Connecticut College Magazine · Winter 2008


Filmmakers Sean Fine ´96 and his wife Andrea earned an Academy Award nomination for their powerful documentary, but they want audiences to focus on the children of war-torn northern Uganda.

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(More) Bodies in Motion:
Expanded CC: Online Feature

(More) Bodies in Motion: <BR>Expanded CC: Online Feature
Jim Evans ´82 completes the Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon in February 2007.

Our feature "Bodies in Motion" from the print edition of CC: Connecticut College Magazine with additional profiles of Jim Evans ´82, Vanessa Stevenson ´04 and Lori Kessel ´04.

Some Connecticut College athletes hang up their cleats after they receive their diploma. Other alumni make competitive sport part of daily life, hitting their stride after college. But whether at age 25 or 80, these athletes share a passion for their sport, a competitive spirit and a drive that enables them to balance rigorous training schedules with careers and families.

by Tracy Teare ´07

What keeps alumni athletes competitive?

Some Connecticut College athletes hang up their cleats after they receive their diploma. Other alumni make competitive sport part of daily life, hitting their stride after college. Alex Mroszcyzyk-McDonald ´03 got hooked on triathlons a year after graduation. It took others years to find their niche, such as Liz Stone ´49, who discovered rowing at age 65, Jim Evans ´82, who began running marathons at 46, and Lori Kessel ´04, who set five school track records between the ages of 37 and 39. But whether at age 25 or 80, these athletes share a passion for their sport, a competitive spirit and a drive that enables them to balance rigorous training schedules with careers and families.

What do they get in return? Olympic highlights, American records, and Pan Am Games golds for runner Jan Merrill Morin ´79; a world championship for Ironman Mroszcyzyk-McDonald ´03, world titles for skier Doug Tulin ´83, and Connecticut College Athletic Hall of Fame status for Stone, to name a few. But it´s not all about winning. “Winning brings a huge adrenaline rush that lasts for a couple of days,” says Tulin. “But when that´s gone, you know you still have work to do.” Work, plus reaping the intangibles — the simple joy of your body in motion, the friendships made, the challenge of linking body and mind, and the confidence, discipline, and self-discoveries that extend into all areas of these athletes´ lives.

“Let´s just say I´m a dopamine junkie.”--Alex Mroszcyzyk-McDonald ´03, 2007 World Ironman Amateur Champion, Hawaii, 2007

Good thing, considering the grueling nature of long-course triathlon, a nine-plus hour event that includes swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112, and running a 26.2 mile marathon. “Ironman races really involve four events, because of the mental game of mind versus body,” points out Mroszcyzyk-McDonald, who thrives on the variety of training. “I get bored if I do one thing. Covering three events is natural cross-training, so there´s a delicate balance, and it´s much more interesting than just running 100 miles a week.”

Triathletes tend to excel at one of the sport´s three legs. Mroszcyzyk-McDonald, on the other hand, says he´s equal to all, amazing at none. He credits his comfort in the water to the four years he spent playing varsity water polo—a team he started--at Connecticut College. “At the start of an Ironman, there are 2,000 athletes trying to swim in the same place,” he explains. “It can be rough, just like water polo was.”

Turbulence seems to suit Mroszcyzyk-McDonald, who fits up to 25 hours a week of training into a demanding medical school schedule. “Studies and work always come first, but the balance has been hairy at times,” acknowledges the fourth-year University of Vermont Medical School student. Like when 12-hour hospital shifts expanded to 30 hours every fourth day. “I was pushing the limits, and sometimes training just had to fall to the back burner.” Then again, training is a useful outlet, too. “There have been times when I was stressed and biking or running was the perfect way to clear my head so I could to hit the books.”

An all-or-nothing guy, Mroszcyzyk-McDonald will defer his residency to train, coach and compete as a pro. “As a pro, there will be more pressure to race well, but it will motivate me to push to the next level,” he predicts. Eventually, he´ll use his degree to work with college athletes.

Home base will be determined by his wife and med school classmate, Ashley Zucker ´03 who is awaiting word on her child psychiatry residency. The two celebrated a fairy tale wedding on a beach in Hawaii just a few days after his Ironman win.

