By Dave Caspole ’94
Westfield State student-athletes are taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the NCAA when it announced that 2020 spring-sport student athletes would not use a year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancellation of seasons.
A handful of Owls’ senior student-athletes are planning to return and further their education, while also having the chance to use their final or extra season of eligibility.
“I applaud the NCAA on moving quickly to grant eligibility waivers for the athletes who were most affected by COVID-19,” says Athletics Director Dick Lenfest. “Westfield State’s graduate degree programs put us in a unique position in which our highly competitive student-athletes are in a good position if they want to extend their athletic careers while still preparing themselves for future career success with an advanced degree.”
Middle-distance runner Taylor White ’20 plans to attend graduate school to get her master’s in mental health counseling. She plans to have a busy schedule, as she is hoping to work full time in the psychology field and train to compete in outdoor track in the spring.
“I love our coaches,” she says.
White originally attended the University of Hartford out of high school but was injured early in her career and initially didn’t plan to run at Westfield State. She was coaxed out of retirement by Coach Marlee Berg-Harvasz, who recruited White out of high school.
Baseball third baseman Brett Dooley ’20 graduated with a degree in business management, but as the spring wore on, he began to consider graduate school. “My parents were very supportive of the idea of me going back to Westfield State and playing one more year,” says Dooley. “I hadn’t even thought about it but…it seems like a good opportunity, given the job market. I’ll get another chance to make the most of it.”
Dooley will be enrolling in the Master of Public Administration program.
Lauren Gilderdale was at the NCAA Division III indoor track and field championships in Winston-Salem, N.C., and had her practice session the day before the 20-pound weight throw event was set to begin when the announcement came that the meet was canceled.
“I’d love to come back, and love my coaches and teammates,” says Gilderdale, noting that she could expand a minor in psychology into a double-major. “I need to get that All-America award. I’ll get it.”