Senior spotlight: Exceptional student-athletes

From basketball to rifle, the Class of 2010 shows off their athletic achievements

In the spirit of today’s commencement, the sports section has chosen to spotlight a smattering of MIT’s graduating student-athletes. It is a testament to the strength of the Institute’s athletic program that we do not have space to feature all of the seniors, though we tip our caps to every student who balanced the time commitment that a varsity sport requires with some of the nation’s most rigorous academics.

Student-Athlete: Hemagiri Arumugam ’10

Sport: Men’s Track and Field, Men’s Cross Country

Bio: The captain of the cross country team led the Engineers in extending their conference dominance and keeping MIT the only men’s cross country champion NEWMAC has ever had. After finishing first over in the NEWMAC championship in Fall 2009, he was named the NEWMAC Runner of the Year. Arumugam was also the captain of the men’s track and field team, and his top finishes in the 3000 meters helped MIT to win both conference and New England championships.

Student-Athlete: DeRon M. Brown ’10

Sport: Football

Bio: Brown was the key to MIT Football’s run-heavy offense, and in the 2010 season scored two-thirds of the team’s touchdowns. He averaged over 150 yards per game, despite being knocked out of the season closer after only three yards. He was named MIT’s first football All-American in over a decade in 2009 and 2010, after setting program records for rushing and touchdowns. In those two seasons, he was also named New England Football Conference (NEFC) Offensive Player of the Year and a Division III All-New England player.

Student-Athlete: Barden E. Cleeland ’10

Sport: Women’s Volleyball

Bio: This 6’2” middle hitter rebounded from a season-ending injury in 2006 to help the women’s volleyball team reach the NCAA Sweet Sixteen her sophomore year. Cleeland counts her selection as the Coop Athlete of the Week and MIT’s perfect conference record this past season as two of her proudest moments. Additionally, she received an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America Honorable Mention in addition to several regional and conference honors, proof positive that an injury does not mean the end of a successful athletic career. “Volleyball kept me sane! It was a great balance to my academic life at MIT and provided a stress outlet,” she said.

What’s next: Cleeland will head to Washington, D.C. after graduation to work in the defense industry. She also plans to play volleyball in intramural leagues and hopes to serve as an assistant coach for high school volleyball in the next few years.

Student-Athlete: Lucas R. Cummings ’10

Sport: Men’s Swimming

Bio: Cummings’s final NEWMAC race perhaps exemplifies the excitement of the past season for the Engineers, as he overtook his opponents in the final turn of the 400-meter freestyle relay to win by a quarter of a second. At Nationals this year, Cummings scored over a quarter of the team’s points, leading MIT to an 8th place finish. Cummings finishes his collegiate career with eight All-American honors, and seven MIT records

Student-Athlete: Mike Demyttenaere ’10

Sport: Men’s Volleyball

Bio: Demyttenaere believes strongly in MIT pride: Beating Division I Harvard twice at home and breaking the Institute record for wins in a season are among his favorite athletic accomplishments. “Being on the volleyball team and competing at a very high level while attending such a great institution has been an awesome experience,” he said. A member of the North East Collegiate Volleyball Association (NECVA) All-Division First Team in 2010, Demyttenaere broke the MIT record for career aces this season and became a member of the 1000 Kill Club. Additionally, he was named the MIT team’s Most Valuable Player and selected to the NECVA All-Academic Team.

What’s next: Demyttenaere will return to Brussels, Belgium as a Junior Consultant at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. He will continue to play volleyball in a Belgian league.

Student-Athlete: Casey M. Flynn ’10

Sport: Women’s Lacrosse

Bio: Flynn is the consummate team player. Asked to name her three proudest moments, she lists “being elected a captain three times by my peers” and “seeing the program grow immensely from my freshman to senior year” prior to any of her individual accolades. But make no mistake, there are many individual awards she could have listed first — Flynn graduates as a four-time NEWMAC All-Conference team member, a two-time Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association regional team selection, and the Institute’s all-time leader in goals (142), assists (72), and points (214).

