As we celebrate DIII Week, we will take an opportunity to feature an accomplished cadet-athlete who has excelled on and off the field in the Division III environment.
Senior Raeford Penny is a four year varsity letter winner for the Coast Guard Academy men's track & field team. He is a two time NCAA National Championship qualifier and this past indoor season he earned All-America honors for the first time in his career after leading the Bears 4x400 to a seventh place finish.
Penny, from Chantilly, Virginia, was not only looking for a strong athletic program when he was making his college decision but also the opportunity to be academically challenged and given the opportunity to succeed as a leader.
"When looking at where to continue my athletic and academic endeavors I wanted to find a program that was competitive but also had great academics and opportunities for leadership," said Penny. "I had numerous offers to run at small/mid-tier D1 programs, but upon visiting these programs found they were too cut throat and not personable. Division III gives me the opportunity to compete at a high level with good facilities, coaching, and teammates while also being able to focus on life outside of track and field."
Nothing could be more true as Penny has not only succeeded on the track but has received academic accolades for his work in the classroom, earning NEWMAC All-Academic honors twice and USTFCCCA All-Academic honors as well.
Penny has truly taken the benefits of being a Divison III athlete to heart believing that his time as an athlete at the Academy has shaped him in his day to day life.
"Often Division III gets a bad reputation that it is just athletes that cannot make it at a Division I or II program, however this could not be further from the truth," commented Penny. "Most Division III schools are highly competitive academically and provide athletes to stimulate their intellectual curiosity, develop their character, and compete athletically rather than just focus 100% on athletics. Playing a Division III sport allows me to develop in all facets of life, rather than just one, making me a more rounded individual that has the skills to succeed in the ever changing world."
As many athletes have said before Penny, athletics continues to be an outlet for cadets at the Academy, while also being an opportunity to grow and develop.
"Being an athlete at Coast Guard gives me the opportunity to escape the rigors, both academically and militarily, and do something that I love," said Penny. "The team has become my family and many of my closest friends. Being on an athletic team allows members of all classes to interact and train for a common goal. For the past four years it has been an honor to put on the academy uniform and compete for not just myself, the team, or the school but for the Coast Guard as a service and our nation."
Penny is not only thrilled with his choice to compete at the Division III level but also being able to combine his service to his country into his other passions in life.
"Being an athlete is important to me because it transcends just simple athletics; it has provided a family support system as well as a leadership laboratory for the past four years. Every time I compete and put on the uniform I know I am representing something greater than me; that I am brining pride and publicity to our service everywhere I travel."
Penny and the rest of the men's track and field team are back in action Wednesday, April 4th, when they host rival Merchant Marine.
MORE ON DIII WEEK
WHAT IS DIVISION III WEEK?:
Division III Week is a positive opportunity for all individuals associated with Division III to observe and celebrate the impact of athletics and of student-athletes on the campus and surrounding community. During the week, every Division III school and conference office is encouraged to conduct a type of outreach activity that falls into one of three categories: academic accomplishment; athletic experience; or leadership/community service/campus involvement.
HOW DID DIVISION III WEEK COME TO BE?:
The event is part of Division III's Identity Initiative, which was introduced in 2010 to sharpen the division's identity and to enable schools and conferences to more effectively explain why they prefer to compete in Division III. The initiative has been guided by a strategic-positioning platform, describing Division III as a place where student-athletes can "follow your passions and develop your potential," within an approach that combines rigorous academics, competitive sports and an opportunity to pursue other interests.
In Division III, we realize that the classroom is the primary setting for preparing student-athletes. However, Division III also understands that academics are more than just GPAs, test scores and majors; it is a comprehensive learning experience that develops successful leaders and professionals. Work with your FAR and faculty to highlight the academic success of your student-athletes.
Passion and sportsmanship are attributes of the "athlete" in the Division III "student-athlete" paradigm. The "athlete" plays for the love of the game, strives for excellence in all facets of life and perseveres through adversity. So, during Division III Week, celebrate the athletic component of our identity – a true homage to the symbiotic relationship of athletics and higher education- by hosting a banquet for your student-athletes or a clinic for local youth teams.