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competing in the classroom Honoring Utah's Top Performing Student-Athletes

Each spring, Utah Athletics celebrates the academic success of its teams for student-athletes that earned All As during the competition season.

Whether it is in the classroom or in competition, Utah Athletics has instilled a culture of "student" first with the Utes consistently posting top marks in academics on campus. Below, seven student-athletes tell their stories and experiences as a student on Utah's campus, and how Utah Athletics has impacted their lives.

Tony Chen | Swimming & Diving

Junior | Major: FCHD with a minor in Music Tech

Why I chose Utah: I enjoy the environment and team members. Also the U. has the major and minor that match my personal interests.

My major, and my career goals: I am interested in social work and I want to either focus on family relationships or child development. I am also a singer and songwriter, so I am interested in music production. My goal is to produce my own songs.

How my experience as a student-athlete changed during the pandemic: It was very similar except for the fact that most classes changed to online.

Juggling school work, training and competition: Training and competition allow me to focus even better on school work because it triggers me to be aware of my time and helps me to plan my schedule carefully.

Resources that help me be successful: Time management.

What I am most proud of as a student-athlete: I understand what I like, and I am able to realize the goals that I have set.

Alexa Van Komen | Volleyball

Senior | Major: Finance

Why I chose Utah: I chose Utah because I loved the team and the program's vision, and I knew we could win and compete at the highest level. My family has always been Utah fans, so becoming a Ute was a great fit for me. I also love the outdoors and the mountains, which Utah was perfect for.

My major, and my career goals: I chose finance because it is applicable to every type and aspect of business and because it would give me skills needed to be successful in the business world. I also liked the variety of career paths I could choose from. My main career goals include working my way to a senior leadership position in a large company and making a positive impact on society as I do so.

How my experience as a student-athlete changed during the pandemic: My experience as a student changed drastically from the pandemic. Online school has forced me to change study habits and has made it difficult to interact more directly with classmates and professors. As a result, school work has felt more isolated and individualistic, which has definitely been an adjustment.

Juggling school work, training and competition: Being successful in school has always been extremely important to me, which is difficult to do while also training as a student-athlete. This has forced me to develop time management skills to be able to juggle both school and volleyball. I think communication with coaches and professors has also been helpful, and then finally just putting in the work necessary for both school and my sport has allowed me to succeed.

Resources that help me be successful: I use planners and to-do lists as my primary resource for time management, which is key in being successful in the classroom. Staying on top of assignments and studying early for tests are very important to do well in classes. I also found TA sessions useful in preparing for tests or reviewing concepts I did not completely understand.

What I am most proud of as a student-athlete: During my time at Utah, I am most proud of my academic achievements in conjunction with the success my team has had over the last four years.

Alani Sabado | Gymnastics

Freshman | Major: Undecided

Why I chose Utah: I chose Utah so that I could continue my gymnastics career at a prominent program in the NCAA while still being able to excel in my academics. The staff, resources, and community here are unbelievably supportive in every aspect of my college experience, and the landscape I view every day is impeccable.

My major, and my career goals: I've been exploring multiple classes associated with a variety of different majors. However, I am leaning toward some type of major in correspondence with sociology or anthropology.

How my experience as a student-athlete changed during the pandemic: I graduated a year early and came to college in what would have been my senior year of high school. I previously took online classes to fulfill my requirements that allowed me to do that, so online school was nothing new to me. I adjusted quite quickly to learning virtually this past semester. I was excited to come to school and gain the college experience of having professors or listening to lectures, however the pandemic unfortunately gave me no hope.

Juggling school work, training and competition: It is hard to balance school work, practice, competitions, and other needs as a student-athlete. It takes a lot of time management and being able to distinguish what needs to be done and when. I've already learned a lot this year about how to use time wisely. Although my athletics does play a huge part in my college career, schools comes first, which is exactly why they call us student-athletes.

Resources that help me be successful: A common resource I use to be successful in the classroom is to take notes. Taking the time to write down what I'm learning in class is beneficial to me because I retain the information quicker when writing it down compared to just look at it.

What I am most proud of as a student-athlete: I am most proud of who I am both as a student and an athlete. My qualities as an individual can be reflected by my work ethic not only in the classroom, but in the gym as well. I try my best to conquer and complete every assignment I’m appointed to the best of my ability. I walk into the gym with the mentality of gaining a little improvement each day even if it’s the smallest bit. I wake up every day wanting to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday.

