An Opportunity To Do Something Cool
By Heather Finn
Carter Arey’s journey to Team USA began when he snuck into the University of Missouri student recreation complex to play pickup basketball. At the time, he wasn’t a student, and he certainly wasn’t a wheelchair basketball player.
“I ended up getting spotted by the head coach of the University of Missouri wheelchair basketball program,” Arey says. “He saw my prosthetic leg and told me I was eligible … Two days after that, I came back in and sat in the sport wheelchair and gave it a go.”
Fast-forward just four years, and Arey is coming up on his final year as a Mizzou wheelchair basketball player and working on a degree in sports management. His playing has improved greatly since that first day in the chair — in fact, just last month, Arey traveled to South Korea to compete in the 2014 Incheon World Wheelchair Basketball Championship with the U.S. National Team.
“The first day I started playing this sport, I didn’t just think, ‘I’m going to have fun with this sport and test it out,’ ” Arey says. “It was more like, ‘I’m seeing this as a complete opportunity to do something cool with my life.’ I transformed everything about me.”
Arey was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, a birth defect that results in a shortened femur, and has been wearing a prosthetic leg since he was 4 years old. Yet he played basketball for the Rock Bridge Bruins throughout his high school career. Wheelchair basketball wasn’t even on his radar as a kid, but today, 24-year-old Arey works to bring attention to the sport.
“I hold a very unique and cool perspective in that I came from a very highly competitive able-bodied sport background,” Arey says. “Now I’m in this sport, and it just needs to be known more. I’ve taken it upon myself to see that as my role within the sport: take this sport as far as possible, and raise awareness about it.”
Learn more about the Mizzou wheelchair basketball program at www.mizzourec.com/programs/sports-competition/mwb.
LINDSEY MARTIN & TOMMY SKOSKY
Track & Field
By Heather Finn
Blazing a trail is exhilarating, and Lindsey Martin and Tommy Skosky of Columbia College know the feeling. After taking part in back-to-back cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track seasons during the 2013-14 season, Martin and Skosky became the first two Cougars to represent their school at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Outdoor Track & Field National Championships.
“It was great,” Martin says. “To be at nationals with just me and Tommy was a little different than having our whole team around, but it was still really exciting and I had a lot of support.”
Martin is also the first Columbia College athlete to be named an All-American three times in one year — for cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track — as a top-tier national qualifier in each season.
So what did it take to become such trailblazers? According to Skosky, the primary requirements were time and effort. “[Getting to nationals] took a lot of hard work and a lot of miles,” the 19-year-old says. “I ran every day over the summer, and when I got to college, I trained throughout all three seasons.”
Between athletics and academics, the two don’t get much down time. “Most of my time is spent either running or studying,” says 21-year-old Martin, who also volunteers with Special Olympics. “I don’t know the last time I said I was bored. Maybe in the middle of a 12-mile run.”
The hectic schedules paid off, however. Martin was recognized for her academic efforts with the NAIA Scholar-Athlete Award, and Skosky landed a spot on the Academic All-American Midwest Conference Team.
It doesn’t stop here. Martin — who ran her first 5K (a run that spans a bit more than 3 miles) at 11 years old — hopes to land a “top five” spot at cross-country nationals and win the 5K event at both outdoor and indoor nationals next year. Skosky, who originally tried out for his middle school cross-country team to stay in shape for soccer, hopes to continue qualifying for and competing in nationals every season, and maybe even win the 5K event.
Martin credits her coach for the team’s — and her — success. “I’ve come a really long way since high school,” Martin says. “I think a lot of that goes to show how incredible my coach, Tim Cornell, is. I have run three minutes faster in the 5K than I did in high school … I’m training really smart, and I think that’s a huge testament to his ability as a coach. It’s been incredible to see the progress that everyone on our team has made.”
Get to know the Columbia Cross Country program at www.columbiacougars.com.
Achieving The Unexpected
By John Scarpinato
Beth Shepard, residency coordinator at University Hospital, has been active her entire life, but it wasn’t until she moved to Columbia that she found the support she needed to achieve goals she never thought she could obtain.
“I was sort of like a wolf pack of one,” Shepard says. “I was pretty content and then one of my friends asked me to join her at this run group called Couch to 3.1.”
The group is designed to embrace people who may need motivation to start running while teaching them the tools they need to live a healthier lifestyle. Shepard didn’t exactly fit in as the traditional newbie. She had been running in triathlons prior to joining, but after one visit she was hooked. She returned to the running group every week.
