Student-athletes reach new academic heights

Group posts record 3.25 grade-point average in spring 2018

Soccer player Kevin Flesch was one of 10 Binghamton University student-athletes to be named an America East Presidential Scholar Athlete in 2018. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Soccer player Kevin Flesch was one of 10 Binghamton University student-athletes to be named an America East Presidential Scholar Athlete in 2018.
Soccer player Kevin Flesch was one of 10 Binghamton University student-athletes to be named an America East Presidential Scholar Athlete in 2018. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

For Maya Haykal, being part of a sports team has enabled her to excel in the classroom at Binghamton University.

“All of my teammates are smart and passionate with their different studies, but I think we have sustained such academic excellence because of our support for each other,” she said. “We always ask each other for advice, give support with upcoming tests and study together. Studying together, while on the road traveling to games or just in the library, has personally motivated me and made me a better student.”

The junior from Vestal, N.Y., doesn’t just play for any sports team, though. She is a member of the women’s tennis team, which has earned the University’s Academic Cup for four straight years. The award goes to the team with the highest grade-point average (women’s tennis 2017-18 GPA: 3.69).

Haykal is also one of the student-athletes who helped the Athletics Department post a record 3.25 GPA in spring 2018. That mark tops the previous best of 3.23, set in spring 2016. It also is the 12th consecutive semester that student-athletes have topped 3.10. By comparison, student-athletes’ GPAs in fall 2003 and fall 2005 were 2.97 and 2.96, respectively.

“It feels great to be a part of a community that is moving forward in the right direction,” said Haykal, who has a 3.9 GPA while majoring in cell and molecular biology. “Especially being from the Binghamton area, I am proud to be involved as a student-athlete at a University where I have many opportunities to succeed and grow.”

More than 70 percent of the 291 student-athletes posted spring GPAs of 3.0 or higher, with more than 40 percent earning at least 3.5. Of those students, 10 were named America East Presidential Scholar-Athletes. The award recognizes graduating student-athletes who compiled a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher as an undergraduate student and earned their undergraduate degrees. Binghamton University’s 2017-18 recipients included J.C. Show (men’s basketball) and Kevin Flesch (men’s soccer).

Show, from Clarks Summit, Pa., is now a graduate student in public administration. He praised the support staff in the Athletics Department, particularly Kristie Bowers, assistant athletic director for student-athlete support and development.

“Without her help, navigating through the University would be much more difficult and I wouldn’t have done as well with my grades,” he said. “Anytime I receive an award, I want to use that platform as an opportunity to thank God and thank those people around me who helped me.”

Besides leading the Bearcats in scoring and steals in 2017-18, Show also helped the team earn a National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Team Academic Excellence Award. The Bearcats were one of 45 Division I schools (and one of two in the America East) to achieve the honor, which requires a minimum 3.0 team GPA for the school year. The team recorded a 3.27 GPA in the fall, with 11 players reaching the 3.0 level.

“Earning the Team Academic Excellence Award is another huge blessing because it shows the commitment that we all have to our academics,” said Show, who has one year of playing eligibility remaining. “Being one of only 45 schools to earn such an honor speaks to how hard my teammates and I have pushed ourselves to be disciplined academically.”

Flesch, from Munich, Germany, is a graduate student in the School of Management after earning his degree in business administration in May. Flesch, who called the Presidential Scholar-Athlete award “a confirmation of the effort you put into school and sports,” admitted that he had been careless and lazy in his studies before coming to Binghamton University.

“I thought to myself: You have two options — you either sit there and do not pay attention or you sit there and might as well pay attention and soak up the information they provided you with,” he said.

Like Haykel, the team atmosphere and mindset has enabled Ross Bernstein to succeed in and out of the classroom. The junior swimmer from Bridgewater, N.J., not only placed second in the 200 fly and 400 IM at the America East Championships in February, but he was also named America East Men’s Swimming and Diving Scholar Athlete for winter 2017-18.

“The foundation of the swimming and diving team is that academics outweigh athletics,” said Bernstein, an accounting major with a 3.86 GPA. “Our coaches place a very strong emphasis on the idea that academics come first, which enables us to see our priorities and be successful as a student and an athlete.”

While the student-athletes agree that time management is vital, they also said there are others factors that lead to success.

“Student-athletes need the dedication, determination and want to succeed not only with the sport but also with grades,” Haykal said. “I think it’s easy to become so tired, especially with early-morning practices, that it’s hard to focus on school. Having that determined attitude to keep going and pushing yourself to succeed has got me where I am today. Giving my 100 percent effort with anything I do, either with studying, tennis or even with managing two clubs I am on the e-board for, made me realize I might not be perfect, but this has brought me steps closer to accomplishing my goals.”

Communicating with professors and coaches is also important, Flesch said.

“It doesn’t require a lot of time to let the professor know that you will miss class due to a game or similar,” said Flesch, who will return to the pitch this fall for his final season. “Professors and coaches have always been willing to plan accordingly when notified in advance. I often put myself in the position of the other person and think how I would want to be treated. This often helps to make the right decision.”

The student-athletes all said they are excited and honored to be part of a group that has raised the academic bar at Binghamton University.

“I am proud to be associated with Binghamton University as we continue to achieve great measures concerning athletics and academics,” Bernstein said. “Every student-athlete plays a role in taking this school to new levels and it feels great to be part of it.”

“Any time you are a part of a team or organization or group, you want to leave that team or organization or group in a better place than when you inherited it,” Show said. “To see the success and academic accolades that our team and other Binghamton University teams have achieved is a great thing and it makes me feel thankful to be a part of it. Experiencing success makes me want to strive to push to another level.”

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