Colby Athletics: Sitting Down with Seniors

As the 2020-21 academic year comes to a close, we sat down with several graduating student athletes to reflect on the past four years and hear some of their highlights and parting thoughts. Eli Decker, men’s cross country; Shannon Gray, women’s soccer; Amelia Lubrano, women’s lacrosse; Kirsten Miller, women’s Nordic skiing; Sumukh Pathi, men’s tennis; and Wallace Tucker, men’s basketball, shared their experiences.

    There’s always excitement around the announcement of the next incoming class, and anticipation from first-year student athletes about what to expect. As you look back on your acceptance to Colby, what would you tell your first-year self to prepare for the next four years as a student athlete?

    Shannon Gray: I would tell myself to not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented, generally as a student at Colby and as a student athlete. The role of being a student athlete may be bigger than you expect, and recognizing the influence you can have on your teammates as well as the campus community early on can have an important impact. Don’t be afraid to speak up, reach out, and better the environments you inhabit. 

    Sumukh Pathi: I would tell first-year student athletes it’s a grind and it takes a lot of hard work and discipline with time management. But it’s also an incredibly rewarding four years that go by insanely fast. It’s important to cherish and enjoy it. Your teammates become some of your best friends and really become a support group for you, which has been amazing.

    Sumukh Pathi, men’s tennis

    It goes without saying that this has been an unconventional year for Colby Athletics, and teams have been asked to find creative ways to train and prepare for competition. How has the new Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center provided opportunities that might not have been possible before its opening last fall?

    Kirsten Miller: We are incredibly grateful to have had the opening of the new athletics center occur on schedule this year, and it could not have come at a time of more need. The additional space and new facilities allowed our team to continue with normal activities as a group, especially with the addition of our new ski room, which would not have been possible in the smaller spaces of the previous athletic center. 

    Shannon Gray: The Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center has made training possible in ways that likely would not have been possible in previous years. There are countless benefits from these new facilities, but I think one of the most notable is the comparison between the old and new weight rooms. With the new weight rooms and Boulos Family Fitness Center, teams are able to put in work off the field during lifts in a space without distractions that bolsters teamwork and intensity. Although it is behind-the-scenes work, I believe this change will have large effects in competitiveness during practices and games. 

    Shannon Gray, women’s soccer

    Student athletes are typically motivated by their peers, and leadership roles are defined through competition. During a year when competition has been scarce and teamwork has been limited to practices and training, what have you learned about the first-year student athletes, and what advice do you have for the rising seniors?

    Kirsten Miller: As Nordic skiing is an outdoor, no-contact sport, we have been fortunate enough to practice as a team for most of this year, despite the pandemic. Seeing the sparks of excitement in the new athletes as they navigated their first year, including the things that were new to all of us through the challenges of the pandemic, brought fresh energy to the team. I am excited to watch what they will do over their four years here. Next year’s upperclassmen have already been acting as leaders for the group and are excellent teammates and friends that I have already learned so much from, so I know the team is well positioned to excel next year under their leadership.

    Eli Decker: I was so impressed with how the first-year student athletes dealt with such an atypical start to the school year and found a place on the team. Their first few months on campus were very different than mine, and they’ve done a great job of adapting. I know the team is in capable hands in the future, and I’m really excited to see my younger teammates learn and grow into leadership roles. I don’t think they need my advice, but I think leading by example and listening to everyone before making a decision are pretty good pieces of advice that I used from my older teammates.

    Eli Decker (left), men’s cross country

    All of the hard work during your collegiate athletics experience culminates in a Senior Athlete Awards celebration (May 7) to recognize the achievements of Colby’s graduating student athletes and welcome you to the C Club. What does it mean to you to be crossing the threshold, and how do you see yourself staying involved with Colby Athletics as an alumna/us?

    Wallace Tucker: In the summer and into the beginning of the school year, I was coming to terms with never having a normal basketball season again. In this processing, it became clear to me that Colby men’s basketball (CMB) is not a four-year process. CMB is a lifelong commitment. I will be proud to walk across the stage and enter the C Club as I exit. In all truth, I almost already feel like a CMB alum being that my playing career is over, and if my involvement is anything like it is now as the senior captain with a total of 13 underclassmen, I can see myself doing whatever is necessary to better the experience of those who come after me. 

