Student-athletes find success on and off the field
Many of La Salle’s student-athletes maintained grade-point averages of 3.0 or above for the 2021-22 academic year. Meet Jimmy McInerney, ’22, and Liz Mancini, ’22—two Explorers who helped build on the Graduation Success Rate.
Jimmy McInerney, ’22, hasn’t just learned to love the 5 a.m. wakeup calls. He’s begun seeing them as vital to his success.
Something about the rigor that mornings on the river imposed seemed to work for the La Salle rower. Early morning workouts, either in the gym or on the Schuylkill, giving way to classes, then a second workout a few days a week: As much as they presented a scheduling challenge for McInerney, the sharpness required by his full commitment helped him both academically and athletically.
“I think my academics are helped because I row and just because I work out in general,” said McInerney, a Pittsburgh native majoring in History and Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. “It kind of clears my mind and resets me every morning.”
Liz Mancini, ’22, recognizes the sentiment. As a nursing major and distance runner, she has scheduled workouts around clinical rotations since her sophomore year. As an upper-level student, she worked one 12-hour nursing shift per week—a day compensated for by double workouts later in the week. A native of Media, Pa., Mancini runs cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring. With a summer job at Main Line Health and a year-round sport, there’s precious little offseason.
“When I started going to clinical, in the beginning, I did have a little bit of a difficult time balancing it all. Do I run on that day? Do I not run on that day?” Mancini said, recounting the rhetorical questions she would ask herself. “But I was able to work out a good training plan with my coaches that incorporates the right amount of runs so I’m not overworked or spread too thinly. It’s definitely a balancing act, and I’ve gotten better at it every year I’ve been here.”
Judging by their success in the classroom and in their sports, both have struck the right balance. McInerney and Mancini are two of 214 La Salle student-athletes who posted grade-point averages of 3.0 or above for the 2021-22 academic year. The academic success complemented the tremendous athletic achievements by McInerney and Mancini as seniors. Both graduated in the spring, building on La Salle’s exemplary Graduation Success Rate, as reported by the NCAA, in December 2021. The University’s 99 score put La Salle in an echelon with athletics programs from the Ivy League and Patriot League.
Three La Salle programs earned perfect Academic Progress Rate scores in 2020-21, the most in the department’s history.
McInerney sat in the stroke seat of the men’s Varsity 4+ boat that made IRA Championships, the first La Salle boat at nationals since 2001. He helped the squad win six gold medals on the season, followed by silver at the Dad Vail Regatta and a runner-up finish at the IRA petite final—a finish that was good for eighth in the nation. McInerney held the vital role in the four-man unit, helping set the squad’s tempo in races with miniscule margins for error.
McInerney knew early that it could be a special season. A baseball player for most of his life, he was “dragged,” he said, by a friend to the boathouse in high school. He instantly fell in love, both with the discipline required and the incremental progress through a season, whether on the water or indoor rowing machines.
La Salle assembled a highly experienced group for its formidable 4+ boat: Shawn Donohue, ’22; James White, ’23; Joe Yaeger, ’25; and coxswain Trevor Fawcett, ’21. Their chemistry was evident early on. It became the first La Salle boat in nine years to win gold at the Kelly Cup and the first in 20 years to claim Knecht Cup gold. The confidence surged right through the postseason, even as the quality of opposition ratcheted up, with McInerney confident they could race with anyone.
“For me, it was probably the most fun I ever had rowing, because we were winning, and every practice, it felt like we were building the whole year toward getting better and better and better,” said McInerney, who accepted an assistant coach position with La Salle rowing this fall and intends to pursue law school. “Each race was an improvement on the last.”
Given her sport, Mancini’s success is more individual—though no less outstanding. This spring, she became just the fifth Explorer to compete in the NCAA women’s Track and Field Championships, joining older sister Grace, ’20, M.S. ’21, with that distinction. Mancini has found success in all three seasons. She’s a two-time All-Atlantic 10 Conference performer in cross country, having led the Explorers to the 2019 team title. She won gold in the 3-kilometer race at the 2022 Atlantic 10 Indoor Championships and silver in the 10,000 meters at the A-10 Outdoor Championships.
But the 5,000 is her sweet spot, requiring just enough endurance but not too much front-end speed. She won the event at A-10s, reaching the NCAA East qualifier, alongside sisters El, ’22 and Christine, ’22. Seeded 35th in Bloomington, Indiana, with little to lose in her first time reaching this level, Liz went for it.
“I knew it would take nothing less than my best day to qualify for the finals,” she said. “I didn’t really have a particular race strategy or anything like that. I just knew, me and my coach (Tom Peterson) had talked about just getting out into the front of the race and putting myself in the mix, and then with three to four laps to go, just hanging on for dear life and hoping to be in the top five automatic spots. When I crossed the finish line and got the automatic qualifier, I was thrilled and I was definitely really shocked. It was a really special moment.”
Mancini’s time of 15:56.40 earned her 12th place and a trip to NCAAs at Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon. It also took down a school record set by big sister Grace.
Mancini, who returns next season as a graduate student, is embarking on La Salle’s family nurse practitioner program. She remains open to which specialty her career might follow in the nursing field.
“I’m really, really excited to come back,” she said. “I’m excited to have one more year to see what else I have left in the tank and to keep improving.”
—Matthew De George
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