BY GABE COHN
Within UT’s group of athletes, there are a special few with the unique distinction of being a “super senior,” which essentially means being the elder statesman on campus.
For a student to be considered a super senior, they must be in at least their fifth year of college as they attend an extra year of school because they need a little more time to finish up their degrees. For some student athletes, that extra year(s) is strictly for their athletic eligibility.
Athletes may decide to start their college degrees at junior colleges then transfer to receive extra years of athletic eligibility. Some athletes may choose to redshirt (skip a year of college athletic competition) in their early years of college due to academics or due to a season-long injury. And some may choose to go to extra schooling for their graduate degrees.
UT athletes Dominick Mondesir (Soccer), Erin Townsend (Rowing), Alyssa Bache (Softball), and Aimee Epps (Cross Country) are each considered super senior athletes, but their stories couldn’t be more contrasting.
Soccer midfielder Dominick Mondesir was born and raised in London, England and attended Loughborough University for his undergraduate degree in economics. While attending Loughborough University he suffered a torn hamstring, and because undergraduate programs are only three years in England, only played two years of collegiate soccer.
After getting his degree in England, Mondesir still had two years of athletic eligibility and a craving to earn an MBA. Those two loves brought him to UT where he is currently playing soccer on an athletic scholarship.
“After I graduated I wanted to explore new cultures, meet new people, pursue my masters abroad and play soccer at a competitive level,” Mondesir said. “The U.S was a perfect fit and, fortunately enough, UT was able to provide me with an athletic scholarship, so I got [the] best of both worlds.”
This is just one way a “super senior” can use their extra years of eligibility. Mondesir has an incredibly unique situation and he is taking full advantage of it at UT.
Another unique super senior situation involves UT runner Aimee Epps. After leaving UT her freshman year to attend community college, Epps persevered and finally made the team in her senior season after returning to UT. Epps redshirted her sophomore year because she decided to take a semester off and then, after making the UT travel cross country team as a junior, redshirted due to an injury.
“Redshirting was good for me because it gave me the opportunity to reach my peak as a runner,” Epps said. “I wanted to have the opportunity to make it to Nationals, where only the seven fastest girls on the team compete, and since I was eighth my senior year, I knew I needed to stick around for one more season to reach that goal. In the end I’m happy I made the decision to redshirt.”
Epps decided to change her major from graphic design to international business, meaning she wouldn’t graduate on time anyway, so she took advantage of her athletic situation to pursue her dreams.
Alyssa Bache, pitcher for UT’s softball team, took a straighter approach to get to her “super senior” status. After three years of pitching on University of Florida’s softball team, Bache decided to redshirt her senior year so she can participate in Division II softball after she graduated. That extra year has allowed her to space out her classes and continue her pre-med studies.
UT rower Erin Townsend gained her distinction as a super senior because she didn’t compete in her early years at Valencia Junior College and the University of Central Florida. So, when Townsend transferred to UT to complete her degree in human performance, she took the opportunity to row at the highest level.
Even though all of these athletes have different super senior stories there are a lot of commonalities in the way they schedule their classes and the way they help out their respected teams.
Each one of these super seniors schedules their respected class based on their team’s practice schedule and space out their classes accordingly. As for their role with their teams, each one of these athletes, since they are the elder statesman, take on the role as a mentor. Townsend explained her love of her mentorship role with Tampa rowing.
“I love my team, they are the reason I get up every morning,” Townsend said. “I know the younger girls joke that I am the team mom but I try to be a big sister to everyone by helping them in any way I can.”
Super seniors are in college athletic programs all over the nation, and even though there are several ways to earn the unique distinction, they are all just students taking advantage of more schooling and more athletic competition.