By MICHAEL BARNES and EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
“It’s a great day to be an Eagle” were the most commonly uttered words on this campus on Saturday, Sept. 6, when University of Mary Washington athletes, their coaching staffs and the employees of the athletic department gathered together at the Battlegrounds to welcome neighboring families and businesses to the second annual Eagle Nation Day. Beginning at 10 a.m, families piled into the parking lots and were welcomed at the gates by UMW athletes, as well as Sammy D. Eagle. The many student athletes of UMW gathered around as they offered to sign paraphernalia for local children. Alongside the athletes were a number of different activities for the children and their families to enjoy.
“It is a great event. It allows the University to co-exist with the community, while the children and athletes interact with one another,” said UMW Athletic Director Ken Tyler. The interacting with the athletes and children extended to numerous events, such as a water balloon toss between the athletes and the kids.
The community, alongside the families, made its presence felt as numerous local businesses set up tents, where they gave away items. Businesses at the event included Fredericksburg Field House, Children’s Museum of Richmond, The Popcorn Bag, Sweet Frog and Splitsville Luxury Lane. The event was sponsored and presented by B101.5, who had their own mascot, Buzzy the Bee, making an appearance. With such a positive event aimed at strengthening the community, every person in attendance had a very positive outlook, despite the intense heat.
“It’s great to see everyone together,” said sophomore Kelly Mason, a manager for the women’s basketball team. “The kids were really getting into it.”
When asked how he felt about the event, NFL hall-of-famer and UMW’s special assistant for student athlete development and public relations Darrell Green said, “It is almost unfair because people like me enjoy this event too much. It’s all about the community, and I wish everyone from Fredericksburg could be here on this field celebrating.”
It was not just Green and Tyler that enjoyed the event though, a number of the athletes chimed in and expressed their excitement for the event. Sophomore track member Bailey Ratliff said that she “loves the community involvement and how happy all the kids are.” Sophomore basketball player Ryan Greer and sophomore lacrosse player Jack Carver agreed with Ratliff and mentioned that they “love the fact the athletes of the different teams are able to work together to support the community.”
Fredericksburg resident Graham Griffin, who attended Eagle Nation Day with his wife and children, was surprised by the size of the event and the many UMW sports leagues who were involved.
“I didn’t know you guys had as much as you did. I’ve been here since 2003. I didn’t know Battleground Athletic Complex was here until we pulled up,” Griffin said.
This event is young, but is expected to grow in the coming years. The first annual Eagle Nation Day, held in 2013, kicked off the formation of the Eagle Club, an organization designed to support student athletes and to create awareness toward the various sports programs available at UMW. Each year, the event has a specific theme geared toward celebrating a certain aspect of the UMW athletic department. This year’s theme celebrated women and girls in sports and highlighted the women’s soccer and field hockey games held that day.
According to Philip Pierce, director of athletic development, reaching the community is an integral part of Eagle Nation Day.
The event was inspired by a similar program held at James Madison University called “Day with the Dukes,” which started in 2007. JMU students from the football, soccer, basketball and tennis teams would interact with Special Olympic athletes from across Virginia on this day.
The student athletes and special olympians spend the day practicing drills, lunching together and attending a game played by JMU’s football team.
Pierce, a graduate of JMU, said he believed creating a similar event for UMW student athletes would allow the athletes to better interact with the community, as well as bring awareness of UMW’s sports program to the greater Fredericksburg area.
“I hope that this year’s theme and event reaches hundreds of young female athletes in our community,” Pierce said. “It encourages them to never give up, to never let anyone tell them they can’t do something because of their gender and to look up to our student athletes at UMW as role models.”
The festivities on the battleground ended around 12:30 p.m., when the stands began to fill as they prepared to watch the undefeated UMW women’s soccer team take on the women of Coast Guard Academy. The UMW ladies held little struggle as they scored a goal in each half, the only real battle being with that of the scorching heat. Sophomore Mayfay Jackson scored the team’s first goal in the eighth minute of the game. Coast Guard’s numerous attempts to tie the game up were denied continuously by the strong UMW defense. The Lady Eagles put it away in the 89th minute with a goal by freshman Anna Manser, with the assist coming from sophomore Meghan Turney. The Lady Eagles finished the game with a 2-0 win, improving to 3-0 on the season. The ladies improved to 4-0 the following day after with a 2-1 win over Rowan University, moving them up to 23rd in the national rankings.
The games did not end with the soccer game though, as the women’s field hockey team took on Franklin & Marshall later that afternoon. Unfortunately, the Lady Eagles came up short, as they lost 4-3 and fell to 2-1 on the season. Goals were scored for the Lady Eagles by juniors Carlee Budd and Jenna Steele, along with senior Christine Downie. Franklin & Marshall’s four second-half goals proved to be too much for the Eagles. Redemption was earned the following day when the Lady Eagles defeated Roanoke college 12-0, improving to 3-1 on the season.
Junior Carlee Budd, a member of the women’s field hockey team, enjoyed the passion from the UMW student athletes off the field as well as on it.
“It’s nice seeing athletes interacting with younger kids and seeing athletes talking together from different teams,” Budd said.