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Perspectives: COVID-19 & RSU Student Athletes

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Photos Courtesy of RSU Athletics.
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“It was a gut punch,” said Andrea Vaughn, head softball coach at RSU. In a phone interview, Vaughn described the spring season her team and student-athletes experienced in the wake of COVID-19. Before being ranked 17th in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, the RSU Softball Team found itself with entirely different news.

On March 12, 2020, the NCAA cancelled all remaining championships for winter and spring sports. Later that day, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association announced the “the suspension of all MIAA intercollegiate sports activities” for the athletic season.

As the spring semester ends, three Rogers State student-athletes and a head coach reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on their sports.

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Jake Brillhart serves as the editor-in-chief for the Hillpost. He is a junior studying public affairs with a focus in media communications. He frequently covers stories related to state and local government and campus policy. After graduation, Brillhart plans to pursue a Master of Public Administration and begin a career in higher education.

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Academics

Allied Health Degree Becomes Fastest Growing Program at RSU

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RSU allied health students practice patient assessment and care. Students practice hands-on training as a part of their health sciences degree program. Photo courtesy of Brian Coley, RSU.

It is a story 29 years in the making and involves an Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame inductee. Brian Coley serves as the lead instructor for the Allied Health, B.S., program. Last year, Coley approached the School of Professional Studies with an idea to expand RSU’s offerings of health science degrees.

Coley spoke to School of Professional Studies Dean Susan Willis, and together, they worked to establish an allied health program that will prepare RSU students for a variety of healthcare careers and graduate degrees.

“I’m at a part of my career where I want to work with and teach students before they go onto their master’s,” described Coley. The allied health program offers options in athletic training, physical therapy, and occupational therapy and currently has over 90 declared students.

Licensure in Oklahoma as an athletic trainer requires individuals to possess a bachelor’s degree. However, an increasing number of athletic training positions are requiring master’s degrees. This is where Coley saw an opportunity.

“9% of our high schools [in Oklahoma] have certified athletics trainers,” said Coley. The demand for them is increasing. Over the next eight years, the United States Labor of Bureau Statistics expects the profession to grow by 19%.

Currently, only three Oklahoma universities offer a graduate degree in athletic training. Coley explained the curriculum for RSU’s allied health program aligns with the prerequisite courses for Oklahoma State University, University of Tulsa, and University of Central Oklahoma.

Courses RSU students will take include: Biomechanics, Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, and Methods of Strength and Conditioning. Coley explained longterm plans to eventually embed a strength and conditioning certification into the degree. “We want to make sure they’re prepared,” said Coley, “there is a shortage in physical therapy.”

RSU student Nate Callis, front left, practices taping an injury in the Health Sciences Building. Photo courtesy of Brian Coley, RSU.

Mya Hilderbrand, a junior studying allied health, described her experiences in the program. “I took a sports medicine class in high school and really enjoyed it…. when I came to RSU they only had a fitness management degree, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

“Then, my sophomore year I heard RSU adopted the allied health program, and it offered the exact degree I wanted. So far, the program has been amazing. Professor Coley, the main director of the program, has done an amazing job.

“He is extremely informative and prefers to do a lot of hands-on activities, which important for this field of work. He also cares a great deal about his students and offers any help they may need,” said Hilderbrand.

Allied health students can expect a hands-on experience with opportunities for field experience. Whether a student is “in a clinic, on the sideline” or helping at the Hillcat Fun Run, they will have the opportunity to practice their skills. The end goal is students to “walk into their first [graduate] class, and they’re ready to go,” said Coley.

Students interested in the Allied Health, B.S., program should visit the Department of Health Sciences website or consult their academic advisor.

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Athletics

New Hillcats Commit to RSU Athletics for 2020-21

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The press box at Solider Field on April 30, 2020. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hillpost.

Editor’s Note: Are you a student-athlete mentioned in this article? The Hillpost is preparing a gallery of photos of future Hillcats. Please submit a photo of you to the editor if you would like to be included.

As college sports across continue to prepare for their fall season, RSU Athletics announced the first round of letter of intent signees. 71 future Hillcats declared their plans to play at RSU for the 2020-21 academic year.

The incoming student-athletes represent half a dozen countries and 12 U.S. states. 48 incoming student-athletes come straight from high school, and 23 are transfer students from other colleges or universities. The remaining 10 are incoming international students to RSU.

New 2020-21 Student-Athletes by the Numbers

Data from RSU Athletics. Prepared at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2020.

A full list of student-athletes who have signed their letter of intent to begin playing are included below. For the most-up-to-date listings, visit RSU Athletic’s website.

