Dec. 20, 2005
Cullowhee, N.C. - Thirteen former Western Carolina student-athletes participated in graduation exercises this past weekend at the Ramsey Activity Center, as well as one student who was an academic support assistant. The list or graduates included five student-athletes from track and field, three from football, two from baseball, one from women's basketball, one from women's soccer and one from men's golf.
Headlining the list were Southern Conference track and field champions Leslie Martin and Laura Tieszen. Martin, who graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in art, was five-time SoCon champion this past year. The Jonesville, Va., native won both the SoCon indoor and outdoor 800 meters. She was additionally a member of the winning indoor and outdoor 4x400 meter team, setting a SoCon record during the indoor season in the event, while being on the winning indoor distance medley relay team as well. For her career, Martin was a three-time conference outdoor champion in the 800 meters, while winning the event once during the indoor season. Tieszen, who graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in elementary education, was the 2005 SoCon Indoor and Outdoor Performer of the Year. The Rapid City, S.D., product was the league's indoor champion in the pole vault and pentathlon, as well as the outdoor champion in the pole vault heptathlon and javelin. For her career, she was a three-time SoCon indoor and outdoor champion in the pole vault.
Joining Martin and Tieszen on their walk across the stage were teammates Darius Bryson, Bobby Robinson and David McCall. Bryson, a member of the 2005 SoCon Outdoor champion 4x100 meter relay team, received his B.S. in entrepreneurship. Robinson, who earned All-SoCon last season in the decathlon, graduated with a B.S. in nutrition/dietetics, while McCall garnered a B.S. in criminal justice and psychology.
The third member of the football team, Jarrett Wishon, graduated with a B.S. in criminal justice. Wishon played three seasons at center before spending this past fall as a student assistant.
Both members of the baseball team to graduate, Brandon McDowell and Brian McCullen, will stick around this spring to pitch for the Catamounts and both received their B.S. in the College of Applied Science. McDowell (criminal justice) was a key in Western's championship run in 2003, going 7-2 with a 3.42 ERA on the mound and batting .326. After having surgery in the summer of 2003 and redshirting the 2004 season, the Franklin native is showing signs of returning to his earlier form on the mound. McCullen (nutrition/dietetics) ended the 2004 season with a 4-0 record on the mound and used that momentum to post a 7-3 mark in 2005.
Former student-athletes Brittany Bennefield and Lori Tanner exhausted their eligibility last season, but completed their requirements for graduation this past semester. Bennefield, who was a member of Western's first women's soccer championship team in 2001, graduated with a B.S. in communication, while Lori Tanner, who was named to the SoCon All-Tournament first team when helping the Lady Catamounts win the 2005 SoCon women's basketball tournament championship, graduated with a B.S. in engineering technology.
Men's golfer Shawn Costello, who began his career at UNC Greensboro, received his B.S. in political science, while academic support student assistant Michael Blackmon graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in political science as well.