Eastern Mennonite University held its Athletic Honors Banquet on April 25 in a time of reflection and honoring the journeys of the Royals’ student-athletes. Seniors R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial) and Maria Yoder (Manheim, Pa./Hempfield) won the President’s Awards, the highest athletic award given out by EMU.
As the culmination of the evening, Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman presented the awards, based on academic achievement, athletic contribution, Christian commitment, leadership, campus involvement and service.
All 49 of the senior student-athletes were honored during the program as well, each receiving a certificate and EMU Alumni jacket to commemorate their time.
Ocampo, a biology (pre-med) major with minors in chemistry and psychology, graduated with a 3.90 GPA as a four-year starter on the men’s volleyball team. He was a regular on the Continental Volleyball Conference All-Academic Team and also played in Brazil in the summer of 2018 as a member of the USA D-III Volleyball Team. He played in 108 matches for the Royals and leaves with the No. 5 spot on the EMU Career Blocks list, racking up 302 blocks.
Off the court, Ocampo was involved in numerous leadership roles with the Pre-Professional Health Society and was a member of the Campus Activities Council, Latino Student Alliance and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He played bass guitar for Sunday Worship Celebration on campus, and regularly volunteered with holiday canned food drives.
In reflecting on his EMU experience, Ocampo said, “My experience here at EMU as an athlete, as well as a student, greatly challenged my ability to succeed in both areas. I imagined that I could perform the similar routines in high school that helped me to succeed, but I was wrong. There was much more work, commitment, and time that I had to sacrifice in order to prosper. I learned how to adapt to this new environment and culture so that I could offer EMU the best of me possible.”
Yoder was also a four-year starter for the Royals, playing in 110 matches for the women’s volleyball team. A biology major with minors in psychology and honors, Yoder held a 3.98 GPA and was a team captain her final two seasons. She was twice named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team and was a regular on the Old Dominion Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. Yoder finishes at No. 8 on the EMU Career Sets Played list at 378, with her versatility pushing her to just outside of the top-10 in career totals for each of kills, blocks and service aces.
She played cello in EMU’s orchestra and was a member of the Pre-Professional Health Society. Yoder served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and worked with the Shifting Climates podcast.
“While my classes at EMU have prepared me academically for my future, athletics has taught me discipline and leadership,” Yoder said. “I have seen very clearly over these four years that hard work and careful practice pay off, and that leading a team means you cannot be selfish because the group's needs come before your own. The relationships I have with my teammates, my coach, and the game itself have been incredibly refreshing for me and have given me more energy to put towards my education here.”
The Athletic Department staff also voted for Athlete of the Year winners. Senior Grant Amoateng (Bristow, Va./Patriot) claimed the men’s honor while senior Laurie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) was named the top female.
Amoateng earned his first trip to the NCAA National Indoor Track & Field Championships this year after going to the national outdoor meet each of the last two years. He finished 11th at the indoor meet, his highest finish on the national stage, and expects to qualify for outdoor nationals in the triple jump later this month. Amoateng was named All-Region and All-ODAC First Team in the triple jump from the indoor season, and will add one final All-Region honor from the outdoor season.
Serrell was a leader for both the women’s cross country and track & field teams. She finished 13th at the ODAC Championships for All-ODAC Second Team honors in the fall, and added an All-ODAC Third Team award running with the distance medley relay team during indoor track. A versatile track runner, Serrell had EMU’s top times in the 800m, mile, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m.
Also at the banquet, Alijah Johnson (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) of track & field was named the Male Freshman of the Year while Skylar Hedgepeth (Smithfield, Va./Smithfield) earned the Female Freshman of the Year award for her play with the field hockey team.
After a solid indoor season, Johnson exploded this spring when track & field headed outdoors. He charted the No. 3 time in the ODAC in the 200m dash and was No. 4 in the ODAC in the 400m.
Hedgepeth was named All-ODAC Third Team after leading the field hockey team with 11 goals. She tied for the ODAC lead with four game-winning goals. Hedgepeth also pitched for EMU’s softball team.
As part of the dinner and banquet, four seniors gave short reflections on their time playing sports at Eastern Mennonite: Lindsey Krisak (Alexandria, Va./Thomas A. Edison) from women’s basketball, Erik Peachey (Lititz, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) from men’s soccer, Beck Hoskins (Danville, Va./Westover Christian Academy) from women’s volleyball and softball, and Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood) from men’s basketball.
Dr. Matthew Siderhurst, Faculty Athletic Representative, and Dr. Deirdre Longacher Smeltzer, Undergraduate Academic Dean, presented the Academic Achievement Awards to each team’s individual junior or senior with the highest GPA. Those awards went to: Bailey Hall (Daleville, Va./James River) in baseball, Christian Hansen (Manassas Park, Va./Osbourn Park) and Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) in men’s basketball, Chrissy Delawder (Broadway, Va./Broadway) in women’s basketball, Collin Longenecker (Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby) in men’s cross country, Elizabeth Nisly (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) in women’s cross country, Madeline Mast (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) and Rachel Musselman (Denver, Pa./Cocalico) in field hockey, Austin Sachs (Dillsburg, Pa./Northern York) in men’s golf, Olyvia Longacre (Telford, Pa./Dock Mennonite Academy) in women’s golf, Erik Peachey (Lititz, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) in men’s soccer, Sylvia Mast (Broadway, Va./Eastern Mennonite) in women’s soccer, Beck Hoskins (Danville, Va./Westover Christian Academy) in softball, Justin Odom (Williamsburg, Va./Menchville) in men’s track & field, Megan Good (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) in women’s track & field, R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial) in men’s volleyball, and Kate Kauffman (Pettisville, Ohio/Pettisville) in women’s volleyball.