Sweet 16: Griz finish semester at 3.08

Kris Nord's men's tennis team had a semester GPA of 3.34

Kris Nord's men's tennis team had a semester GPA of 3.34

June 10, 2013

Curious about what Montana's athletics academic advisors do for a living? One example: The Griz women's golf team, which plays its championship season in the spring, had a department-best 3.41 grade point average this past semester thanks to the diligence of team advisor Jen Zellmer-Cuaresma.

"Jen has been the backbone for us," said second-year UM golf coach Emily Milberger, whose team missed 13 days of class during the spring semester due to tournaments and travel. "She is always there to assist the players with any issue they come up against, so she is a large part of our academic success."

It was a semester -- and full academic year -- of yeoman's work for Zellmer-Cuaresma and former Griz soccer player Grace Harris, who is also an academic advisor. The other advisor position in their office has been unfilled for a year, which means Zellmer-Cuaresma and Harris have been doing the work of three.

Despite being down one advisor, Montana still managed to finish the spring with a semester GPA of 3.02. That left the department's cumulative GPA, now at 3.08, above 3.0 for the 16th straight semester.

Women's golf came out on top in the increasingly competitive intra-departmental battle for academic supremacy. Nine of Montana's 12 programs had semester GPAs of 3.15 or better, and the golf team's 3.41 narrowly topped five other programs that came in at 3.3 or better.

The women's basketball team's GPA of 3.23 is fantastic and would be the envy of a majority of the general undergraduate students, who had an average term GPA of 2.90, but the Lady Griz had the lowest average among the women's programs.

Trailing golf among the women's programs were volleyball (3.39), cross country (3.38), track and field (3.32), tennis (3.30), soccer (3.26) and basketball, teams that accounted for two Big Sky Conference championships (soccer, basketball) and one runner-up finish (tennis) during the academic year.

The men's tennis team, which also plays its championship season in the spring, had its ninth-straight semester with a GPA of 3.0 or better. Coach Kris Nord's team led the men's programs during the spring at 3.34.

The men's cross country team, at 3.15, also finished above 3.0. Basketball and track and field came in at 2.82, football at 2.78, with 42 of its 94 student-athletes posting GPAs of 3.0 or higher.

"Having the department's highest GPA is always going to be a battle, because academics are a priority for all of our programs," Milberger said. "We're all striving to win in our particular sport, but we're also striving to win in academics. It's fun to be a part of that success on both levels."

For Milberger's team, having the best departmental GPA during the spring is an especially noteworthy accomplishment. Most of the team's tournaments are played on Mondays and Tuesdays (if not Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays), followed by late-night flights back to Missoula.

Pre-tournament travel is typically on Saturdays, with practice rounds on Sunday. That effectively wipes out the team's ability to use weekends to catch up on missed class time, so plane trips and airport layovers become impromptu team study halls.

"Spring for us is the more challenging of the seasons, with the travel and chaotic schedule we have, but the players have made academics an emphasis in their daily routines, both as individuals and as a group.

"I'm definitely proud of them for the hard work they put in and the dedication they show to both their studies and their golf games," said Milberger, herself a four-time National Golf Coaches Association Academic All-American while playing at Oklahoma from 2001 to 2005.

Six of the team's seven athletes had semester grade point averages of 3.0 or better, with senior Olivia Weber coming in at 4.0 (and graduating last month with a degree in philosophy and a 3.96 cumulative GPA), freshman Phoebe Tan at 3.94, freshman Kyla Clancy at 3.75 and sophomore Tara Green at 3.56.

"That's our goal, to be successful not only on the course but also in the classroom and push ourselves in both areas," Milberger concluded. "It's fun to see them strive for academics, because that's something that will be with them forever."

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