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Brains and Brawn: Student-Athletes Win With Academics

High GPAs and Volunteerism Round Out College Careers

Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics Department
Hannah Merullo, one of several UMass Lowell student-athletes recently recognized for academic and community achievements, received a 2012 Chancellor's Medal.

By Julia Gavin

In college, students learn how to budget time, work under pressure and collaborate with team members. But student-athletes get extra practice in these areas, balancing time with the team with time with the books. 

Many UMass Lowell River Hawks have so excelled at maintaining equilibrium, that they received academic awards to go with their athletic accolades. 

Hannah Merullo received the Chancellor's Medal at Commencement Eve for her academic and athletic excellence. She graduated with a 3.924 cumulative GPA from the criminal justice program after a senior year as captain of the women's soccer team, leading them to an 11-6-4 record. Merullo also was named to the NE-10 All-Conference Second Team, as well as the NE-10 Women’s Soccer All-Academic Team and the Capital One Academic All-District 1 (Northeast) First Team.

“I worked hard throughout college and sacrificed some social aspects," says Merullo. "Most definitely, this is the biggest honor I’ve ever received."

Merullo is the third women’s soccer player in five years to receive the distinction, joining her sister Celia Merullo ’08 and former standout Brianne Bozzella ’11.

“I think it’s a testament to what our parents taught us, to achieve our highest potential,” Merullo says of sharing the honor with her sister.

Advice From Academic Athletes

Several of the student-athletes who won academic awards this season have advice for others trying to find balance in a busy life.

Angus MacDonald, distance runner and recent graduate of the Curriculum and Instruction master’s program, maintained a 3.78 while helping his team rank No. 7 in the 2012 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division II Program of the Year standings. He credits time-management with getting him toward his goal of becoming a high school math teacher and cross country coach.

"Just try to plan your day ahead, and set goals to get things done," MacDonald says. "It can be difficult organizing my time, but I'm usually able to get all my schoolwork done, run and work in one day just by having a plan and really sticking to it.” 

May graduate Elyssa Boris, an exercise physiology major with a 3.41 cumulative average, was named to the Capital One 2012 Academic All-America Softball Second Team as well as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-East Region First Team. Her advice to fellow student-athletes is not unique to sports.

"Be where you need to be when you need to be there," says Boris. "If you have to miss practice to catch up on schoolwork, do it. Or if you have an issue at home, be there to fix it and don't worry about practice or school."

Saving Time for Volunteering

Riley Wetmore and Lindsi Panarelli recently received awards for excellence and leadership in sports and academics, as well as for their volunteerism with the University and greater Lowell.

Panarelli, a graduating nursing major and softball player, earned the Laurie Mann Award. She leaves the team with the third-highest number of career home runs at 20. She also spearheaded the team’s “Trick or Canning” effort, a Halloween-like collection of non-perishable food items for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, and volunteered on the pediatric wing at Lowell General Hospital. All that dedication took hard work.

"I spent many hours in the library and would always be doing work on the bus rides to away games," says Panarelli, who was careful to not overwork herself. "I tried my best to sleep enough, and would take advantage of the time I had off in between classes to relax."

Wetmore, a junior business management major and captain of the ice hockey team, led the team in scoring during its 24-13-1 recent season and participated in every hockey volunteer and community service project. He received the David Boutin Award and says that avoiding procrastination is his main advice to new teammates.

"I tell them they can't save everything for the end of the semester because that's when you need to study and you'll have too much to do," says Wetmore. "Also, if they're struggling early on in the semester they should go get help. UMass Lowell has a second-to-none tutoring center, so there is no reason for anyone to fail. They're a huge asset for all students on campus."