Tim Bell and Darlene Escobedo couldn't have predicted how their athletic endeavors at UC Merced would turn out, but they were both certain of one thing: Sports would be a big part of their time here.
Both ended up focusing on sports that were new to them when they came to UC Merced, and both excelled. Last month, Bell was named the second recipient of the Cobi Jones Male Athlete of the Year award, while Escobedo was presented with the Georgette "Ma" Kelley Female Athlete of the Year award.
Sports are a growing part of the culture at UC Merced, offering students the opportunity to not only engage in recreational activities and make new friends but also to learn valuable leadership skills as they prepare for successful careers. Currently, 14 club sports are planned for the 2010-11 school year. The teams compete locally, regionally and nationally throughout the year.
"Being a student-athlete does not only mean being a dedicated and committed member of your sports team," Escobedo said, "but also having the organizational and leadership skills to balance out your academics while also maintaining school spirit, promoting the well being of all students and having a lasting impact through the numerous opportunities and advantages of being a student at UC Merced."
Bell and Escobedo each received a plaque and will have their names engraved in a perpetual plaque displayed in the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center .
David Dunham, UC Merced's director of recreation and athletics, said Bell, a lacrosse player, and Escobedo, a cheerleader , both served as presidents of their respective club teams while excelling in the classroom, as well.
"Tim led the lacrosse team through a very challenging year, their second year in competition," Dunham said. "They have a very difficult league and went through coaching changes this season. Throughout the entire season, Tim served as a steady leader for the group.
"Darlene started with the cheer team with no prior experience three years ago. She grew into a leader on the team and was chosen as the president of the club her senior year."
Bell grew up as a hockey player in Torrance. He said he knew nothing about lacrosse when he came to UC Merced, but he started learning during his freshman year and has since helped the team grow and flourish.
"With sports still being relatively new at UC Merced, every team captain is putting in a ton of work to get their teams started," Bell said. "Receiving the award made me feel like all the work I had put in throughout the season was recognized and worthwhile."
Bell's main focus is politics. A junior political science major with a minor in history, Bell has interned for state Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani throughout the past year. He hopes to work as a field representative for an assembly member after obtaining his master's degree.
Escobedo, a lifelong athlete from San Mateo, was primarily a softball player growing up but also played soccer, volleyball and many other sports. She decided to try cheerleading when she arrived at UC Merced, and she helped found the club and was elected president her senior year.
Despite being almost overwhelmingly busy during her senior year — in addition to being a double major in management and psychology , she worked in the admissions office and was a senator for the Associated Students of UC Merced , director of international affairs for the Rotaract club, and a member of the Business Society, Cycling Alliance and sports shooting club — Escobedo said she cherished her time with the cheerleading squad.
"As a senior, I had a lot of things going on other than cheer," Escobedo said. "But being able to build and create the cheer program at UC Merced is something that I will always take pride in."