“The people were so kind and so inviting and I became really involved with Ultramax Sports,” Shepard says. “I just feel like I found the benefits of supporting your fellow runner and cyclist versus just going out and slugging by yourself.”
Currently, 40-year-old Shepard serves the group as a coach leading the group on their runs. “It’s amazing how a group can support you,” Shepard says. “Your mind can talk you out of a lot of things, whether it’s running, applying for new jobs or even cleaning your house, but if you know that you have a group that’s there and you are accountable to, that’s good motivation.”
It was that group motivation that drove Shepard to sign up for an Ironman race last year. “I had these two friends who were turning 40 last year and it was on their bucket list to do an Ironman,” Shepard says. “I refused to sign up, but agreed to train with them all summer.”
The trio trained side by side and eventually convinced Shepard to sign up two weeks before the race. “I never thought I would do an Ironman, ever, but on that day we showed up and we did it,” Shepard says. “Our group of three made it a point to stay together the entire day. That’s what got us through that race.”
Visit www.ultramaxsports.com/train to join a running group and kick-start your training.
Inspiring Columbia’s Youth
By John Scarpinato
David Johnson’s roots are in Columbia, so when he was asked to come back and coach his alma mater’s basketball team, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. Johnson’s road back Hickman High School has followed a twisting path to get where he is today.
“After I graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, I played five years of pro basketball in Australia and did some basketball development officer work,” Johnson says. “I got to meet some wonderful people, play in a nice town and win a national championship. I wouldn’t change that experience for the world. It taught me how to adapt to different cultures.”
Once Johnson returned to the United States in 1990, he bounced around between different coaching positions around the country, including Brainerd Community College and his first stint at Hickman in 1993, and served as athletic director at a Division II college in Virginia. It wasn’t until 1996 that Johnson returned to Columbia for good.
Today, Johnson not only gives his time to his Hickman team, but also to the Columbia community. “It means everything to me to give back to the community,” Johnson says. “I want to be a role model for kids because I had people who helped, guided, supported and gave me direction when I was down.”
As president of the Midwest Sports Academy, 52-year-old Johnson provides children of all ages with basketball opportunities. “We teach them the game and the fundamentals of basketball, but more importantly just to enjoy life and have fun with what they’re doing while getting some exercise and doing something that is positive and productive,” Johnson says.
This past year, Johnson led the Hickman boys basketball team to the state championship game. Although the outcome was not in the Kewpies’ favor, Johnson is optimistic for next year.
“We’ve got Jimmy Whitt back, who was the best player in the state of Missouri,” Johnson says. “We do have a very young cast of guys who have not played at the varsity level, but they are promising in regard to their talent and skills.”
Check out the Hickman boys basketball schedule at www.kewpieathletics.com.
A Natural Connection
By Alex Leininger
Loxley Keala traveled 6,000 miles to find a little bit of home in the Show-Me State. The 19-year-old Hawaiian, a setter for the University of Missouri volleyball team, had been a top recruit since her freshman year in high school. Keala knew competitive volleyball at the collegiate level was on the horizon, but knowing which college court to covet was a different story.
“I was being recruited my freshman year, and I really had no idea that MU even existed,” Keala says. “Coming from Hawaii, we’re only familiar with schools on the West Coast and some of the big ones on the East, but after I visited my sophomore year I fell in love and decided to come to MU.”
Like many college freshmen, Keala anticipated a new experience in a new locale. Little did she know she wasn’t the only Hawaiian moving north to Columbia. Carly Kan, her longtime sports rival and friend from Hawaii, had also committed to play at MU in the fall.
“I wanted to go to a school that not many Hawaiian kids were going to,” Keala says. “We had no idea that we were both looking at the same school, and when I found out she was committing at the same time I was, I realized how great we would be for each other and the program.”
Sharing a “Hawaii connection” and a formidable years-long rivalry with one another, both players quickly realized the advantages of their history on opposite sides of the court. They seem to know exactly what the other player is going to do before they do it, and Keala says that is especially important for their setter-hitter relationship.
“For us, the connection was natural,” Keala says. “Freshman year was the best year of my life by far, because I got to come into such a successful program. Volleyball affects everything I do, and since we were winning, it was so easy for me to do well in school and to do well socially.”