What’s next: Flynn will participate in Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program for the next two years. Through the program, she will receive a master’s degree in education and volunteer teach in a Catholic school in Savannah, Georgia. She also plans to coach lacrosse at the school.

Student-Athlete: Leslie A. Hansen ’10

Sport: Women’s Tennis

Bio: Hansen played first singles and first doubles for the women’s tennis team. She competed in the NCAA national tournament in each of her four years at MIT, and reached the round of sixteen in 2008 and the quarterfinals in 2010, finishing her NCAA tournament career with a 4-4 record. She is also a two-time All-American, and was named to the Academic All-District First Team in 2010.

Student-Athlete: Emily F. Houston ’10

Sport: Rifle

Bio: Named the Mid-Atlantic Conference Air Rifle Shooter of the Month in January 2009, Houston relished the opportunity to excel in both academics and athletics at MIT. “I loved going to the range and relaxing, and having the support and encouragement of my teammates and my coach through my four years in athletics,” she said. The feelings were obviously mutual between Houston and her teammates ­— she cites “having [her] team vote [her] Most Valuable Player for the fourth year” as one of her favorite accomplishments, along with recording a career-high 588 points against the Naval Academy her junior year.

What’s next: Houston will join Ethicon Endo-Surgery, a designer of minimally invasive surgical tools, as an Associate Engineer. She plans to maintain her rifle skills by training and competing at the regional and national levels, and she will pass down her knowledge to a team of juniors in the Cincinnati area in the fall.

Student-Athlete: Willard J. Johnson ’09

Sport: Men’s Basketball

Bio: An integral part of the basketball program’s Cinderella story in 2009, Johnson fondly remembers when the team won MIT’s first conference championship and earned its first NCAA tournament berth in school history. One game stands out in particular: “During our first NCAA tournament game vs. Rhode Island College at their place in 2009, [we came] out at halftime after an 8-point deficit to the roaring chant of ‘MIT’ from the student section that just arrived, and [turned] that deficit into a lead in about 2 minutes. I still get chills from that,” he said. Aside from stretching his physical limits, Johnson says that basketball has taught him what “mens et manus” really means, thanks to the challenge of balancing varsity athletics with “the world’s toughest undergraduate curriculum.”

What’s next: Johnson will transition from the role of MIT men’s basketball star to MIT men’s basketball assistant coach next year, as well as “most likely working with AmeriCorps.”

Student-Athlete: Devin M. Lewis ’10

Sport: Men’s Water Polo

Bio: Lewis was MIT Water Polo’s leading scorer with 55 goals last season. He led the Engineers to a seventh-place finish at the Eastern Championships, and closed his collegiate career with a hat trick in the deciding game against Iona College. Lewis was selected as an All-American in 2007 and 2008, and also earned All-Division and All-Eastern honors.

Student-Athlete: Alexandra T. May ’10

Sport: Women’s Volleyball

Bio: The former NEWMAC and New England Women’s Volleyball Association (NEWVA) Rookie of the Year finished in the top ten in program history in kills, digs, and blocks. She was selected as an All-Conference First Team member in two straight seasons, and earned First Team Academic All-American honors. May also received the Malcolm G. Kispert Award for the MIT female scholar-athlete of the year, and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, the first such award in program history.

Student-Athlete: Maria J. Monks ’10

Sport: Women’s Cross Country

Bio: This 2010 cross-country All-American and 2009 NEWMAC championship winner credited her participation in athletics as being “crucial to [her] non-academic development in college.” As for her academic development, Monks is a mathematics whiz. She recorded a perfect 5.0 at MIT, earned a prestigious $250,000 Hertz Fellowship and a Churchill Scholarship, and cited “discovering new mathematical truths” as one of her proudest moments as a student-athlete.

What’s next: Monks will pursue a one-year master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Cambridge on a Churchill Scholarship. She will then enroll in UC Berkeley for graduate school in mathematics. In a few years, you can look for her on a marathon course: “I’ve been running my age in miles on my birthday nearly every year since I was 14, and so I intend to do marathons starting at age 26.2,” she said.

