NCAA Division III Week celebrates Lawrence University athletes

Over the past week, April 4-8, a slew of events have been put on by the Lawrence Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in celebration of “Division III Week,” sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The week is meant to recognize the efforts that student-athletes put into competing, both athletically and academically.

SAAC is made up of and led by current student-athletes. Junior and co-chair Jackson Straughan, also a member of the Football and Men’s Track teams, emphasized the willingness of everyone who gets involved, saying “Every one of them is volunteering their time; they’re not required to be [involved].”

Key events of the week included SAAC Reads, an initiative from the Midwest Conference SAAC meant for outreach to elementary school children in the area. On Tuesday, two student-athletes from each sports team went to Richmond Elementary in Appleton to read to children ranging from kindergarten to fourth grade.

Volunteering at Richmond has been a regular outreach program by SAAC for more than a decade, but perhaps never as much as during Division III Week. SAAC plans to continue working closely in this manner and with other area youth organizations.

Another, more noticeable event was the coordination of “Viking Pride” t-shirts worn by a large number of student-athletes on Wednesday. The simple recognition of who on campus is involved with athletics was made easier to see, and emphasized one of the key goals of competitive athletics at Lawrence as a whole. According to the NCAA’s website, “The true essence of Division III athletics is the full integration of our student-athletes into the campus culture.”

Assistant Football Coach Mark Speckman is scheduled to present a speech for the public at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The focus of his speech is achieving balance within your life, within whatever groups or events you are involved.

A former Division III All-American and championship-winning coach, Speckman is no stranger to finding success when others would not expect him to. His insight on facing challenges should be valuable, providing tools to help lead a lifetime of perserverance. Drawing on some personal experiences related to his coach, Straughan said, “Sometimes life throws you curveballs. [Coach Speckman] definitely knows how to handle a few.”

Another notable future event by SAAC will be the Special Olympics, hosted on the track outside Alexander Gym on later this spring.