First 2022 SAAC event included variety of fun games, intermingling, community building for athletes
On Sept. 11, the Lewis & Clark Department of Physical Education and Athletics hosted their first ever welcome back ChamPIOn event for student-athletes on campus. Organized in cooperation with LC’s sports teams and Director of Physical Education and Athletics Mark Pietrok, the event kicked off the 2022-23 school year with a focus on supporting the athletics community around campus.
Pietrok, who has been a part of LC’s athletics department for over 34 years, spoke highly of the event.
“We wanted students to take away a good message, to get involved on campus this year,” Pietrok said. “It’s one of the benefits of a smaller school, our athletes get to be involved beyond just their sports.”
The coaching staff who organized the event had similar goals, according to Pietrok. Building intercommunity engagement is a theme this year.
The event also coincided with the 50 year anniversary of the passage of Title IX, a law that criminalizes gender discrimination in educational settings. While athletics is not mentioned explicitly in the text of the law, the legislation gave women and girls the chance to expand their inclusion in college sports. After years of courtroom battles, female participation in sports has blossomed, becoming a natural part of student life along with men’s athletics.
“In sports, Title IX stands for equality,” Pietrok said. “We considered how, as a pretty important milestone, we could acknowledge it at the beginning of our year.”
Students who attended the afternoon event at Griswold Stadium were addressed both by Pietrok and President Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan. After the speeches, students were divided into pods with other athletes outside of their respective sport and played icebreaker games before competing against other teams in events such as water balloon tosses.
“We had a rock-paper-scissors tournament, and a pretty good prize for that one,” Pietrok said.
Attendees spoke highly of the event, including football team quarterback Cruz Montana ’23.
“My favorite part about the event was being put in a pod with athletes from different sports who I had never met before,” said Montana. “I got to make friends with other sports teams and now I have people to root for when I watch their team’s games.”
As the school year kicks off, the athletic department’s focus on community is growing.
“My hope for the athletic community is that we continue to get closer and support each other by showing out at games across the athletic department,” Montana said. “Our football coach Joe Bushman is trying hard to build school spirit amongst the student body and get people to come have fun at the games. We know that the support has to start within the athletics department and I think this was a big step in the right direction.”
“The most important thing about being part of the athletic community is the connections that everyone makes with each other.” said swim team member Elise Barton ‘26. “The athlete event allowed me to meet so many others that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. For the swim team, we see each other every day, so being part of this team has helped me make a lot of new friends and opened my world to new experiences.”
With the passing of Title IX 50 years ago, athletics became about more than technical skill and competition. This year on LC’s campus, our athletes are looking to continue that legacy, and make their collegiate sports experience better.