    Amelia Lubrano: One of my favorite parts of Colby women’s lacrosse (CWL) is traditions that our team honors for years. My sister and I relate to the same silly, little (yet meaningful) traditions that we’ve both experienced in our separate four years here. 

    One of my favorite memories from Colby was our alumni game my first year. On our walk down to the field for our pre-game warmup, our alumni were jumping out of cars, screaming our old chants, cheering for us by name (even though we’d never met them), and supporting us with everything they had. We went out that day and crushed Williams. Our alumni stormed the field at the end and we danced to our win song, “Run Around Sue,” all together in the middle of the field. They were just as important in that game as the players on the field. They carried the energy, hyped us up, and led us to a victory that day. 

    This stuff happens all the time. Our alumni write us letters before games, help us find jobs after school, come to our games wearing their old gear, etc. I plan to be a part of CWL the same way the alums have been involved during my time here. They’re still a part of the team, even if they’re not the ones on the field. I think that’s really special. Although I’m sad to be graduating, I feel grateful that I will always have this network of amazing women to call my family. 

    Amelia Lubrano (center), women’s lacrosse

    The honors presented during the Senior Athlete Awards are named after notable Colby alumni, such as Patty Valavanis ’80, who excelled in academics, athletics, leadership, and service. What is the legacy you hope to leave behind and how do you want to be remembered for your years as a Colby Mule?

    Ameilia Lubrano: One thing I’ve always appreciated about Colby and tried to reciprocate to those around me is the kindness of people here. I want to be known for respecting my classmates and teammates, and treating everyone I meet with kindness. My parents instilled that in my sisters and I from a young age, and my dad has always been a great example of it. Regardless of what’s going on in his life, he makes a point to be nice to everyone because you never know what someone’s going through. A small interaction could make or break someone’s day. I hope that after I leave Colby, people will remember me for that. 

    Wallace Tucker: I want to be remembered as someone who entered Colby, an unfamiliar place, with very little agency and now I’m leaving having made this place my own. Something that I have been proud of in my time here is working my way up to a place where I can control my experience. I have directly been a part of fixing many of the changes that I have wished to see here at Colby. This has easily been the most rewarding part of my experience. 

    Wallace Tucker, men’s basketball

    As you reflect on your years as a student athlete at Colby, is there an individual who had a significant impact on your experience, or a sports highlight that will live with you long after your years on Mayflower Hill?

    Eli Decker: There are so many people at Colby that made the experience really special. I had tremendous support from my professors, and the small classes helped me make more meaningful connections with them. One example was Professor Julie Millard and Professor Ron Peck coming on our team’s annual long run in Acadia, as well as their support throughout the year when walking by them on the quad or seeing them in a dining hall. 

    A big reason I chose Colby was because of Coach Jared Beers ’01, and he certainly had a tremendous impact on my experience. I loved his philosophy of using sports as an educational tool outside the classroom to teach us to become better people. I was able to learn a lot about leadership, humility, consistency, teamwork, and kindness from Jared. I know those are going to be lifelong skills I carry with me long after my time at Colby. 

    Certainly one highlight of my Colby Athletics career was coming in second as a team at the NCAA DIII New England Regional meet, and, therefore, earning a trip to the national championships. It was something we had been looking forward to as a team all year long, and on that day the hard work, training, and Jared’s coaching all clicked to make a great team performance. At the National Championship in Kentucky the next week, we had alumni who flew out to cheer us on. Having that support made it all the more special.

    Sumukh Pathi: I think my favorite moment was a couple weekends ago against Tufts at home. We had the most student fans we’ve ever had at a match, and I personally had a really tough match going into a third set. I saved two match points and won, which felt amazing in front of a large crowd cheering me on.

    Kirsten Miller: A highlight experience that I will always remember was my final competition at NCAA Championships this year as it was a representation of how much my time as a Colby athlete has meant to me. I have never felt so much excitement and gratitude to have the opportunity to compete and represent Colby, and having this experience after a year of huge setbacks and challenges due to the pandemic was surreal. Although it was only a small subset of our team that was able to compete at NCAAs, I have never felt stronger support from the entire Colby Ski Community than I did during that week.

    Kirsten Miller, women’s Nordic skiing