Student-Athlete: Stephen A. Morton ’10

Sport: Men’s Track and Field

Bio: Morton’s biggest athletic accomplishment happened just a few days ago, when he won the national long jump championship and greatly contributed to MIT’s fourth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Thanks to his victory and a third-place finish in the triple jump, Morton was named the Field Athlete of the Meet. Like many other student-athletes, this six-time All-American points to track as “an escape from MIT” and “an opportunity to network with alumni and to meet with people at other schools.” Morton contends that track contributed directly to his MIT success: “I don’t think I would have been as happy at MIT or that I would have done as well if it weren’t for track.”

What’s next: Morton will stay in the Boston area as he works to bring his 2.009 (Product Engineering Processes) project to market. He also wants to “continue training and competing in the long and triple jump and may decide to coach part-time at some point in the future.”

Student-Athlete: Rastislav Racz ’10

Sport: Men’s Swimming

Bio: Racz’s proudest moment as a student-athlete will happen today as he receives his MIT diploma. In the pool, one of his most memorable accomplishments happened just a few months ago, when he and teammates Jeffrey Y. Zhou ’10, Lucas R. Cummings ’10, and Wyatt L. Ubellacker ’13 placed third at the 2010 NCAA Division III Championships in the 200 medley relay. The five-time All-American credits swimming with introducing him to some of his best friends at MIT, as well as “relaxing [his] mind for a couple of hours every day.”

What’s next: Racz will begin graduate studies at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris — after competing in the European Swimming Championships in mid-August. “After that I will be done with competitive swimming, but I am already looking forward to doing triathlons and playing some hockey and soccer with friends on a regular basis,” he said.

Student-Athlete: Eric R. Reuland ’10

Sport: Men’s Volleyball

Bio: MIT’s Defensive Player of the Year takes an immense amount of pride in “contributing to the most successful season in MIT Men’s Volleyball history,” which culminated in reaching the semifinals of the East Coast regional tournament. Reuland remembers one match against Endicott College especially well; MIT had lost two previous matches in five games, and Endicott was ranked first in the conference. “We showed up at their place and stomped on them. There was no stopping us after that game,” he said. Outside of competition, Reuland believes his experiences with the volleyball team impacted his personal development: “Athletics and the leadership role I was able to take with the team have made me a better man.”

What’s next: Reuland will move out west to Irvine, California, where he will work on the post-commercial development of a cardiovascular medical device at Edwards Lifesciences. He also plans to shift from varsity indoor volleyball to competitive beach volleyball and is “considering coaching at a young level.”

Student-Athlete: Jean E. “Liz” Theurer ’10

Sport: Women’s Soccer

Bio: The 2006 NEWMAC Rookie of the Year was a major part of the success of the women’s soccer team, leading the team to its first conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance last fall. Theurer finishes her collegiate career ranked in the top six in points, goals, and assists. She was awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship for academic and athletic excellence, the first in program history and one of 29 awarded nationally.

Student-Athlete: Jacqueline M. Wentz ’10

Sports: Women’s Cross-Country and Track and Field

Bio: Wentz is the newly-minted national champion in the 3000-meter Steeplechase in the 2010 Outdoor Division III Track and Field Championships, contributing to the women’s strong third-place finish. Among other honors, Wentz was the NEWMAC Runner of the Year in 2008 and the New England Regional Champion in 2009. Beyond the awards, though, Wentz considers her varsity experience as a valuable social outlet: “Running Cross Country and Track at MIT gave me a way to challenge myself and be competitive in a non-academic way. It also provided me with lots of great friendships and something to look forward to every day,” she said.

What’s next: Wentz will attend Johns Hopkins University for graduate school in the fall. She will also continue training as she tries to qualify for the USA Track and Field nationals in the 3000-meter steeplechase.

Student-Athlete: Jeffrey Y. Zhou ’10

Sport: Men’s Swimming

Bio: Zhou was a big contributor to the team’s success over the past four years, culminating in back-to-back NEWMAC championships and trips to the NCAA national competition. As part of the relays, he finished third, fourth, and fifth at nationals this season, giving MIT an 8th place finish – the second best in program history. Zhou finishes his career with six All-American honors and four Institute records.