After a spring season that was cut short, Saint Leo Athletics saw 10 programs finish the 2019-2020 academic year ranked nationally by their respective associations. Four of those 10 were inside the Top 10 and one, men’s tennis, ranked inside the Top 5 nationally at year’s end.
Three fall programs finished the season with rankings. The volleyball program won the south region and advanced to the national quarterfinals, while women’s and men’s cross country teams reached the national championships.
Volleyball finished the year as the 21st ranked program in the country with one All-America honoree, senior Anilise Fitzi. Men’s and women’s cross country teams each finished as the 30th ranked programs in the nation. Both squads took third at the regional competition.
Men’s swimming represented the winter sports in the national poll, rounding out the year in 20th place after sending Matthew Daniel and Kosta Mitrovic to the national championships. The duo received College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) All-America nods for their performances in the pool.
The Lions saw six programs finish the year in the Top 25, in which men’s tennis led all programs with a national rank of fourth. Women’s tennis, softball, and women’s golf all were at eighth in the final polls of their respective associations. Men’s golf rounded out the year as the 13th ranked team, according to GolfStat, where the Lions saw Dave Longhini earn the program’s lone All-South Region nod, announced by the (GCAA). Women’s lacrosse was off to a 4-3 start, and finished as the 19th ranked program in the country in the shortened season.
Being a student-athlete at Saint Leo means long hours in the gym, multiple practices a week, and juggling games and matches amid academic responsibilities. However, those demands are not so daunting when compared to the lives that young runners in Kenya lead. In December 2015, the cross country coaching staff saw firsthand what it is like to live and go to school in this African country. Head Coach Kent Reiber and Assistant Coaches Adriane Wunderlich and Connor Callahan traveled with 2012 Boston Marathon winner Wesley Korir and his wife, Canadian runner Tarah McKay, to work with children in Cherangani Hills, Kenya, who show academic and athletic promise. They read to the children, helping them to improve their English skills, ran together, and accompanied them to and from church. Most of the children’s homes are tiny mud huts with no electricity and running water. But what the young people lack in material goods they make up for in spirit and determination. The goal for Korir, who is a native of Kenya and ran for the University of Louisville, is to encourage the children to get a good education so they can grow up and make Kenya a better place. “It was a very humbling experience,” Coach Reiber explained, and perhaps the first of many trips to Kenya.
Imagine being a young girl fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). While other girls may run and play, you face daily back and leg pain and constantly have to be vigilant against infection. This is the life that Anya Cale has been dealt. After being diagnosed in 2014, she has undergone chemotherapy, as well as alternative treatments, to fight this cancer. Along the way, Anya has made great friends, including the members of the Saint Leo women’s lacrosse team. These women have rallied around Anya, inviting her to practice and games. Anya’s mom, Heather (Ehrman) Harvey ’10 of Wesley Chapel, FL, has had to take a leave from her teaching job to help Anya battle ALL, so the additional support has been invaluable to the family. As Head Coach Lesley Graham explains, “Having a relationship with Anya has helped us gain perspective. Whenever we have a bad day, we can look to her and understand what facing a challenge is all about.”
“Anya spends so much time in the hospital, and getting treatments that she’s unable to participate in team sports at this time. The opportunity to get involved with Saint Leo Women’s lacrosse was such a treat for us, and it makes her feel like she is really part of a team!”
—Heather (Ehrman) Harvey ’10