NCAA Division I Championship Teams Visit The White House

By Tom Lewis, USTFCCCA

September 14, 2010   

On Monday, NCAA Championship teams from the 2009-10 seasons were invited to The White House where President Obama addressed the student-athletes from the South Lawn. Afterwards, many of the athletes had a chance to meet and visit with the President.

Following is video from the ceremony as posted on whitehouse.gov.

 

Texas A&M’s NCAA Championship teams take part in White House reception with President
source: Shawn Price, Texas A&M athletics

 Texas A&M Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON D.C. – Monday’s White House reception for NCAA team champions with President Obama included a lot of handshakes and brief conversations on the South Lawn of the White House.

Texas A&M men’s and women’s track and field national championship teams had at least a couple of athletes, Porscha Lucas and Gerald Phiri, who engaged the 44th President of the United States in conversation as various Aggies were able to shake hands with President Obama.

"I was able to talk to the President, it was so exciting," said Lucas, a 19-time All-American at A&M who won a pair of NCAA Championships in the 200 as well as four consecutive 4 x 100 relay titles and one indoor 4 x 400 relay crown. "This is an opportunity of a lifetime. I’m very happy we had this chance to meet the President with other NCAA championship teams.

"He asked me which events I compete in and what my times were. He said I was fast. It would be interesting to meet him again and talk to him more. Maybe we can set up a race, or something, and see what he can do."

Phiri, a two-time NCAA finalist in the 100 and 200 meters, added: "I’m pretty good at dragging conversations out of people. I told him I run the 100 meters and he asked how fast I run. I prolonged the conversation as long as I could. It was very impressive that he took the time to converse with a lot of the athletes. I was honored that he stopped to talk with me.

"He joked that he may be able to keep up with me over a 40-meter race. Honestly, there wouldn’t be much competition. I’m sure he can run the country better than me, but when it comes to the track that is my domain."

Teams from various NCAA Championship squads from the past school year each had their picture taken in front of the White House and then enjoyed refreshments.

A live band supplied school songs during the reception. When the Aggie War Hymn was played, the Aggie track and field team, which numbered 28 athletes, gathered to saw varsity horns off on the South Lawn.

President Obama addressed the gathering with a speech that focused on the dedication of the student-athlete and the accomplishments they attained with their respective national team championships.

Then President Obama spent close to an hour greeting hundreds of individuals as he made his way from the podium back to the White House,

Prior to the White House visit on Monday afternoon, the Aggies visited Union Station and took a tour of the Capitol earlier in the day. When the Texas A&M squad arrived in the Washington D.C. area on Sunday they toured the Lincoln Memorial as well as the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. 

Florida National Champions Honored at White House Monday
source: Sean Cartell, Florida athletics

Florida Photo Gallery

Monday closed one of the most successful seasons in history for two National Champion Florida athletics squads. Both the Gator Women’s 2010 National Champion Swimming and Diving Team and the Florida Men’s 2010 Indoor Track and Field National Champion Team topped off 2009-10’s successes with a White House ceremony, hosted by President Barack Obama.

Florida’s day trip to Washington D.C. consisted of lunch at D.C. hot spot Old Ebbitt Grill, a bus and walking tour of all the national monuments under warm, sunny skies and a reception on the South Lawn of the White House with refreshments prior to President Obama’s celebration ceremony. Team camaraderie and plenty of photo opportunities capped off a memorable year for the two UF NCAA Champion teams, leaving both squads proud of their accomplishments, but refreshed, motivated and inspired for more successful seasons to come.

“This was a tremendous experience for all of our ladies, as well as the track and field guys,” swimming and diving head coach Gregg Troy reflected. “It was so good for everyone to get together, relive the situation and what we all accomplished last year and appreciate one another’s camaraderie. It’s a final wrap up for last year’s successes and it’s a great way to kick off this season with motivation to keep the success going. For me personally, I have a degree in history and political science, so I love coming to D.C.  There is always something new to learn each time. It was also really neat to watch our athletes experience today, not only visiting the monuments, but for them to have the experience of socializing with the other national champion student-athletes on the White House lawn.”

The Gator teams were two of 33 NCAA Division I Championship teams recognized at the reception.

"It was an awesome experience for our team," Florida head track and field coach Mike Holloway said. "It has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy to go be able to go to the White House and meet the President. To be able to go to the White House for winning a national championship is also a dream come true. It was really awe-inspiring to see the President in person. It was almost overpowering."

Following his speech to the student-athletes and coaches Monday evening, President Obama offered congratulations and a handshake with nearly every student-athlete and coach in attendance.

“It was so surreal and inspirational,” UF 2009-10 senior swimmer Gemma Spofforth said. “I shook his hand and the best part is he made us realized how much we’ve actually accomplished being both athletes and students who go to school full-time as well.”

