Blugolds up seven spots in Director’s Cup moving into spring schedule

Story by Zack Katz, Copy Editor

Despite finishing the winter in a lackluster fashion, UW-Eau Claire shocked Div. III athletics with their successful performance in last season’s Director’s Cup — a trend the Blugolds hope to build on in their spring season, now well underway.

The Director’s cup, a cumulative review tallying the performances of Div. III athletic programs nationwide, ranks schools based on NCAA performance using a point scale.

Boosting their total points to 482.5 since the Fall’s 192.5, the Blugolds found themselves up seven places to tenth in the nation in the Winter Cup standings since finishing at an already impressive 17th place last Fall.

Now only second to UW-Whitewater in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Eau Claire sits at the front of the pack in the Midwest rankings.

Eau Claire’s competitive standing is due largely in part to the breakthrough success of programs such as the national champion Men’s Hockey team — whose 100 points accounted for over a fifth of the entire university’s total score.

Men’s hockey Head Coach Matt Loen considers his team’s performance in the winter a healthy dose of momentum for those participating in spring sports.

“I think winning the title means a lot for the city of Eau Claire … not only for the university but also the community,” Loen said. “As far as the university goes, I hope they recognize the historical precedent we set.”

As the spring season progresses, director of athletics Scott Kilgallon said the Blugolds’ success will be incumbent on coaches’ reinforcement of factors outside of athletic performance, such as academics and character — goals the student athletes will need to continue to strive for.

“Although it’s always nice to see the standings I think the one thing we try to do fundamentally is build a clean program where our students do well in the classroom,” Kilgallon said. “We have a very good staff here … knowing that the coaches are looking out for the student athletes I think the rest falls in line on its own.”

Freshman swimmer and Winter Cup contributor Sydney Fairbrother said becoming adjusted to her team’s dynamic meant a focus on her academics before anything else.

“Obviously being a freshman I didn’t fully know my coach,” Fairbrother said. “From what I saw this season, we did well … honestly I think it had something to do with him checking on us outside of the pool.”

In terms of what to expect for the spring season, Kilgallon said fans of Blugold athletics should have high hopes — given the pace set by winter sports and historical indications, he estimates Eau Claire will place anywhere from fifth to tenth in the nation.

“When I was standing in the tunnel at the championship hockey game this winter one of the players asked me if I was nervous … I told him ‘only because I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked,’” Kilgallon said. “Whether it be a conference championship or a personal best performance you hope for a great experience for your athletes.”