Baseball (7)
Brooks Betcher – Midland, Texas (Midland HS/Vernon College)
Jerry Davis – Arlington, Texas (Grace Prep/Vernon College/New Mexico)
Skyler Nelson – Amarillo, Texas (Amarillo HS/Lamar CC/Lubbock Christian)
Ryan Reed – Mustang, Okla. (Union City HS/Vernon College)
Octavio Sanchez – Chula Vista, Calif. (Eastlake HS/Southwestern College)
Chandler Suddath – Broken Arrow, Okla. (Broken Arrow HS)
Zaccary Whisler – Owasso, Okla. (Owasso HS/Fort Scott CC)

Men’s Basketball (6)
Kelvin Allen – Olive Branch, Miss. (Olive Branch HS/Pearl River CC)
Christopher Harris, Jr – Fresno, Texas (Hightower HS)
Preston Lawrence – Dallas, Texas (Lake Highlands HS)
Anfernee Nelson – Jenks, Okla. (Jenks HS)
Devin Pullum – Little Elm, Texas (Little Elm HS/Eastern New Mexico)
Joey Saracco – Bolingbrook, Ill. (Bolingbrook HS/Parkland College)

Men’s Cross Country/Track & Field (12)
Jon Biersdorfer – Bixby, Okla. (Lincoln Christian HS)
Quartermain Briggs – Nashoba, Okla. (Clayton HS)
Tyler Melton – Maumelle, Ark. (Maumelle HS)
Jean-Benoit Merte – Munster, Germany (Annette-von-Droste-Hulshoff Gymnasium)
Julius Oheim – Halle Saale, Germany (Sportgymnasium Halle)
Blaine Phillippi – Claremore, Okla. (Claremore HS)
Blake Phillippi – Claremore, Okla. (Claremore HS)
Noah Plum – Edmond, Okla. (Edmond Memorial HS)
Morne Scharnick – Germiston, South Africa (Vereeniging Gimnasium/Vincennes University)
Carlos Vallejo – Enid, Okla. (Chilsom HS)
Joseph White – Moore, Okla. (Moore HS)
Kory Wilson – Coweta, Okla. (Coweta HS)

Men’s Golf (6)
William Barnak – Humlebæk, Denmark (Espergaerde Gymnasium/Parkland College)
Niko Coccio – Burbank, Calif. (John Burroughs HS)
Tyler Cornwell – Jenks, Okla. (Jenks HS)
Elliot Han Monteremal – Montelimar, France (College Alain Borne )
Ty Nicar – Kingwood, Texas (Kingwood HS)
Bradley Wright – Southampton, England (Wildern Secondary School/Murray State (Okla.)/Meridian CC)

Men’s Soccer (4)
Rasmus Fugl – Næstved, Denmark (Zealand Business College Næstved)
Lethabo Kedijang – Johannesburg, South Africa (Sagewood School/Murray State (Okla.))
Jackson Kim – Norman, Okla. (Norman HS)
Connor Parsons – North Walsham, England

Softball (7)
Delanie Freeze – Liberal, Mo. (Liberal HS/Fort Scott CC)
Lana Gass – Tahlequah, Okla. (Tahlequah Sequoyah HS)
Courtney Hill – Fort Gibson, Okla. (Fort Gibson HS)
Unique Robinson – Tulsa, Okla. (Union HS)
Raegan Shackelford – Bonham, Texas (Bonham HS)
Sabrina Usher – Sand Springs, Okla. (Charles Page HS)
Jackie Zaferes – Verdigris, Okla. (Verdigris HS)

Women’s Basketball (7)
Kloe Bowin – Tahlequah, Okla. (Tahlequah HS)
Maya Buckhanon – Talladega, Ala. (Talladega HS/Memphis)
Taryn Kelley – Owasso, Okla. (Rejoice Christian School/Allen CC)
Macie Jo Pierce – Locust Grove, Okla. (Locust Grove HS/Northern Oklahoma-Enid)
Maisie Schroeder – Hartford, Kan. (Hartford HS/Allen CC)
Shay Stone – Tulsa, Okla. (East Central HS)
Zoey Whiteley – Braggs, Okla. (Fort Gibson HS)

Women’s Cross Country/Track & Field (10)
Victoria Baker – Sand Springs, Okla. (Charles Page HS)
Madison Bradshaw – Pryor, Okla. (Pryor HS)
Aubrey Campos – Fayetteville, Ark. (Greenland HS)
Sara Crosley – Broken Arrow, Okla. (Bishop Kelley HS)
Elena Fries – Bartlesville, Okla. (Bartlesville HS)
Elizabeth Ostermaier – Enid, Okla. (Enid HS)
Brya Nyberg – Seiling, Okla. (Seiling HS)
Ashley Riggenbach – Bixby, Okla. (Bixby HS)
Rylee Roberts – Noble, Okla. (Noble HS)
Tori Wood – Sequoyah, Okla. (Sequoyah HS)

Women’s Golf (1)
Marelda Ayal – Jakarta, Indonesia (SMAN 4 Terbuka Depok)

Women’s Soccer (11)
Morgan Beardon – Frisco, Texas (Wakeland HS)
Emalie Clark – Cleburne, Texas (Cleburne HS/Hill College)
Vanessa Gonzalez – El Paso, Texas (El Dorado HS)
Angel Green – Tulsa, Okla. (Union HS)
Katelin Jeffers – Oro Valley, Ariz. (Ironwood Ridge HS)
Reagan King – Bakersfield, Calif. (Centennial HS/Bakersfield College/Louisiana-Monroe)
Sarah Marshall – Belgrade, Mont. (Belgrade HS)
Madison McKay – Grand Blanc, Mich. (Grand Blac HS/Western Illinois)
Sarah Ovalle – Dallas, Texas (Justin F Kimball HS/Arkansas-Little Rock)
Riley Pfannenstiel – Round Rock, Texas (Hendrickson HS/Seminole State)
Ashton Wright – Grapevine, Texas (Grapevine HS)

This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.

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