Keegan Markgraf | Football

Senior | Pursuing a Masters of Science in Economics

Why I chose Utah: The legacy the University of Utah football team, and their specialists really attracted me to the school. Wishnowsky, Hackett, Dominguez, and many specialists before me dominated college football, and seeing how the school accepted and cheered for them was incredible. Also, living in Salt Lake City, one of the prettiest cities in the U.S., is just an added bonus.

My major, and my career goals: I choose to get my Bachelors and Masters of Science in Economics because I feel that you can relate economics to almost everything in the world. Connections can be made in almost any industry, to what I have learned here at Utah. My career goals after football are working for a professional sports organization in their salary cap or players evaluation department.

How my experience as a student-athlete changed during the pandemic: Switching to online learning was a big obstacle for myself. Zoom lectures, canvas quizzes and everything else that has been affected due to the pandemic has forced me to almost learn a new skill. I much prefer to be in a classroom, face-to-face with a professor, where I can easily ask questions and get hands on help. That was by far the biggest adjustment.

Juggling school work, training and competition: Knowing my athletics schedule every week allows me to put together a strict schedule of when my homework will be completed. Therefore, I have my allotted time for training and competition, as well as my allotted time for school work. Planning your time is the best way, in my opinion.

Resources that help me be successful: It may be cliché, but time management is the best way to be successful in the classroom. At the beginning of the week, I would “schedule” hours here and there where I would sit down and complete my homework. Being true to this set up, and doing the work at the designated times, even when you don’t feel like it, is the best way to stay on top of everything. This coincides with not procrastinating. The few times I have procrastinated, I could see a severe drop off in my performance.

What I am most proud of as a student-athlete: I am most proud of completing my Masters this fall, earning a scholarship, graduating with a 3.8+, being named First-team CoSIDA Academic All-District and Pac-12 All-Academic.

Bella Williams | Track & Field, Cross Country

Senior | Major: French, History, Spanish

Why I chose Utah: I chose Utah purely from an athletic standpoint. I fell in love with the team on my visit and respected the coaches and their vision. The amazing environment of Salt Lake and the surrounding mountains were also a big selling point.

My major, and my career goals: I chose to major in History and French simply because I love the subjects. Going to class was therefore always something I genuinely looked forward to. I am currently enrolled in a Spanish major before I start the French Graduate program here at the University of Utah next semester. I would love to either be a pilot, or to go into international relations, which is why languages are so important to my future career goals.

How my experience as a student-athlete changed during the pandemic: If anything, the pandemic made me appreciate my studies even more. Since I couldn’t compete or be with the team every day, I had to find a new purpose and goals that inspired me on a day-to-day basis.

Juggling school work, training and competition: I make lists! It is hard to remember everything that I need to complete in the day or week, so I keep a calendar, make lists and make sure I prioritize according to chronological deadlines/size of different tasks.

Resources that help me be successful: Since my studies are mainly centered around reading, I make sure that I have fully read and analyzed the material before class, as well as do some extra reading around the material.

What I am most proud of as a student-athlete: Academically, I am most proud of graduating with a 4.0, because I believe it demonstrates that I take academics seriously and recognize how important it is for my future life.

Sam Hendry | Skiing

Sophomore | Major: Biology

My major, and my career goals: Life is fascinating, so I want to become a doctor.

How my experience as a student-athlete changed during the pandemic: Being all online has been tough, but I have made the best of it, enjoying home, and working through material my way at my pace.

Juggling school work, training and competition: I love training and competing, so it is the perfect study break during the day, and I feel fortunate to have these other endeavors happening alongside school.

Resources that help me be successful: I use office hours and TAs for help in class. Study what interests you the most and it will never feel like work.

What I am most proud of as a student-athlete: I feel proud and privileged to be able to compete in the sport I love while attending a high-ranking educational institution.

Brooklyn James | Track & Field, Soccer

Junior | Major: Communications

Why I chose Utah: I chose Utah for the opportunity to compete in two sports.

My major, and my career goals: My major gives me a lot of options for what I want to do as a career. I want to grow into the design field when I graduate.

How my experience as a student-athlete changed during the pandemic: I actually found it easier with all of my classes online this semester, especially with sports and travel.

Juggling school work, training and competition: I make sure to complete all of my assignments on time, especially before leaving for competition in order to give myself the best opportunities when I compete.

Resources that help me be successful: The one resource that has helped me the most this semester is having a calendar and a planner to make sure I get all of my assignments done on time.

What I am most proud of as a student-athlete: I am most proud of finishing out the season competing as a two-sport athlete.