Lehigh is a Special Place for Returning Fifth-Years

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Creator: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of spring sports last March, it shortened seasons for student athletes, including the careers of many seniors.

A few weeks later, the NCAA announced that these spring student athletes would receive an additional year of eligibility. At Lehigh Athletics, nine undergraduate athletes from four sports took advantage of the extra year and found a strong academic reason to return to the place they love in 2020-21.

“I came back to Lehigh to do my Masters at a great university like Lehigh and to finish my lacrosse career at the same time.”

  • Crew Cintron (men’s lacrosse)
  • Working Towards: Masters Degree in Technical Entrepreneurship

“The chance to play again and to continue my education has withdrawn me for another year.”

  • Sondra Dickey (women’s lacrosse)
  • Working Towards: Masters Degree in Management

“It was the culmination of a lot of things that eventually brought me back to Lehigh, but it was mostly about having another chance to play with the guys.”

  • Andrew Eichelberger (men’s lacrosse)
  • Working Towards: Masters Degree in Technical Entrepreneurship

“I had planned to come back for a master’s degree before the COVID-19 outbreak, and now I’m excited to be playing lacrosse again.”

  • Conor Gaffney (Men’s Lacrosse)
  • Working Towards: Masters Degree in Management Science and Engineering

“I was fortunate enough to receive the Presidential Scholarship, which gives me a valuable opportunity to continue my education and get a useful degree.”

  • Jeffrey Kirshenbaum (cross-country skiing / athletics men)
  • On the way to: Master in Applied Economics

“After being granted another year of eligibility, I decided to look into the idea of ​​returning to Lehigh for a fifth year. I qualified for the President’s Scholar program, which made the idea even more appealing. When I researched the various programs “I was beginning to realize that this would be a great opportunity for me to continue my education and play lacrosse for another year.”

  • Alexandra Ladda (women’s lacrosse)
  • Working Towards: Masters Degree in Technical Entrepreneurship

“I came back to Lehigh to play the sport I love for another year. COVID-19 has proven to be a challenge, but every challenge presents an opportunity and I plan to use that and go to that with my boys Field to go. ” again.”

  • Christian McHugh (Men’s Lacrosse)
  • Working towards: Masters in Technical Entrepreneurship

Before the spring season was canceled, I thought about whether I might be able to do another master’s degree (with thanks to the President’s Scholar Program), but I wasn’t sure yet. Given the complications of COVID-19, it was a breeze for me to return one last time as I was granted another year of eligibility.

  • Owen Quinn (Men’s Golf)
  • Working towards: Masters in Technical Entrepreneurship

“I returned to Lehigh because I really loved the people and the experiences I had here while studying. When I realized I had another year of athletic aptitude, I couldn’t imagine my career to end elsewhere. “

  • Fall Ryan (Women’s Lacrosse)
  • Working Towards: Masters Degree in Technical Entrepreneurship

The consistent theme behind all nine returnees in four sports is one thing …

Lehigh is a special place.

“Lehigh encourages you to do your best, drives you to new heights, and supports you when you fail,” said Ladda. “My professors, coaches, teammates and friends have brought out the best in me and helped me learn lifelong lessons that I will take with me wherever I go. Lehigh offers a challenging and competitive environment combined with a supportive network that will help prepare you for the next stage in your life. “

The next stage for all nine now includes the master’s degree, some of which had planned this anyway and some of which, due to the events in spring, chose this path.

“Lehigh has been such a special place to me for the past four years,” said Quinn. “I’ve made some great friendships and connections that I really appreciate. When my four years ended, I wasn’t ready to move on.

“Having another year as a Lehigh student athlete means the world to me,” he continued. “I never expected to play a fifth year at Lehigh so I hope the last season has been a blessing. A lot of my friends joked that I would never leave Lehigh at games because of my school spirit.” . And now that I’m back in the fifth year, you might be right. “

For all nine, this year will be a stepping stone to future success and turn the difficult situation surrounding the pandemic into a positive one – an opportunity for further training and growth.

“My ultimate goal is to be accepted into a doctoral degree in economics,” said Kirshenbaum. “Lehigh’s MS program in Applied Economics seemed like the perfect next step in improving my preparation. Plus, I’ve built such strong relationships here that the decision to spend another year with everyone is a given.”

Kirshenbaum is a cross-country and athletics student who won’t be able to compete until the spring (since outdoor athletics was his only pandemic-hit season).
Jeffrey Kirschenbaum

A three-time academic All-American, Gaffney was expecting all along to return to Lehigh to graduate school. But one thing brought him back to the men’s lacrosse team.

“The friends and teammates and how close we are,” he said.

Gaffney has come to appreciate the time he has spent with others, be it with his family or his Lehigh Athletics family.

“I learned to value time with friends and family during the pandemic,” he said. “I’ve been with my family for an extended period of time that I probably wouldn’t have had at this point in time or in the future as I continue my career and they live in Denver.”

The lessons of the pandemic for everyone have been endless.

“What I’ve learned the most is how quickly everything can change in such a short time,” said Eichelberger. “Last spring, we switched from preparing a game to ending the season within a few days. Crazy changes have continued to take place across the country as we continue to learn about COVID-19.

“I’m just trying to control the things that I can control.”

What these student-athletes can control is their own growth and development, with the hope that these challenging times will improve them in the long run.

“I’ve learned how important it is to be flexible and to be able to adapt to new situations,” said Ladda. “While this reality may not be exactly what I imagined, I’ve also learned to be open-minded. I’m constantly reminded to be grateful for all I have.”

These nine returnees are different people from different backgrounds, but they all have one thing.

Lehigh, especially the people who make Lehigh the special place it is.

“COVID-19 has increased my appreciation for the great people in my life, as well as for running and exercising,” said Kirshenbaum. “When socialization was restricted, it has served me in all of the extraordinary relationships I have built at Lehigh. Also, taking a break from competition has helped me return to my running roots and allowed me to rediscover a deep love for running . “
Andrew Eichelberger

The student athletes understand that even though they’re back on campus, nothing is guaranteed, not even running. The fall sport has been canceled in the Patriot League (and several other conferences around the country) in hopes of potentially competing in the spring.

“It means a lot to me to come back here and be a student athlete,” said Eichelberger. “I just hope we can continue to learn more about COVID-19 so we can have a season this spring.”

These student-athletes, and everyone at Lehigh Athletics, don’t take a single day for granted. They can move forward with optimism because of the environment they are in in a place they love.

“Lehigh is such a special place because of the people,” Quinn said. “The bonds and friendships I built were key to my college experience. My fellow student athletes and everyone within the department have been so supportive and always cheering for me.

“By playing an individual sport, Lehigh and the Lehigh Athletics Department have given me the opportunity to be part of something much bigger than myself.”

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