Posted tagged ‘elon phoenix’

Success, one player’s outlet for tragedy

April 19, 2011
By Steve Roth


To Thomas Girdwood, success is no stranger. Girdwood has collected all types of honors, including several First-Team All-SoCon picks throughout his college career. He is also a 15th round selection of the Minnesota Twins, but Girdwood modestly attributes his success to his mother.

During his freshman season at Elon, his mother, Maggie, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in April of 2008.

“That is my fuel for everything I do,” Girdwood says. “Taking that pain and flipping the switch on and closing out a game or getting under the squat rack, whatever I have to do.”

Maggie Girdwood put together a bucket list after finding out that she was diagnosed with cancer. “She got to make it to one game, my freshman year, and that was her final goal.” Days later, she passed away.

Thomas found out what had happened while the team was traveling home from a series in South Carolina.

After getting the horrible news from his father, he got back on the team bus and rallied his teammates,

‘”Let this bring us together. Don’t let me regret spending the last year of my mother’s life at college, playing this game. Let’s go out there and let’s win it [the next game],’ and (chuckling) I really don’t think we lost two games after that speech. We won our tournament, won the SoCon, went to regionals and I’m pretty sure everyone on that bus either texted me or e-mailed me that night…The feeling of knowing that I had the support of 40 different guys that I could go and talk to at any time, as a freshman, it was a great feeling.”

Although Girdwood lost his mother, he says that he puts all of his grief into his pitching. Thomas has the reputation of turning into a whole new person when he comes out of the bullpen to pitch.

“People wonder what goes through my head; close games, the weight room, whenever, when I’m a different person and I turn into an animal and I tell them that’s a chip on my shoulder…that’s never going to leave.”

Each game that Thomas plays, he does something special after his jog on to the field. Girdwood kneels down behind the pitcher’s mound and says a prayer.

“I take my hat off and set it down with my glove and basically I just thank God for blessing me with the ability to play this game and the family that he’s given me. I pray that he gives me the strength to be a fighter like he gave my mother in the last year of her life and then I pray to my mom and I ask her to be with me; tell her that I need her and I love her.”

As he puts his glove and hat back on, he kisses his necklace, which displays his jersey number (37) as well as a small baseball.

“My mom bought me the necklace with my numbers on it my freshman year and after she passed away, she was cremated and this baseball has some of her ashes.”

After paying tribute to his mother whenever he takes the field, Thomas said he’s not worried about anything and that it gives him the confidence he needs.

“I know it’s more than just me on the mound; I got the guys behind me and I know that I have my mom behind me,” Girdwood said.

Through this tragedy, Girdwood has learned one of the biggest life lessons that a person can learn. “You have to cherish the time that you do have with the people around you – tomorrow’s not guaranteed, for anybody.”

Thomas has experienced something that many his age do not experience. From this, one can appreciate all the people closest.

“Every pitch I throw, I treat it like it’s going to be my last one. Every day of life could be my last day and I take that even further with my relationships with friends and family.”

Repeat head injury raises questions over athlete safety

April 4, 2011

By Nick Ochsner

Wide Receiver Darrius McQueen was injured Saturday afternoon during a team practice.  Multiple sources say he suffered a head injury.  It’s not the first time McQueen has suffered a head injury while playing at Elon.  McQueen suffered a concussion in the fall of 2009 in the playoff game against the University of Richmond.

McQueen’s most recent injury has prompted questions from Phoenix14News to Elon’s Athletics Department over their plans and procedures to help prevent head injuries.

Head injuries like the one Darrius suffered in 2009 make a player more likely to suffer the same injury again.  Because of the dangers associated with concussions and other head injuries, the NCAA issued a new rule in August requiring all schools to create a Concussion Management Plan.

Phoenix14News requested a copy of Elon’s Concussion Management Plan multiple times on Monday.  A spokeswoman for the Athletics Department said that only one staff member has a copy of the plan and could not provide us with a copy. It is unclear whether or not their policies were followed in allowing McQueen to return back to playing after his last concussion.

In the past, the football team has taken a series of steps to protect athletes from head injuries.  Former head coach Pete Lembo spoke with Phoenix14News in September before he resigned for a job at Ball State University.

“[We do] baseline testing with all of our players, and that’s been documented,” Lembo said.  “We also  have a series of tests a player must go through before they can return to play.”

But for McQueen–who was injured in Saturday’s practice–extra precaution wasn’t enough to prevent him from suffering another head injury.  Firefighter, paramedics and other emergency workers crowded behind the Football practice fields to treat the injured athlete before they took him to Alamance Regional Medical Center.

Preventing head injuries is a hot-button issue for the NCAA.  The new requirements to create a Concussion Management Plan calls for each member of the coaching staff and each player to be educated on the dangers of concussions.

The NCAA requires the plan to include a protocol for physicians responding to possible concussions and a process for clearing student-athletes to return back to playing.

Another step football players from–high school to college and even the NFL–have taken is to purchase an upgraded helmet that offers extra protection by absorbing more shock that comes to the head.

