Schooling on and off the court

Story by Nick Erickson, Staff Writer

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Sarah Bingea made a lot of noise during the season for the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team, leading the Blugolds in scoring and rebounding.  This offseason, she has continued to make a lot of noise by garnering an array of postseason awards.

Bingea said that she sets very high goals and that it takes a lot more work than outsiders might think.

“A lot of people think it’s just that two hour practice time,” Bingea said.  “But it’s a big commitment and you have to be focused and on a time schedule all of the time to make sure you get everything done.”

Bingea not only won awards that honored her play on the basketball court, but also ones that rewarded her academics and community involvement.  Athletic Director Scott Kilgallon calls her the “total package,” and said that is what he looks for in Blugold athletes.

Kilgallon said that at the NCAA Div. III level where no athletic scholarships are handed out, being well rounded can be difficult to do for a student athlete. But he said that Bingea has done a great job of finding time to be successful in all three areas.

“The time commitment is very, very huge,” Kilgallon said.  “You see Sarah with great grades, great athletic accolades and I’ve seen her interact and see how well she represents us, that’s certainly a lot on the plate.”

Her play on the court led her to an honor she had never received.  She averaged 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while leading the conference in minutes played at 34.8 per game. These statistics were good enough for her to be named to the first ever first-team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors.

“It’s always been a goal of mine and I’ve worked really hard to get there,” she said. “I feel honored to be named amongst all of the great players in our conference.”

Her play also gained her All-Central Region honors, handed out to only 15 players in the Central Region.

But being well-rounded led her to numerous other awards as well, said Kilgallon. The WIAC not only recognized her play on the basketball court, but also her performance in the classroom. She was one of just three conference players to receive Judy Kruckman Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete Award.

She was also named a third-team Academic All-American by Capitol One Sports.  The elementary education major carries over a 3.9 GPA, and her academic advisor Robert Hollon said she carries the same dedication she has on the basketball court to the classroom.

“Sarah is active in classes, sets high personal standards and professional standards for herself,” Hollon said.

But an award that Bingea didn’t win but was nominated for stands out to her.  Bingea was nominated for the Jostens Award, given annually to a player who excels on the court, in the classroom and in the community. She said that she was particularly proud of the community involvement aspect, and Kilgallon said that community service is one of the most important things an athlete can do at Eau Claire.

“To play in sports really is a privilege, not an entitlement,” Kilgallon said. “Our student athletes get that and our coaches do a good job of getting involved.”

Bingea has been involved in a lot of community projects over her college career.  She has worked with the Eau Claire Marathon, Relay for Life, a research program with the Physics department and recess programs at Putnam Parks Elementary School.

The future teacher said she enjoys getting out to work with kids and others in the community and said that it is important to serve as role model for the youth.

“They look up to us and a lot of kids are in sports and it’s something they enjoy doing,” Bingea said. “So to see college kids not only working with kids but other aspects of the community is really important.”

Kilgallon said that he is very prideful of the type of role model all his athletes are, and he said he can tell how much kids look to Bingea by the way they run up to meet her after home games.  He said young kids think that some Blugolds are professional athletes and understanding that like Bingea does  is a powerful trait to have as an athlete.

“Just taking a quick moment to say something to a young kid is so powerful and it can turn them on to maybe going to college, maybe going out for sports,” Kilgallon said.  “It makes their day, and that to me, is really gratifying to see.”

With her playing days over, Bingea will soon write the next chapter in her life.  While she will no longer be schooling anyone on the basketball court, she will do plenty of schooling as an elementary teacher, and she hopes to bring the same things that she learned through her time in both Eau Claire’s athletic and academic programs.

“When you’re committed to a group of people, it’s something that you really have to stay dedicated toward,” she said. “The same goes for teaching. Being committed to your students and the staff and working together to help kids achieve what they can.”

Hollon, who has seen the potential Bingea possesses as a future teacher first hand, said the sky is the limit for her.

“Sarah’s potential as an educator is essentially unlimited,” Hollon said.  “She has the dispositions toward collaboration that will help her grow, succeed and provide leadership wherever she teaches.  There are great things in
her future.”

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