The Westminster College women's basketball team has earned the rank of second in the nation on the academic honor roll compiled annually by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).
The Lady Blue Jays achieved a 3.662 combined grade point average – the second highest GPA for any NCAA Division III women's basketball team in the country – for the 2015-16 school year. The top team on the academic honor roll in Division III, the University of Dubuque, finished the season with a team GPA of 3.685.
"I am really proud of this group of young women. They have set a standard for academic success, as well as athletic success," said Blue Jays Coach Tracey Braden. "The focus and commitment to academic achievement was a priority to each member of this team, and they assisted each other and held each other accountable throughout the year."
The 2016 ranking is the fifth consecutive year the Lady Blue Jays team has placed in the top 20, and the sixth year receiving the award. The team placed first in the nation for the 2013-14 season.
"We are a competitive bunch, both on the court and in the classroom, so we want to win," senior team captain Kasey Gatson said. "Everyone set individual GPA goals and we had weekly study halls. The accountability and support system we created was crucial to keeping the team on board from preseason through May."
The WBCA calculates team GPA including all student-athletes on a team's roster.
Sixteen team members contributed to the Westminster women's team, including the following: Mikaela Ruga (Rhineland, MO/Hermann High School), Kasey Gatson (Vandalia, MO/Van-Far), Sadie Theroff (Jefferson City, MO/Jefferson City), River Remis (Columbia, MO/Fr. Tolton), Bailey Mitchell (Fulton, MO/Fulton), Mackenzie Haddox (Washington, MO/St. Francis Borgia), Payton Beeler (Marshall, MO/Marshall), Mirrakohl Johnson (Memphis, TN/Arlington), Payton Gruber (Paris, MO/Paris), Andrea Zalis (Rolla, MO/Rolla), Kelsey Ray (Dixon, MO/Dixon), Krista Armontrout (Centralia, MO/Centralia), Brittany Morris (St. Louis, MO/Webster Groves), Juli Hix (Macks Creek, MO/Macks Creek), Ali Perry (Willard, MO/Willard), and Mary Beth Payne (Bolivar, MO/Bolivar).
In addition to their academic accomplishment, Westminster's Blue Jay women finished their 2015-16 season with a 21-5 overall record and won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
Every year WBCA recognizes the academic top 25 women's basketball teams across the nation in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Divisions I, II and III, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and junior/community colleges.
"The head coaches are to be commended for fostering an environment of excellence for their student-athletes both on the court, and more importantly, in the classroom," says WBCA Executive Director Danielle Donehew.
Founded in 1981, the WBCA promotes women's basketball by unifying coaches at all levels to develop a reputable identity for the sport and to foster and promote the development of the game as a sport for women and girls. More information on the WBCA can be found at WBCA.org.
STORY COURTESY OF WESTMINSTER COLLEGE SPORTS INFORMATION