The Xenith X-1 is one of those helmets and has been used by members of NC State’s football team.  So far Elon’s Athletics officials have decline to say if McQueen was using one of these helmets for extra protection.

Laura Levitt contributed to this story.

Women’s basketball wins opening game of WBI

March 17, 2011

By Steve Roth

Elon’s women’s basketball team was hungry for more after they were eliminated from the Southern Conference tournament.

This week, they accepted an invite to play in the Women’s Basketball Invitational. They entered as the third seed in the East region of the 16-team bracket. They began play on Thursday as they hosted the sixth seed, the University of South Carolina Upstate Spartans.

The Phoenix would dominate the Spartans from beginning to end. Sophomore Ali Ford hit her first three shots, all of which were three-pointers. Kelsey Evans helped the Phoenix in the rebounds category as she finishes with a team-high 11. She also finished with 11 points. Aiesha Harper finished with seven steals and 14 points and was one of five Elon players to score in double-digits.

The Phoenix led at the half, 51-28 and wouldn’t look back. Ali Ford continued her dominance and finished the game with a career-high 35 points. The Phoenix dumped the Spartans by a final score of 103-72. Those 103 points scored by Elon are the most they have gotten since November 20, 2009.

After the game, coach Barefoot said, “I’m so proud of the way we played tonight and our fans were amazing and helped us beat a very good team.”

With the win, the Phoenix move on to play the second seeded University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers. The game will be played at home on Sunday at 1:00 PM.

UPDATE:

The Women were home once again on Sunday to face the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the WBI quarterfinals.

Ali Ford, who finished with a career-high 35 points in the last contest, was held to just 19 points in this one, including a 3-13 effort from the three-point line. Kelsey Evans finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

The game was much closer than Thursday’s score, with the Phoenix trailing by four at the half.

Lisa Archie came down with nine rebounds and two blocks in her 13 minutes of play off the bench. The game fell out of reach in the last five minutes of play as Elon could not make a strong comeback. The Phoenix lost and the final score was 59 to 50.

“This has been such a remarkable season for us and I am happy for our seniors who have helped turn this program around,” Head Coach Karen Barefoot said after the game. “We will continue our quest to make this program the best it can be.”

Elon finished its season with 20 wins, the most for the team in the Division 1 era.

Seniors Julie Taylor, Jess Luedtke and Gabby Oloye have completed their four years of play for the Phoenix. Taylor played in every single game of her career, 127 in total. She walks away with 498 career points, 181 rebounds, and 114 assists.

Baseball, a staple of life for Rasmus

February 16, 2011
By Steve Roth


For Cyle Rasmus, Elon Phoenix shortstop, baseball has always been a part of life. 

Rasmus joins the Phoenix as a junior transfer student from Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla.

“This team is a little different than most teams I’ve been on,” said Rasmus. “The depth on this team is really tremendous.”

Born in Phoenix City, Alabama, Rasmus and his three brothers have always been surrounded by baseball. Their father, Tony, played in the minor leagues for three years.

“Really, we developed our hunger from our dad,” Rasmus said. “We never took vacation trips, we took baseball trips. Everything that we had was baseball oriented. For Christmas, we got baseball things. Not your normal toys, we got gloves, bats.”

With four brothers competing in the same sport, competition was never absent.

“We were extremely competitive,” Rasmus said. “Usually, we were big on wiffle ball out in the yard. We had many fights come from it, that’s for sure.”

As the Rasmus brothers grew, they all continued playing the sport. Today, Rasmus’s eldest brother,
Colby, starts for the St. Louis Cardinals as an outfielder. Another one of his brother’s, Cory, is a minor league pitcher for the Atlanta Braves organization, and his younger brother, Casey, is a catcher for Liberty University in Virginia.

Rasmus views Colby as a role model and an inspiration to many.

“Colby is a model that a lot of younger people could look at, even older people,” Rasmus said. “His work ethic is unbelievable…He’s got a lot of talent but he’s worked unbelievably hard.”

With his older brother having the opportunity to play on national television, Cyle makes sure that he either watches Colby’s games or records them to watch them later. “It’s really a treat for me because I love baseball and love to watch him play…It’s really a dream come true. I’d love to be in the big leagues but I got the next best thing, I got a big brother in the big leagues.”

With one brother in the major leagues and the rest working to get there, there is always the possibility of being overshadowed. Occasionally, someone will refer to Rasmus as “Colby Rasmus’s brother.” But this type of thing doesn’t seem to bother Rasmus.

“When people refer to me as Colby Rasmus’s brother, I kind of feel honored and proud of my brother because I know what he went through to get to this point,” he said.

As for Elon’s baseball team, Rasmus is excited for the upcoming season.

“Coach Kennedy is doing a great job of getting us ready to play. We practice hard,” Rasmus said. “I’d like to take that SoCon Championship if we could and I feel like we have the team to do it here. If everything falls together, we should be pretty promising.”

The Phoenix begin the road to that Southern Conference title this Friday as they travel to N.C. State to take on the Wolfpack.


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