The 21st annual Golden Eagle Awards Dinner April 14 honored a dozen Westmont scholar-athletes who have exceled athletically and in the classroom while being a faithful follower of Christ. This year’s winners were Evan Kramer, men’s cross country, Heidi Nichols, women’s cross country, Daniel Johnsen, men’s soccer, Ciena Colburn, women’s volleyball, Christian Hatchett, men’s track and field, Elysia Hodges Mitchell, women’s track and field, Stefan Inouye, men’s basketball, Russell Harmening, baseball, Lauren Stratman, women’s tennis, Joshua Barnard, men’s tennis, Christine Adams, women’s soccer, and Karlie Storkson, women’s basketball. Kirsten Moore, head women’s basketball coach, was master of ceremonies. President Gayle D. Beebe offered closing remarks.
Pete and Gerd Jordano and Pacific Beverage Company have sponsored the annual event since it began in 1995.
Stratman, a junior with a 3.52 GPA, transferred to Westmont last year from Columbia University in New York City, took a semester off to pursue playing professionally, and returned to major in kinesiology. “I am so thankful to be at a college like Westmont,” she says. “I have grown in so many ways in my faith, as a person, as a friend, as a sister and as a teammate. A combination of so many factors – the professors, the students, the faculty, the location – make Westmont the thriving institution it is.”
Bernard, a senior kinesiology major with a 3.52 GPA, says he was interested in a career in occupational therapy, but feels God is calling him to student ministry. “I slipped through the cracks, and by the grace of God, He worked all these things together for my good. I want to devote the next chapter of my life mentoring kids — showing them the love of Christ and showing them what it looks like to be men and women of God,” he says. “And all of this was because of the community that Westmont has offered me.”
Kramer, a junior economics and business major with a 3.5 GPA, says his relationship with running always involves discomfort. “There are many moments where the last thing I want to do is run,” he says. “In all honestly, some days, I just want to stay comfortable. Complacency is the great enemy of the cross country runner. It will bind you to mediocrity and devour your joy.”
Nichols, a senior social sciences major with a 3.78 GPA, was unable to accomplish a dream of becoming an NAIA All-American in the marathon due to injury. “While injured, I learned that my endeavors must become less about myself and more about the people around me,” she says, “about equipping and encouraging their potential as I nurse along my own. It has become more about enjoying time with people I care about than pursuing a quantifiable goal, and Westmont has opened up this more genuine definition of success to me.”
Johnsen, a senior biology major with a 3.75 GPA, says he has learned that more happens at Westmont than what people see on the field. “We are learning how to succeed with humility,” he says, “how to hold each other to the highest standards of integrity and how to forgive each other when we fail to meet those standards. Ultimately, we are learning what it truly means to let everything we do be done in love, knowing that one day the men, like me who that walk away from this program, will be better husbands, fathers, and followers of Christ because they have been a part of it.”
Colburn, a senior art major with a 3.81 GPA, says while she was sidelined with a knee injury her first year at Westmont, teammate Marie Trudelle gave her a verse from Romans 5:3-4: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” “I realized that I should rejoice in this physical setback, because it was a sign that God was doing work in my life,” she says. “The things that He taught me during that season were far more valuable than any athletic feat I could have accomplished had I not been injured. Through it, God taught me humility.”
Hatchett, a senior political science major with a 3.49 GPA, thanked his parents who both battled cancer while he was at Westmont. “Despite all that, they remained so positive, pushed through, and above all, they never gave up,” he says. “That has provided me with so much inspiration here at Westmont.” Last year in Nationals, he briefly considered not running because of injury. “I decided they never gave up, they believe in me, how can I give up?” he says. He became an All American and holds Westmont’s record 4×400 time.
Mitchell, a senior kinesiology major with a 3.69 GPA, is the most accomplished female athlete in Westmont history. “I came to Westmont not because I wanted to, but because God didn’t open doors anywhere else,” she says. “I needed to prove to everyone that I was good at my sport, and telling people I competed for the NAIA didn’t elicit the reaction I needed for my ego.” She says she was desperate to feel important. “I could never get rid of those thoughts in my head: I’m not fast enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not funny enough. I’m not pretty enough,” she says. “Through counseling, vulnerability and time with God, I began to believe that I was worth loving.”
Inouye, a sophomore kinesiology major with a 3.86 GPA, calls himself an ambassador for Westmont. He thanked his college professors, saying when he speaks to recruits, he frequently shares how strong Westmont is academically. “It’s our amazing professors,” he says. “They’re going to make sure that you know that you matter, you matter to them. They’re going to make sure that they’re available to talk to you.” He also thanked his family and, in particular, his grandfather. “He came over here from China without citizenship, without very much money, fought in the Korean war, earned his citizenship, worked several businesses to create opportunity for his four kids to all go to college, and has done the same for his six grandchildren. I’m the last of six, so I’ve got to bring it home for us.”
Harmening, a junior mathematics major with a 3.77 GPA, says the most meaningful facet of his time at Westmont has been what the college is doing for him as a person. “Coach Ruiz and the coaching staff are not just trying to turn us into great baseball players, they are turning us into Christ-centered people,” he says. “No excuses, keep to your word, integrity, humility and hard work are only a few of the words I could use to describe what Westmont baseball has been and continues to teach me. Qualities like these are ones that I will take with me my entire life. In my faith, I need to keep God number one in my life above all else and remember that everything I do is for his glory.”
Adams, a senior kinesiology major with a 3.80 GPA, has been moved the most by the women’s soccer team forming a circle and sharing what they were thankful for following every practice. “I want to thank the Lord for giving me the ability to play soccer and for giving me my work ethic,” she says. “In seventh grade, I was on the B team for club soccer, and I got moved down to the C team because of my size. That was difficult for me, but it caused me to work hard and get moved back up to the B team and eventually to the A team. And that helped me get recruited for Westmont. I’m really grateful for my work ethic.”
Storkson, a junior religious studies and sociology double major with a 3.63 GPA, also competes in track and field. “I have the unique opportunity of having two sets of coaches, two sets of teammates, two sets of professors and two sets of students on my side,” she says. “I have both God and the Westmont community on my side in helping me to succeed. I have learned that God is present in all I do — He’s on the track, He’s on the court, He’s in the classroom, He’s there after a long, hard day and I’m in tears. He’s also there when we win a national championship. His constant presence gives me strength to be able to persevere through the busy and the hard but also be able to celebrate the good. I can cling to the promise that He has overcome the world and that my present struggles are nothing compared to future glory with Him.”