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Convocation 2013: five U of T athletes to watch

Trinity College's Tamara Jewett is postponing law school to focus on her running (all photos courtesy Varsity Blues)

Keeping up with the demands of university academics while participating in high performance sports may sound daunting—but for many student-athletes, it’s an experience of a lifetime.

U of T News asked some of the graduating Varsity Blues student-athletes to share their thoughts on what’s it like to train and learn at the highest levels.

Tamara Jewett, women’s track and field

Toronto native Tamara Jewett will receive a Bachelor of Arts (program in history and literary studies). But it’s easy to see how juggling academics and athletics could be a daunting task when considering the amount of time training consumes.

“It has never been easy,” admits Jewett. “The challenge of trying to balance elite training with an undergraduate program has been the biggest driving factor behind my development as both a person and athlete.”

Jewett’s dedication on the track resulted in her being named the 2011 OUA female most valuable runner, with a ninth place finish at the 2012 FISU world university championships.

Jewett says her proudest academic achievement is following through with learning Mandarin for three years. She has also been a volunteer tutor with the U of T’s Centre for International experience. Although she has been accepted into U of T Law, Jewett has decided to postpone her studies and dedicate next year completely to her training.

“I ultimately see myself with a career in law,” explains Jewett, adding: “My athletics have a shorter time window. I have specific time goals in mind for track, and I’m aiming to qualify for a world senior team.”

Alicia Brown, women’s track and fieldAlicia Brown

For Alicia Brown, graduating from U of T Mississauga with a Bachelor of Arts (communications and culture & information technology), the Varsity Blues were the key to her personal development.

“U of T has taught me the true value of work ethic, prioritization and commitment,” says Brown. “My personal development and successes on the track are both products of my environment and experiences as a student-athlete.”

Brown saw success on the track throughout her years at U of T but it was during the 2012-13 season that her dedication showed the greatest results. In 2013, Brown won both the OUA and CIS 300m title and gold in the 4x200 (OUA, CIS, and Canadian record time) and 4x400 relay events.

An OUA all-star and CIS all-Canadian, Brown was also named the OUA female track most valuable performer.

“The support I have received at U of T has been tremendous and I am so thankful for the people I have met along the way.

“I’m hoping to achieve a new level of athletic excellence,” she says, adding she plans to spend next year training while deciding on a suitable post-grad program.

Luke Hall, men’s swimmingLuke Hall

A passionate swimmer, Luke Hall has been a critical piece for the Varsity Blues’ swim team. At the same time, Hall believes U of T played a large role with his development as a leader.

“As an athlete, [U of T helped me develop] things like work ethic and sportsmanship,” says the environmental geography major who will receive a Bachelor of Arts. “Time management skills, leadership skills, and how to deal with social situations are always aspects of life that were learnt through my time with the Varsity Blues.”  

The Olympian swimmer represented Swaziland in the 2008 and 2012 games, placing 36th overall in the 50m freestyle in London 2012. In the OUA competitions, Hall placed third in both 2012 and 2013; he now plans to coach with the Toronto Swim Club.

“I love the sport so passing on my knowledge from my own experiences to younger kids seems appealing to me,” says Hall.

“Luke came to us five years ago as a skinny red head from Swaziland,” recalls swim coach Linda Kiefer, “over the five years Luke matured both physically as an athlete and mentally, socially and educationally as a student athlete. 

“He will continue to grow and learn wherever the ‘waves’ may take him.”

Kaelan Watson, field hockeyKaelan Watson

Like her fellow Varsity Blues, Kaelan Watson credits her personal development through the unique experience of being a student-athlete.

“I’ve learned so much about myself from being part of the field hockey team,” says Watson, who graduates with a Bachelor of Physical Health and Education. “I’ve learned about the leadership qualities I possess, how resilient I can be in tough situations and how hard I can work when others are relying on me.”

The Richmond, B.C. native was captain of the Varsity Blues field hockey team and a five-time OUA all-star and a CIS all-Canadian. She now works with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education as a sports intervention project coordinator.

After Convocation, Watson’s attention will shift towards her new role in representing Canada while playing for the women’s national senior team, in pursuit of winning the Pan Am Cup in Argentina late September.

“I’m excited to see where the national team will take me,” says Watson. “I can only imagine how exciting it will be to represent my country in international competitions.”

Arun Kumar, men’s basketball

Hamilton, Ontario native Arun Kumar is wrapping up a five-year career at U of T, receiving a Bachelor of Arts (sociology and politicalArun Kumar science), with a lot of happy memories on and off the court.

“The people I met and the places I travelled while playing at U of T was invaluable,” says Kumar, who attributes U of T’s great environment to the supportive fans, coaching staff and members of the athletic program.

Kumar played a total of 77 regular season games while sporting the Varsity Blues’ jersey. In the 2012-13 season, he averaged 17.5 points per game while leading the team in free throw percentage and three pointers made. Kumar’s experience with the Varsity Blues will be crucial for the next part of his life as he continues to train with the hopes of playing basketball overseas in September.

“I’ve put a lot of time into playing basketball over the years so it only seemed fitting that I try to make the transition into playing professionally,” he says.

Kumar also plans to do a lot of travelling within the next few years to gain more experience within the business field before pursuing an MBA.