Thursday, October 13, 2011

State Champs

Ever hear of Laura Barito? No? Neither had TigerBlog, not until he became the head of the awards committee for an organization he knew little about prior to last year, when he went to his first CAANJ annual meeting/awards luncheon.

Back then, TB knew that CAANJ stood for the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey - and that was about it.

Today, TB goes to his second CAANJ meeting, this time with the title of vice president of the organization.

And that's how the remarkable story of Laura Barito came across his radar.

TB will get back to Barito later. First, there's the whole matter of how CAANJ became a bigger deal to him.

Last year, Princeton won the CAANJ Cup for Division I/II. The Cup is given each year to the program in each of three categories (Division I/II, Division III, Juco) that has the highest point total in the state of New Jersey, with points awarded based on conference finish and national championship participation.

When the luncheon ended and Gary Walters had accepted the trophy, CAANJ president Alexis Schug - Senior Woman Administrator at New Jersey Institute of Technology - asked if there were any volunteers who would like to help out with the organization, and TB volunteered to work as essentially the coordinator of the CAANJ awards.

In addition to the three cups, CAANJ also honors a male and female athlete of the year in each category, with the winners chosen by a committee with equal emphasis on athletics, academic and service.

There is also the Garden State Award, a lifetime achievement award for service to New Jersey's college athletes.

The CAANJ organization is an interesting one, since it has an incredibly diverse group of schools and conference offices that are brought together simply by the common bond of being in the state of New Jersey.

There are 43 colleges between all of the levels, with wildly different budgets, numbers of sports, institutional philosophies, student-body makeups and on and on. There are also five different conference offices - the Ivy League, the Northeast Conference, the MAAC, the New Jersey Athletic Conference and the Garden State Athletic Conference. And yet they're all in New Jersey.

This year's Division I/II Cup winner is, again, Princeton, which ran up 245 points, easily outdistancing second-place Rider. Princeton, for those who don't remember, won 15 Ivy League championships last year, among other accomplishments, but hey, why get into that now.

The junior college winner was Gloucester County College, whose teams won NJCAA national championships in softball and men’s tennis, had second-place national finishes in baseball and women’s tennis and had a third-place finish in men's cross country.

The Division III Cup winner was Stevens Tech, which had a year in the Empire 8 Conference similar to the one that Princeton had in the Ivy League.

The individual winners included Princeton's John Stogin, a fencer who helped Princeton to a fourth-place national finish and who couldn't accept his award in person because he's doing graduate work at Cambridge University in England.

In addition to fencing, Stogin also worked for the National Security Council, developing algorithms in the field of digital signals processing, spectrogram analysis, and feature recognition. He also analyzed proton and antiproton beams that were collided at the Fermi National Accelerator Lab, and his work led to a discovery that was original unknown by the staff there.

An Eagle Scout, he also organized and led a shoe drive that collected more than 1,000 pairs of shoes, which were then sent to Angola.

In his spare time, he also built a wireless device that enabled calculators to share text, as well as a single-person car that could reach 16 miles per hour on a battery or could run on solar power.

His senior thesis was entitled: Energy Estimates in Hyperbolic Partial Differential Equations. He was honored by Princeton with the Art Lane Award, given for outstanding contribution by a senior athlete to sport and society.

Among the other winners was Dr. Connee Zotos, the Garden State Award winner who had a 34-year career that included 14 years as Director of Athletics at Drew.

Oh, and Barito, the Division III Female Athlete of the Year from Stevens? What did she do?

Well, how about this: She was the NCAA Division III champion in the 50 freestyle in the winter - and then the NCAA Division III champion in the 400 hurdles in the spring.

She won an individual national championship as a swimmer and then as a track athlete. Is that amazing or what? And that doesn't even take into account that she had a nearly perfect GPA in mechanical engineering and that she is one of nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

TigerBlog has known for years that Princeton athletes go remarkable things, athletically and off the field, as undergraduates.

His first year with CAANJ has reminded him that Princetonians are not the only college athletes doing so in the state of New Jersey.

No comments: