The Simpsonian

Storm seniors reflect on collegiate experience

Photo%3A+Austin+Hronich%2FThe+Simpsonian
Photo: Austin Hronich/The Simpsonian

Photo: Austin Hronich/The Simpsonian

Photo: Austin Hronich/The Simpsonian

by Megan Frank, Special to The Simpsonian

All good things must come to an end. Athletes know this better than most. This fact hits home especially to the seniors — the ones who have dedicated their lives to their sport.

Coming into each season, teams tend to set goals for where they want to finish at the end. These aspirations give athletes something to look forward to, but that unfortunately means they are looking forward to the end. Although they may have experienced their sport come to an end in high school, hanging it up for Simpson comes with its own struggles.

“I think this one definitely came with its own challenges,” said soccer player Garrett Pochop. “Now it’s to the point where you don’t really have any other games to look forward to, so it’s definitely a different mentality now after finishing up the college career.”

Looking at the accolades Pochop racked up in his four year at Simpson, his mark left on the soccer program is clear. Some of his most notable awards include two-time IIAC offensive MVP, Academic All-America of the Year, two-time All-Region and three-time All-IIAC performer. He also set new records for most goals in a season and in a career.

Pochop’s career ended in the semifinals of the conference tournament this season when the team traveled to Dubuque to play Loras and dropped the contest by a final score of 3-0.

“Going into the game, you have to stay mentally strong and expect to win and continue playing, but you also have to be realistic and understand that there are both sides to it,” Pochop said. “I think once the final whistle blew, that’s when the emotions started to sink in that this is more than likely the last time I’ll get to step on the field in my collegiate career.”

This is a common reaction from seniors in their final game, but does not apply in every case. Maddie Simmons was a dual-sport athlete participating in both soccer and basketball while at Simpson, and the end of her soccer season wasn’t as hard.

“With soccer, we knew our last few games were going to be our last games, so it was easier to prepare for,” Simmons said. “But with basketball we were playing in the tournament, so it wasn’t as clear-cut.”

Simmons is not the only senior dual sport athlete. Courtney Neuendorf participated in both cross country and track and field.

“It was much easier ending my cross country career, because I knew that I would still be running track,” Neuendorf said. “For me, it wasn’t really a sad time, but more of a motivating time, because I knew track would be the last time I’d be competing for Simpson.”

While Neuendorf’s athletic career may not be done at Simpson, other seniors refuse to let the end of their season be the end. Football players Jackson Redmond and Braden Meints have been participating in pro days and league tryouts hoping to take their talents to the next level.

“My lifelong dream has been to play professional football,” Meints said. “I just want to finally be paid to do what I love.”

Meints experienced many highs and lows in his football career. When his high school career ended, it didn’t hit him as hard because he knew he was going to be able to play for four more years. He saw improvement made throughout the program at Simpson, and that made it that much harder to leave.

“Knowing that we made some pretty big strides for the program and changing the culture thanks to our coaches, and they really got us to buy in,” Meints said. “It kinda sucks to think about hanging the cleats up for Simpson. The biggest thing I’m worried about is whether the classes below us can carry it on and make it that much better.”

As their time as a competitive athlete winds down, it’s important to remember why they started and what kept them going. Many seniors aspire to coach someday to help others fall in love with the same sport they did.

Most sports are able to be played leisurely in adulthood, but as most seniors agree, there is a special place in their heart for the competitiveness they’re unable to get back when they leave Simpson.

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