A Whole New Level
By Alex Leininger
Youthful distaste for the sport she now loves gave Carly Kan a greater appreciation for the activity that now takes up a majority of her time.
“I started playing volleyball when I was 6 years old, I think, and I actually didn’t like it very much,” says the 19-year-old hitter on the University of Missouri volleyball team. “But at some point in time it all changed, and I absolutely love volleyball now.”
Like her teammate, Loxley Keala, Kan hails from Honolulu, and her decision to come to the mainland revolved around potential time on the court.
As top recruits, the two carried high expectations for the program in their freshman year. Kan looked forward to anything she could bring to MU’s star-studded program in a season that saw the team win Mizzou’s first Southeastern Conference championship as it went 35-1, falling to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I got to start this year, which was really huge for me, because I honestly just wanted to get some playing time,” Kan says. “It was a bigger role than I expected, and I was just excited to get on the court.” Freshman starters don’t have much time to make freshman mistakes, she says, but Kan concedes that she still made some of them.
“I think that I really had to grow up pretty fast,” she says. “College is a whole new level, and I really had to learn how to adapt to the fast-paced nature of the game.”
According to Kan, Hawaiian players are often shorter and scrappier than mainland players. The emphasis is on defense, which helped Kan in her transition to college games. Another asset, of course, was the familiar face beside her on the freshman roster all year.
Kan and Keala quickly bonded throughout their first year at college, despite being on-court rivals all through high school. “When we got here, we actually weren’t very close, but after getting here we became really great friends,” Kan says. “We got so close this past freshman year, and it was like ‘How did we not know each other before?’ ”
Visit www.mutigers.com to view the upcoming women’s volleyball schedule.
A Good Sport Comes Home
Kim Anderson made his mark at Mizzou as an athlete in the 1970s. His former athletics director describes Anderson’s trip back to Columbia.
By Ray Speckman
Kim Anderson’s ascent to the University of Missouri’s head coaching position began its circuitous route when legendary basketball coach Norm Stewart retired at season’s end in 1999. Anderson, who played for Stewart’s Mizzou team from 1973 to 1977, and served as an assistant coach for Stewart in the early ’80s, was on the short list of possible Stewart replacements, but Mizzou Athletics Director Mike Alden had his sights set on a young up-and-comer from Duke: Quin Snyder.
Eventually, after Snyder took the job as the new Mizzou men’s basketball coach, Anderson landed a job with the Big 12 conference, living in Dallas and heading up basketball operations.
Enter University of Central Missouri and its athletic director, Jerry Hughes.
“It was in 2002, and I had gotten rid of our basketball coach,” Hughes says. “One of the college’s board members was a good friend of both Norm and Kim. Of course, I knew them also.” Hughes targeted Anderson as the new UCM Mules coach.
“We went to the Big 12 conference basketball tournament in Kansas City and talked with Kim,” Hughes says. “Eventually we talked again at the Perkins restaurant in Lee’s Summit about Kim returning to Missouri and becoming the coach at UCM. Kim was making a good salary with the Big 12. We put together a financial package that rivaled his compensation with the Big 12 and made an offer.
Hughes said the move to Warrensburg was like coming home for Anderson and his wife, Melissa, who were both Missouri natives. “UCM became better for their return,” he says. “[Anderson] has won more games than any other coach in school history, and won the Division II championship this year. More than winning, he is a leader of the highest character.”
When Mizzou’s basketball coach, Frank Haith, bolted for the University of Tulsa on April 18, “the stars began to align for Kim,” Hughes says.
“On the 19th of April, Kim told me he had been contacted by Collegiate Sports Associates Executive Search and Consulting, who had been retained by Missouri to assist in identifying candidates for Mizzou basketball,” Hughes recalls. “He said he thought he had a good shot. It was his dream job.”
On April 23, Hughes got the call he was both hoping for and dreading. “Mike Alden called me,” he says. “He told me he wanted to proceed with talking with Kim about the Mizzou job. Of course, I said yes. I didn’t want to lose Kim but this was a fantastic opportunity.”
The University of Missouri Board of Curators met on April 28 and approved Anderson’s hiring.
“Kim called me,” Hughes says. “It was a bittersweet moment. During his 12 years as coach of the Mules, Kim had two tempting offers from Kelvin Sampson, first when Sampson was coach of Oklahoma and later when Sampson moved to become head coach of Indiana. Both times Kim decided to stay in Warrensburg.
“Finally what he wanted — and where he belongs — came to pass.”