Sports

Huddling Up for Women’s Sports

LMU’s Fourth Annual Women in Athletics — Day at the Races raised funds for women’s sports programs.

Sports are too often stripped down to statistics and game highlights. But the experience of an athlete, especially at the collegiate level, goes deeper than any season record or conference ranking.

In October, LMU took the time to honor just that. Coaches and student-athletes joined parents, administrators and alumni at Santa Anita Park for LMU’s Fourth Annual Women in Athletics — Day at the Races.

“This is the premiere event to recognize and celebrate women’s sports at LMU,” said Charity Elliott, head coach of the women’s basketball team and emcee for the afternoon.

Hosted at the track’s Club Court, the fundraiser included lunch, raffles featuring team apparel, and remarks from junior basketball player Bianca Velasco and Athletic Director Bill Husak. The event’s keynote was given by Renata Simril ’93, president and CEO of LA84, a foundation dedicated to support and advocacy for youth sports programs. Simril drew parallels between achievements made on and off the field, noting the role of LMU in her own success.

“The LMU philosophy is embedded in all aspects of student life and continues to ground me in my life and work,” Simril said. “I’m inspired to look on the next generation of women ready to go out and change the world.”

Even as bets were placed and races punctuated the event, focus remained on the university’s enduring support for its female student-athletes.

“It helps build confident women,” said Michelle Myers, head coach of the women’s soccer team. “They’re familiar with team dynamics and dealing with the victories as well as the defeats. By the time they graduate, they’re very well-suited to go out and take leadership positions.”

Husak agreed.

“You know it’s worthwhile when you see what these women do five, 10, 20, 40 years after they graduate,” he said.

Now those are winning odds.

THE GOALS

LMU’s 4th Annual Women in Athletics – Day at the Races, held Oct. 15, at the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California, supports the athletics programs for the university’s 12 Division I programs. Brian Luft, associate athletics director for development, said proceeds from the Day at the Races event provide support for nutrition, travel and recruitment for the women’s teams. In 2016–17, the most recent reporting period, 272 female students participated in LMU’s Division 1 programs, representing approximately 57 percent of all athletes.

During the gathering, junior basketball player Bianca Velasco, spoke about the loss of her mother to pancreatic cancer this past spring: “I never understood what it meant to be a lion. But now I do. My teammates hold me up, and keep me strong. My coaches make sure I’m never alone. The staff, the trainers, the strength coaches — the way this community is built is so special. I thank God every day, that I chose LMU.”

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