Oct. 13, 2008
It seems that in the discussion of intercollegiate athletics, the question often arises; what is a student-athlete? Are they first students, then athletes or rather athletes first and students second? What is all too often missing from this discussion is the understanding of the balance between the two.
The University of Tennessee's Athletics Department Mission Statement reads, "We are committed to maintaining a proper balance between participation in athletics and the educational and social life common to all students." Few student-athletes represent this balance better than Tennessee cross-country and track athlete Andrew Press.
From the standpoint of both academics and athletics, Press embodies the complete package. He exemplifies the student that exceeds his responsibilities in the classroom and also excels on the competitive field.
Press, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee and graduate of Webb School, began his career at William & Mary in Virginia before transferring back to Knoxville to compete for the Vols. He admits it took some time to realize the necessity of this balance.
"I was kind of a lackadaisical student in the beginning portion of my career at William & Mary," Press said. "I needed to be strong in general to raise my GPA in order to do what I wanted to do. I've been fairly successful with that I think."
Press' improved GPA is reflective of the effort and general refocusing of his priorities and the goals he has set for himself.
What Press, who is currently majoring in Microbiology, hopes to do when he finishes his career at UT is to become a doctor. "Hopefully with any luck, I'll be accepted into medical school and attending somewhere next fall," he said.
As much success as Press has found within his curriculum, one cannot diminish his athletic achievements. Last year, he was named Most Valuable Runner at the team banquet following the season and was one of four Vol runners to score in all six races of the cross-country season.
Press also led the Vols for the final five races, becoming the first UT runner to do so since All-American Zach Sabatino led the final six races of the 2005 season. He finished fourth overall at the 8K UT Invitational and placed 24th with a time of 31:37 at the 10K NCAA South Regional where he earned All-Region Honors.
In addition to these accomplishments, Press competed both indoors and outdoors during the 2008 track season where his best times were 4:03.41 in the 1500m, 8:30.04 in the 3000m and 14:59 in the indoor 5000m.
By his own account, Press' highest athletic achievement came at the 8K SEC Championship last fall.
"My proudest athletic achievement would probably be the SEC Championship last year in cross-country where I finished 13th," Press said. "That season everyone had written UT off and they had us ranked as low as sixth or seventh in the SEC meet but guys really stepped up."
Press' time of 24:42 at the SEC Championship earned him All-SEC Honors. He will look to improve on that performance in three weeks when the Vols compete in the 2008 SEC Championship.
According to head coach George Watts, Press' success on both sides of the student-athlete spectrum are a result of personal qualities and characteristics which he has sought to develop throughout his time at Tennessee.
"He's dedicated, has good time management, and sets high standards for himself as well as attainable but challenging goals," Watts said. "He thinks things through with preparation and planning. I believe he really enjoys learning in the classroom and training while on the track. That part of the journey is very important to him."
This indeed fits Press' own assessments of his approach.
"It's exciting to learn first of all and second of all, it's a vehicle to get you where you want to be," Press said. "To have a meaningful career, you have to be successful in all areas of life and academics are the stepping stone to getting where you want to be."
He does admit however that it is not always easy to find the balance necessary to remain successful. "Sometimes it means really forcing yourself to buckle down and to make sacrifices sometimes when you really don't want to," Press said.
"Academics and athletics go hand in hand, especially for Andrew," coach Watts continued. "The discipline and time management needed for both can't be underestimated. His preparation for an exam is no different than preparing for a race."
Again, Press agrees.
"With anything in life, to at least be successful you really have to be dedicated and grind away at things," Press said. "It applies to both running and academics. They build on previous experiences so it behooves you to do the best you can in the moment and hopefully that will carry you on, carry you further and higher than you previously thought you where capable of."