A Drive to excel

TWO ATHLETES PROVE THEIR ABILITIES IN THE CLASSROOM AS WELL AS ON THE FIELD

 

Excellence in the classroom and on the playing field is a combination for which many of our students strive. The number of names on the Dean's List and the records of our athletic teams prove that Hampden-Sydney men can achieve success through hard work and persistence. Occasionally, though, some young men rise above the rest to reach excellence.

THIS YEAR, THE COLLEGE has the rare honor of having two such student-athletes; seniors Brett  Chonko and Josh Miller were named to the ESPN The Magazine-College Sports Information Directors of  America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American Team. A Farmville native, Chonko joined the soccer team as a walk-on player who switched from offense to defense to help him land a spot on the team. His persistence paid off-he became a leading member of the Tiger defense that allowed only 12 goals in 20 games.

The team also set a program record 11 shutouts. With a 3.82 grade-point average, the English major is just as busy off the field as a Venable Scholar, editor of the 2010 Kaleidoscope, and a runner up in the 2009 Saunders Critical Essay Contest. He says he is honored to have been named a men's soccer First Team Academic All-American.
On the football field, Miller is a ferocious linebacker, with 71 tackles and three sacks this season. Elsewhere, the cheerful young man from Stephens City spends his free time as a Christian mentor for youth through Young Life. Miller, who was named a men's football Second Team Academic All-American, is a Venable Scholar history and religion double major; he has won the Gruver Award three times.

"My parents instilled in me the drive to excel," says Miller. "Also, football has been a good motivator for me academically. If I didn't make the grades, I didn't get to play. I'm also fortunate that I have been blessed with a certain level of ability to remember things and I am genuinely interested in my classes. In my religion classes, we discuss topics that I have already been thinking about in my personal life."

Chonko says, "Motivation is just a part of who I am. Everybody has to follow their comparative advantage. I guess the classroom is mine." (Josh laughed at that, saying, "That's a very economic response for an English major.") Chonko's intellectual acumen also helped him succeed in soccer. "I didn't play at all my freshman year, but grasping the responsibilities of defense led to playing time.

Understanding the other team's offense, and knowing where to send the ball when you get it, make  playing defense more intellectual and something I can understand." Miller wants to return to the  playing field after graduation, this time as a coach. "I feel coaching is a calling. It is difficult to get into, but something that I can get excited about every day. I have coached football at middle schools and at  summer camps.

I would prefer coaching at the collegiate level; I would be perfectly happy at a place like Hampden-Sydney." "It was incredible to see all of the changes during my four years: the new stadium, the locker  rooms, the turf field, and especially the team spirit. As a freshman, there was a lot of division within the team, but was gradually became more cohesive. Everyone really came together this year and we asserted ourselves as a top-15 program."

There is no shortage of praise for the soccer program either. Chonko says, "Coach Laux is a great coach on and off the field. He is a dominating presence on the field. He has a tough outer shell, but he is a real stand-up guy on the inside. Coach Laux turned this program from a 3-15 program to 50-50 to a winning team. Our 16-4 record reflects a new style of play. We are also helped by some great recruiting-we have some very talented new players-and player development has come a long way, too. The national tournament might seem out of the question for a team that hasn't won the conference title yet, but that has been more unfortunate than undeserved. With Coach Laux at the helm, it will happen."