The 5 a.m. alarm that signals a two-hour run or a three-hour bike ride isn´t always welcome. “Then I think, hey, my competition is out there right now,” says Mroszcyzyk-McDonald. “Good athletes train when they want to. Great athletes train when they don´t.”

“I love the freedom on the snow in my chosen environment – it´s the best office in the world.” –Doug Tulin, ´83, 4-time world synchro ski champ, 2005 New England Powder 8 Champion

Tulin´s eagerness to unleash himself from his computer and float through some rare New England powder comes across loud and clear, even via e-mail. It´s easy to see why he ditched advertising, then law, when part-time skiing wasn´t enough. A skier since age 3, Tulin--a.k.a. Doc--gave in to the lure of the slopes and worked as a ski school trainer to pay the bills while he skied and competed in powder 8 and demo team skiing. He now runs his solo marketing practice in Vermont, near his home mountain, Okemo. It´s a fulltime job, but as the boss, he can fit in the two to three hours of training he needs to stay competitive.

Tulin´s brand of skiing involves more than beating the clock. In Powder 8s, you ski in synch with a teammate, attempting to leave perfectly-shaped turn marks in your wake. In demo events, teams of eight ski in formation to music and over jumps in a 30-second pass down the course. The teamwork, the bonds formed by skiing with a teammate for more than 10 years, the speed, and precision all get Tulin´s adrenaline flowing. Is it worth constant training, inevitable crashes and blown out knee? “Hell yes, I´m a lifer!”

”I´m still a competitive person but I´ve made my mark. Now my goal is to have fun.”—J an Merrill Morin ´79, a 12-time national champion runner, two-time Pan Am Games gold medalist, world-record holder, Olympian

What´s left to shoot for once you´re the best in the country and the world? Plenty for Jan Morrill Morin, who races on at age 51, decades after achievements such as setting an American record in the 1500 meters at the 1976 Olympics and a second place finish in the 1981 World Cross Country Championships.

“It was an honor and a dream come true to be an Olympian, and be a part of the pageantry of the opening ceremonies,” she says. But racing now and then are worlds apart. “When I started winning national titles and went to the Olympics, the pressure was different – suddenly everyone was aiming at me.” Morin thrived on this, but relishes the fact that now she competes without that burden. “Now that I have nothing to prove, I want to stay healthy and have fun,” she says. “It´s something for me to pursue for myself, outside of my work,” explains Morin, who helped coach the cross country and track at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for 14 years and at Waterford High School for 19 before becoming assistant coach of the women´s running teams at Rutgers University last year.

Training and competing also give her a leg up with her young athletes. “I still get nervous and going through that helps me help my runners handle it.” She also uses the opportunity to experiment with different training techniques and applies what works on the Rutgers track.

She may log fewer miles now, but Morin´s passion for running endures. Instead of 14 intense sessions, she checks off 40 to 50 miles per week, with one session at high-intensity.

Racing once demanded an intense focus on form, strategy, visualization—and blocking out her opponents. Now Morin enjoys easy banter with her competitors. “Last summer at the Masters, my husband Jeff gave me one simple strategy. It worked, and I was elated to share the victory with him,” she says of her 2007 Masters victory in the 5000 meters.

“I don´t live to run, but I love to check off my workouts. I get depressed when I have no training goals.”—Jim Evans, ´82, began running marathons at 46.

Imagine what Evans could accomplish if you turned back the clock and gave him sound legs. He played intramural sports as a Camel and got into competitive road cycling in 1993 on a whim. Then in 2006--having run 25 miles total over the last ten years--he took a dare from his wife and daughter, and signed up for the Disney marathon. With one week before the race and two injuries already under this belt, he discovered stress fractures in both shins. Undeterred, he recovered and prepared to meet the Mouse in 2007, this time aiming for a sub-four hour run. He threw in the Marine Corps marathon in October as a warm-up and missed his time by two minutes there, then by one in Orlando. The next month he returned to Fort Lauderdale, where he met his goal with a time of 3:43.

Running helps Evans function on less sleep and stay alert at work, and it´s introduced him to all kinds of new experiences. Such as a 60-mile team trail relay race called Dances with Dirt. “Picture Lord of the Flies meets Marathon Man,” says Evans. “We finished with two sprained ankles and down a pint of blood, but it was a blast. I´m signed up again.”

