Riley Harmon ’22
Several Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s athletic teams have achieved impressive victories in their 2019 fall season. The CMS women’s cross country team won their Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) race on Nov. 2. The CMS volleyball team won their SCIAC tournament, sweeping Chapman University 3-0 in the final on Nov. 9. CMS women’s soccer just missed the SCIAC tournament this year, but still won an at-large bid to qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship tournament because of their impressive 10 wins this season. A doubles team comprised of Catherine Allen ’20, a captain of the CMS tennis team, and Justine Leong ’23 from the CMS women’s tennis team won the Division III doubles championship in the Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Cup.
Nearly one third of the athletes competing this fall for those CMS women’s teams attend Scripps. However, some Scripps athletes have expressed frustration with what they say is a lack of recognition and support provided by Scripps to its student-athletes.
Cat Allen, a Scripps senior and captain of the CMS tennis team, recalled her excitement when transferring from another college in the SCIAC conference to Scripps. However, after a while, she began to feel a sense of disappointment familiar to Scripps athletes within CMS sports: “it is very CMC [Claremont McKenna College] oriented,” said Allen.
“No one on the [Scripps] campus really knows what’s going on unless they are friends with athletes,” said Allen.
“It’s just not defined in Scripps culture to be an athlete,” said Juliana Clark ’20, a member of the CMS lacrosse team and the number nine rank in CMS history for career caused turnovers.
This sense of CMC centricity reflects the organizational structure of CMS. In a statement to the Scripps Voice, Scripps President Lara Tiedens said, “CMC serv[es] as the permanent lead college for CMS, which means that CMC designs and directs the athletics programming.”
In a statement to the Scripps Voice, CMS Athletic Director Erica Perkins Jasper said, “I see the CMS ‘jersey’ first – we are one team.”
Anastasia Bryan-Ajania ’20, a captain of the CMS tennis team, recognizes CMC’s lead role in CMS but thinks Scripps can do more from their backseat position to celebrate its athletes. “A first step would be simply spreading awareness on the Scripps campus of when games are happening,” said Bryan-Ajania. “A weekly email should be sent out. It would give non-athletes an opportunity to get together and explore another campus, meet new people, and proudly represent CMS spirit.”
These athletes believe that creating a more supportive athletic culture would be beneficial to “the overall experience of athletes and non-athletes, and even faculty,” said Bryan-Ajania.
The school can advertise sporting events in the student emails and social media platforms throughout the week to encourage the student body and faculty to support us,” suggested Allen. “They can treat and recognize our successes as of equal importance to other Scripps-oriented achievements.”
Athletes have also expressed academic concerns as a result of their team commitments. Abby Johnson ’21, a member of the CMS cross country and track teams who won the SCIAC 1500m championship in 2019, struggles with class scheduling because of practice times conflicting with class times. “The issue that I run into is that my major only offers four or five classes a semester and I’ll find that two or three or four of them happen during practice and I just don’t have another option,” said Johnson.
“In the way Scripps schedules class section it feels like they are pretending there are not athletes at Scripps,” said Johnson.
Allen echoed this experience. “When I’ve talked to advisers in the past and talked about scheduling for my courses and said, ‘oh I am on the tennis team’ they kind of disregard focusing on athletics as a priority even though it is important to us,” she said.
Recognition is important for college athletes, whose position at the varsity college level represents an achievement in itself. “I’ve learned so much … from playing a sport competitively at the collegiate level. It has definitely taught me life lessons and built me as a person.”
“There are skills and experiences that you have from being on a team sport in college that you cannot even compare to what you receive in the classroom,” Bryan-Ajania said.
Scripps athletes have demonstrated leadership, skill and passion within CMS. It remains to be seen whether the Scripps administration will take steps to make its athletes feel like a more central part of the school’s identity.