“Today was awesome, but I don’t think it has set in yet,” 2010-11 junior swimmer Teresa Crippen added. “It was really cool to talk with the other national champion teams here at the White House today and also to meet the President – we shook his hand and he asked where we were from.”

The Florida men’s track and field team claimed the first NCAA Indoor Championship in program history in March, 2010, scoring 57 total team points and winning by 13 points over second-place Oregon and Texas A&M. The Gators tied for the national lead in All-America honors at that event with 14.

UF’s women’s swimming and diving team captured the 2010 NCAA Championship, its second NCAA team title, totaling 382 points for a 2.5-point victory over second-place Stanford, the second-closest NCAA Championship swimming and diving competition in history. Twelve Gators earned All-America status, shattering five Florida records and reeling in two event national titles.

To read Spofforth’s blog entry about UF’s White House visit, click here.

Oregon’s Jordan Hasay Blogs on The White House Visit
source: Oregon athletics

Hello and greetings to all from our nation’s capital! It has been quite an exciting day for us here in D.C. Our journey began yesterday in the early morning. Eleven of us athletes along with Assistant Coach Jenni Ashcroft and Director of Operations Nji Nnamani met up at the airport and made the trip across the country. I, along with Coach Jenni, Zoe Buckman, and Anne Kesselring are taking a brief leave from some awesome cross country training in Sunriver, Oregon. It was great to reunite with our current and former teammates after a long summer.

After arriving at our hotel and getting a quick bite to eat, we decided to go sightseeing a little bit before bed. Upon looking at a map, we realized that we were standing right across the street from the White House! It was quite cool to happen to “stumble upon” this historic and magnificent site. We took a few pictures and saw lots of security, whom, rest assured remain there 24/7.

After a good night’s sleep, we all woke up fairly early to start sightseeing and make the most of our time here. A few of us went for a training run around the area. This turned out to be one of those runs that I never wanted to end. The time seemed to fly by as we ran past the Washington Monument, up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial (our hill workout for the day!), over the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Arlington Cemetery and past the Women in Military Memorial. We finally ended with some strides in front of the National Mall and the Smithsonian.

As I ran, I felt so grateful to be a Duck and to take part in this special opportunity. As we ran past the memorial to Seabees upon which we read the inscription, “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a bit longer,” I felt both inspired and proud to be an American.

In the afternoon, we took part in an eagerly anticipated ceremony at the White House. Luckily, we planned ahead and left our hotel about an hour and a half before the ceremony began. We were one of the first teams of 35 to be admitted onto the lawn. After having our IDs checked by the Secret Service three times, we were greeted by a band playing the various teams’ fight songs, along with several photographers. We posed for a photo on the lawn and then proceeded to some picnic benches for some light refreshments.

One of the security guards had told Nji where President Obama was going to make his speech from and that if we started heading over there early enough we could get a front row spot. So, about an hour before the President was scheduled to arrive, we started to head over to get a spot. Sure enough, as we began to walk over, many other teams followed and it turned into a bit of a sprint to get the best spot.

But being the fast runners that we are, we were able to get the best spot in the house! After securing our spot and standing there for a long hour, President Obama finally arrived. It was such an honor to be able to see him in person and listen to his congratulatory words. To our surprised delight, after his speech, he came down along the ropes and greeted us! We shook his hand, and he even had a conversation with Keshia Baker about going to the Olympics. Regardless of whether or not we agree with his policies, all of us came away from the moment feeling awe struck. We all have had an experience here that we will not soon forget.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go see the Vietnam memorial and squeeze in as much more as we can before returning home. We’d like to thank all those who support us and wish you could have been there to take part in the moment with us. As we return home, each of us feel honored and even more motivated to defend our indoor title, and perhaps earn another invitation back to this historic spot.

-Jordan

Oklahoma State’s Men’s Cross Country Team Met President Obama at White House
source: Oklahoma State athletics

WASHINGTON – The reigning NCAA champion Oklahoma State men’s cross country team met President Barack Obama today at the White House in a reception honoring NCAA championship teams from the 2009-10 academic year.

The Cowboys spent the day touring the U.S. Capitol building and sightseeing in Washington before being honored at the reception on the White House lawn.

“President Obama came out and gave a speech and then shook everyone’s hand,” coach Dave Smith said. “It was an incredible experience. It’s not every day you get to see the White House and meet the President. It was just a really fun day. It was also fun to get to hang out with the other national championship teams.”

After their event-filled day in the nation’s capital, the Cowboys knew they had experienced something that few people get the opportunity do.

“It was a very honoring experience,” junior German Fernandezsaid. “Getting to tour the capitol with the team and seeing everything was great. Seeing the White House in person was a big shock. It was a weird feeling to shake the President’s hand. It was fun.”

The Cowboys were among several other teams honored at the event, all of which claimed NCAA titles in their respective sport.

“It was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that doesn’t come around very often,” junior Colby Lowe said. “To be right up next to the White House in person and know that there’s been a lot of really great people there – that was really cool to be able to see. Meeting the President was cool. You see him all the time on TV, but to actually meet him in person was just a whole other experience.” 

