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More than ‘going pro’

It’s easier to follow the big-time college sports, mainly football and basketball, and the major schools.

When it comes to college sports, what comes to mind is March Madness, bowl games, 80,000 fans at Lane Stadium as ESPN televises Miami vs. Virginia Tech in primetime. It’s simple to follow the scores and highlights day-to-day for Kentucky basketball compared to a Div. III school or a sport out of the big lights.

Think of the NCAA “we’re going pro in something other than sports” commercials throughout all the March basketball. Not only are most of the college student-athletes not going pro in their given sport, most know “going pro” isn’t even a possibility in their sport before they start as freshmen.

Ever heard of professional field hockey, or professional crew? Even for sports, take softball and lacrosse, which are televised and popularized more and more given the likes of ESPNU and more media outlets, the pro leagues are either fledgling or on the edge of existence.

If there is a pro softball team in need of a big bat starting in the 2012 season, it’s hard to imagine a better draft choice than Nansemond River alum Charae Rice, at least judging by the crazy numbers she has at Benedict College this spring.

Benedict’s a small school in Columbia, S.C. Rice, a junior, leads NCAA Division II in batting average at .545 through 40 games this season and she’s among the best in the nation with a .604 on-base percentage. Rice is leading the nation in doubles and close to it in triples and homers.

Kyle Jett, a senior at Hampden-Sydney, was an outstanding athlete, in football, basketball and lacrosse, for Nansemond-Suffolk. Rewriting the lacrosse record books at Hampden-Sydney, a school with a long and proud lacrosse tradition, is a level probably only Jett himself would’ve guessed though.

With hopefully a few more games, including NCAA Tournament games, left in his HSC career, Jett has the single-season record for points by a midfielder and is second all-time in the program’s history in career points by a midfielder.

Then there are lofty achievements aside from the playing field. Two elite examples are Lakeland’s Kelsey Cutchins and Nansemond-Suffolk’s Joe DiRenzo IV.

Cutchins, a senior at James Madison, is a two-time All-American, not only in that she’s been an All-American goalkeeper for JMU’s field hockey team twice, but she’s also an All-American academic award winner by multiple organizations. Earlier this month, she was named JMU’s Female Scholar Athlete of the Year for the second straight school year. Not only do her academic accomplishments come while excelling for JMU’s field hockey program, but also while being on the U.S. under-21 national team for much of her JMU career.

DiRenzo never competed in crew and hardly knew what it was before going from NSA to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy four years ago.

Along with the time and energy put into excelling in a brand new sport, and crew dictates nothing but tons of energy and work, DiRenzo has earned a Fulbright Scholarship for his studies in Mechanical Engineering and for a Master’s in Renewable Energy Science.

During his junior year, worked to bring a renewable energy system to a Haitian orphanage that previously relied on a struggling generator. During his Master’s studies, DiRenzo will be working on bringing hydrogen fuel cells to power some systems on Coast Guard vessels.

And as for his new sport, DiRenzo is on the eight-man first varsity boat for the USCGA this spring.