Portrait of a Student-athlete

| November 10, 2011

Like the midfielder she is, Vixen field hockey player Alex St. Pierre has learned to cover a lot of ground to accommodate all the things she is passionate about. Attending a Division III school lets her do that.

At Sweet Briar, athletes like St. Pierre can sing a beautiful rendition of the national anthem before a match she’s going to play in. She can major in classics, even though she’s a pre-vet student.

“Majoring in the sciences is not a requirement for veterinary school and I took the stance that I would rather be true to my interests and take the opportunity to learn subjects I will probably never be able to study formally again,” she says.

So for her love of singing, she minored in music as well as biology.

On the field, St. Pierre was named to the all-conference second-team in 2011 and 2010. She was a team captain in both her junior and senior years and was awarded the athletic department’s Susan Lehman Courage Award in 2010. She also is president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

Leading the advisory committee, she says, is an “extension of my natural desire to promote athletics and how critical they are to the growth of individuality, confidence and commitment.”

She became a believer in those benefits after taking up field hockey as a high schooler in South Hamilton, Mass., when her mother insisted she try a team sport. She credits sports for her own confidence, skill, and grace in both victory and defeat.

Jess Lamina, her coach of three years, says when St. Pierre isn’t explaining technique to younger players she is leading by example with her “never quit” spirit. That was especially true when doctors cleared her to play after taking a ball to the head.

“With ringing in her ears Alex walked out to practice the next day,” Lamina said.

She played through the final three games of the season with protective headgear despite jokes, insults and the occasional opposing player who “tested” the headgear, Lamina said. “She just wanted to play. She just wanted to win.”

St. Pierre is an academic leader as well, perennially earning a place on the Old Dominion Athletic Conference All-Academic team. She is an Honors Scholar this year, as she was in 2010-2011, has received numerous merit scholarships, and was named to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. She also works at the Academic Resource Center as a writing and Latin tutor.

Her classics advisor Eric Casey said his department was thrilled when she agreed to be the Latin tutor, noting she has an “uncommon ability to bring Latin to life for her fellow students and to help them excel at it.”

He says she is equally adept at translating ancient languages and thinking about the cultures of Greece and Rome. So much so that, “Alex even divides up her friends into those with a more Roman cast of mind — such as herself — and those with a more Greek way of seeing the world.”

Marcia Thom, her voice instructor, says St. Pierre “is focused on one thing and one thing only — achieving excellence in everything she does.” Yet Thom has seen a progression from the younger student who seemed consumed with pushing herself beyond anyone else’s expectations.

“As a senior, she now seems to understand that achieving excellence — for her — is simply a matter of who she is and what she does, without the added pressure of trying,” Thom says.

For St. Pierre and her fellow seniors there is an impetus to make the most of their final year. She and her friends made a “bucket list” of things to do before graduating. It includes checking out Foamhenge, the Carolina Renaissance Festival, a Bruins ice hockey game and the Charlottesville nightlife.

“Completing it has been a fantastic experience and keeps stress at bay,” she says.

At Sweet Briar, St. Pierre has been able to do the things she loves, including riding. To any devoted athlete who is trying to choose a college, she thinks a Division III school should be in the running.

“You are surrounded by young women who have chosen to be where they are not because they are paid to play their sport, but because they can’t imagine life not being an athlete,” she says. “You are able to complete a high level of academics while partaking competitively in the sport you love for another four years.”

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