The team earned its invitation to the reception after dominating the rest of the field at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships, winning by 16 points over second-place Oregon to claim the 49th national title in school history.

Oklahoma State, who has already carried its success into the 2010 season after rolling over the competition in its season-opening meet, resumes competition Sept. 25 in Stillwater for the Cowboys Jamboree, the oldest consecutively-held cross country meet in the nation.

Villanova’s Procaccio and Women’s Cross Country Team Joined School’s Football Team at White House
source: Philadelphia Inquirer (for full story and photos)

WASHINGTON – President Obama spoke for a little more than 5 minutes outside the White House late yesterday afternoon, addressing more than 650 student-athletes and nearly 150 coaches and staff representing 33 programs from "near and far" that won NCAA national championships in the 2009-10 athletic season.

"It’s the most athletic talent we’ve ever had on the South Lawn," the nation’s commander in chief observed.

He mentioned, among others, Texas Christian’s rifle team ("I think they might be able to give the Secret Service a run for their money") and the Fairleigh Dickinson bowling team ("I need some tips, guys. Tell me how to get my score up").

"It makes me so proud to be standing here before you," Obama said. "You put in countless hours for the love of the game. You know what it takes to be the best . . . And you understand that the term student-athlete emphasizes student. You know how to give back."

Then, he mentioned Villanova football player Matt Szczur. Not by name, but by deed.

"There’s one young man who even donated his bone marrow to a young girl he never met," the president said. "As he said, ‘That’s more important than a football game.’ "

Those kind of things, he stressed, "will stay with you the rest of your lives."

So, how did Szczur – who went through the harvesting procedure in May for a 1 1/2-year-old leukemia patient – feel when he heard that?

"It was unbelievable," the Most Outstanding Player of last December’s Football Championship Subdivision national-title game said, gushing. "Just crazy. So many people know about it. He quoted me, too. The most powerful man in the world . . . Anyone can win a national championship, or whatever. Saving a life is something different. That he didn’t mention me by name doesn’t matter. For him to do that . . .

"It doesn’t matter if anyone knows who I am or not. Inside, it was pretty cool."

So was being part of this. Individually, and collectively. And it was certainly different.

According to Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro, this is thought to be the first time a group of Wildcats has been honored so since Rollie Massimino’s basketball team won the NCAA Tournament in 1985, which was likely the first time ever for any Main Line squad.

The university sent two busloads down I-95, filled with 70 members of the football family and 16 from the women’s cross-country contingent that lifted the Division I trophy in November.

The president spent 25 minutes shaking hands before heading back to the Oval Office. Among those who can now check that off their to-do list are Szczur, teammate Chris Whitney and cross-country coach Gina Procaccio.

So of all the perks that have come with the accomplishment, where does this rate?

"This has to be No. 1," insisted Szczur, who couldn’t stop smiling. "It’s so surreal . . . to be where we are."

Added Whitney: "It’s a great experience. Getting to shake [Obama’s] hand made it a better experience. Not many people get to do this in a lifetime. We were in the front row."

Indeed they were. But even from the cheap seats, it was an indelible scene.

"I love it for my girls," said Procaccio, who couldn’t stop admiring the photos she took with her digital camera. "I really do. They’re the ones who did it, all the hard work they put in. I love that they got a chance to have this kind of experience. It was even great meeting the other teams. We had our picture taken with the Oklahoma State team that won the men’s title. They really enjoyed that. Just to be here and see all of it . . .

"We knew they had done this in the past. So we kind of joked about it all year."

Who knew it would become reality?

"I can’t wait to see [Obama]," said one of the Wildcats’ runners, Sheila Reid.

Did she vote for Obama?

"I would have if I could have," she replied, smiling. Reid is Canadian. Fair enough.

Andy Talley has been Villanova’s football coach since the sport was restored in 1985. He had met a president once before. Or at least a former one. He was Division I-AA Coach of the Year in 1997 and was introduced to George H.W. Bush at the national coaches convention.

"Not too bad for an old coach like me," Talley said. "Any time you get a chance to touch royalty, it’s pretty awesome. You get here and all of a sudden you realize, ‘Wow.’ There’s 33 national champions here. It’s the best of the best, across the board. And you’re one of them. It just doesn’t get much better."

And what went through his mind when one of his own got singled out?

"To me, that speaks to what our program is all about," Talley said. "We were acknowledged by the president of the United States. Your players, your team, your drive. It’s about saving lives, working hard at whatever you’re trying to do. It really is a microcosm of the country we live in."

So what were the odds that a group of young men he brought together ever would have taken him to this moment?

"Are you kidding me?" Talley said, laughing. "No shot. No way. I was about 1-in-100,000 to ever be the coach at Villanova.

"I hit the lottery."

On this day, he was hardly alone. It was quite a collection. And quite a tribute.