAC history.
Four schools in the conference won multiple championships this year, adding to the spread of success. While the CNU Captains still hold the overall lead for the cup, there are three schools within 10.5 points of first place. UMW (96.5 points) sits just in front of Salisbury (95.0 points) and York (94.0 points) for second place.
“The addition of a nationally competitive program like CNU makes winning the cup all the more challenging, but it is a challenge we welcome,” said Tyler.
The nationally ranked lacrosse and tennis teams this spring are sure to make a huge difference in the final standings for UMW. The men’s lacrosse team is ranked 15 in the nation for the first time in school history, while the men’s and women’s tennis teams are both ranked in the top 25.
“While we always want to be aware of our competition, our main focus is on being the best UMW we can be,” said Tyler.
The Commissioner’s Cup is just a stepping stone toward UMW’s top goal, which is to finish in the Top 25 of the Learfield Director’s Cup standings, which measures a program’s performances at NCAA championships.
“Basically, we want to be known as one of the top NCAA Division III, the largest of the three divisions with 450 schools, programs in the country,” said Tyler.