“Up, down, or flat, running is just plain hard,” says Evans. “But when you have to keep it together for four hours, even when you feel like a creature out of Night of the Living Dead, you know you really did something.”

“I had no idea I was a competitive person when I started rowing.”
--Liz Stone ´49, masters world champion rower

At age 80, Liz Stone is the best kind of proof that it´s never too late to find the athlete within you. When she retired after 45 years as a cardio-pulmonary specialist, she signed up for rowing lessons at the Open Water Rowing Center in Sausalito. “I started going once a week, and I could see that if I wanted to be proficient I had to go more,” explains Stone, then 65. Two sessions a week turned into three, and “then I didn´t have time for anything else.”

“Rowing looks beautiful, and it´s technically demanding. And the changing tides, winds and scenery always keep it interesting,” says Stone. And while it´s worth the 80-mile round trip from her home in Palo Alto, simply to row along side a seal in San Francisco Bay, Stone got hooked on the thrill and satisfaction of racing at age 69, when she won her first race. “Competition gives a measure of my progress, a focus for conditioning and a connection to people in my sport,” says Stone. “I´ve met folks of all ages and gotten so much feedback at big events. Young racers and college women come up and compliment me, and that is so rewarding.”

Of her many achievements, she holds dearest two golds from the Head of the Charles Regatta, a gold at the World Indoor Championships and her induction into the Connecticut College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. “I was overwhelmed,” says Stone on this last honor. “There I was on the wall with Anita DeFrantz ´74 and two other Olympic rowers!”

She´s not done yet, however. Stone continues to hone her technique, soaking up knowledge from coaches, including Connecticut College´s men´s rowing coach Ric Ricci. It´s paying off. Last year, on her 13th appearance at the Head of the Charles, Stone knocked two minutes off her time as the oldest competitor there.

“When you go into the ring and your horse is on and you nail it, there´s no better feeling.”--Vanessa Stevenson ´04, top-flight show jump rider

A love of horses and the intensity of competition has kept Stevenson in the show ring for nearly 20 years. Her sport--show jumping--demands not only trust and communication between horse and rider, but the athleticism to clear a series towering jumps and beat the clock. As Stevenson says, “There´s not a lot of room for error.”

Talent and hard work have taken her all the way to the National Horse Show, as well as a number four finish in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals as a senior at Connecticut College. Riding on the Equestrian Team at the College was a career highlight. “You never knew what horse you´ll be riding and there´s no practice,” she says of the competition format. “You could draw a pony, a 17-hand warmblood, or a hot Thoroughbred, so I learned to ride anything.”

For now, winning often takes a back seat to the slow yet ultimately rewarding progress of training her young jumper, Lennox, who makes his debut on the Florida circuit this winter. “You can´t always go for the win with a youngster, you have to put his education first.” Stevenson spends the balance of her time training a group of young riders and clients´ horses. “I get to see how my teaching skills have paid off,” she explains.

As much as she loves the equestrian life, it´s tough way to make a living. That´s why Stevenson has her sights on law school. Still, there will always be a place for horses. “I´ve learned so much from horses,” she says. “Fairness, discipline, dedication, patience . . . and I keep learning from them every day.”

“Competing is fun and I always want to do better. I´m not done yet. I never will be.” --Lori Kessel ´04, three-time All-American sprinter

You may dream about your glory days as a college athlete; Lori Kessel got to re-live hers, and make some new memories, too. Having 20 years on her fellow Camels was more inspiration than obstacle for this return-to-college student. After starring in Division 1 soccer at UConn, Kessel picked up her favorite sport right where she´d left with one year of eligibility left.

With soccer over, Kessel looked found a new challenge. “I´d always been fast, and looking at the record boards, I knew I could at least score points for the team,” she recalls. “To my surprise, I ended up with five school records by 39.” Still, the standards were sometimes different for her. “If I had a false start or tanked, it was because I was too old and I shouldn´t be out there. And when I started winning, some people said it wasn´t fair,” recalls Kessel. “Then I´d think, hey, you try this at 40!”

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