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All-Academic honors motivate Slippery Rock track athletes to do more this year

| Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 8:25 p.m.
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Angelica Bagwell overcame a foot injury and a switch in majors to become an All-Academic runner at Slippery Rock.
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Katelyn Wetzel, an All-Academic competitor, was the top sprinter for the Slippery Rock women's track and field team.

At Slippery Rock University, the student-athletes take that title seriously, especially on the women's track and field team. This past season, Angelica Bagwell and Katelyn Wetzel, a Butler product, earned All-Academic honors. To earn the honor, an athlete must maintain a 3.25 cumulative GPA and hit an NCAA provisional qualifying standard in either the indoor or outdoor meets.

Wetzel will be a senior, and Bagwell will begin her junior year.

Difficulty seems to bring out the best in Bagwell.

Having missed much of her freshman season due to injury, Bagwell had to deal with a new major — psychology — as well as track.

For all of her effort, Bagwell was honored with the title of All-Academic from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

“This year was more difficult because it was my first full year of competing (while being in college),” Bagwell said. “I switched majors (to psychology) and I was getting up at 3 or 4 a.m. to drive to New Castle for therapy on my foot.”

To help her plantar fasciitis, Bagwell often would get up before the sun rose so she could get to and from her therapy sessions in order to be at class on time. After class, it was on to practice and then it was time for homework.

“It was definitely worth it,” Bagwell said. “I never thought the Academic All-American would be possible, but it is a good feeling to finally be in a good place in school and doing what I love to do.”

Her situation is unique, as is her event, the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Working against the athletes are barriers placed along the course that they have to jump over.

“The event was new to me,” Bagwell said. “When we trained and ran, my teammates would run around (things in the way such as sewer grates) where I would just jump over them. I was never a distance runner, so I didn't have any idea what I was doing.”

Bagwell got encouragement from teammates familiar with the event. She hit the provisional mark (11:11) and although she struggled with her foot and didn't improve on that time, she continued to push through it.

“I struggled because my training was on a bike or in the water, which made it hard to improve,” she said. “There is just a constant pain in my foot, but ... I will run through it. I have not recorded many land miles, but I will push through it.”

Wetzel also earned the All-Academic honor for the first time, and she was the top sprinter for the women's team.

“It is great to see how the academics reflect on everything,” Wetzel said. “It takes a lot of work and there are just not enough hours in the day. It helps that practice is at a set time every day, so we know what time we have and when we have to do things.”

Knowing that class work is taken care of, Wetzel can focus on the rigors of sprinting. Since arriving at Slippery Rock, she added 15 pounds of muscle.

The extra work paid off, as she reached the 200-meter provisional mark for the NCAA during the indoor season. Although she feels she could have run better, the mark is still an accomplishment.

“I know if I keep working at it, it will come,” Wetzel said.

Bringing down her times, while keeping up her grades, will be the focus of the math major as she tries to break the school records of 25.37 (indoors) and 24.66 (outdoors).

“We also want to reach the finals as a team,” she said. “We placed ninth in our last two tries.”

Bagwell said Wetzel stands out as a hard worker and said if she is not at practice, she is on her way to the library to get work done.

“Kate motivates her teammates, it's kind of cool to watch,” Bagwell said. “She is always early to practice and really excels when it comes to time management.”

Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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