If you weren’t watching Tyler Strafaci’s last round at the US Amateur, I’m not sure what else you happened to being doing, sports-wise. When the graduating golfer graced our televisions that Sunday night, it’s not like anything else was on. Maybe Sunday night baseball, but odds are my Cubs and your Braves (or whoever you fancy in America’s pastime) were not playing that night. But that’s immaterial. What matters is what Strafaci represented.
For the first time since Sam Crawford and the Georgia Tech baseball team walked off of the field at Plainsman Park on March 10th, a Tech athlete was finishing up a competition. And, in the grand tradition of Tech golf, Strafaci walked off the course the winner, Tech’s second in two years.
Strafaci’s US Amateur win wasn’t the only notable accomplishment from this eclectic list of athletes. But it was the light at the end of the long tunnel of quarantine, the hope that soon we would see Tech football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, swimming, tennis, softball, track or the rest of the golf team in action. And, for all but the true spring sports, we have.
One sport that’s seen success this fall, and indeed is at the high water mark of the past two decades, women’s cross country, loses a few key athletes. In 2018, they became the first Tech team to go to cross country NCAAs in almost two decades. Meanwhile, volleyball won the NIVC in dominating fashion and is deep in their first top ten season in many years. Carlos Divar spent the entirety of the post-Eubanks era as the unquestioned leader of the men’s tennis team, while the 2018 women’s tennis season is perhaps the most successful single season for any of Georgia Tech’s sports teams in the last five years, or at least since I’ve joined this little corner of the Georgia Tech sporting media.
Of course, I am well aware that the memories shared in this little blurb have skewed heavily to the non-rev world, but I would also be remiss to not mention the Virginia Tech football game on a Thursday night in 2018. Tobias Oliver and his 40 rushes slashed the vaunted Hokie defense, much as they had eviscerated Louisville a few weeks prior. For that day, perhaps the Last Great Game of the Paul Johnson era, everything seemed alright. Come to think of it, that might be the most recent Great Game for Georgia Tech, period. With years left on the Tobias Oliver experience, it is remarkable to see just how different things are than they seemed to be on that day. Am I watching the Army-Navy game and feeling a little nostalgic? You bet.
All of these memories are but a tapestry of the past, though, now. Every one of us who attends Georgia Tech chooses to do it for their own reasons, whether we’re athletes, students, staff, or faculty. It can’t check every box, but, after four or so years, it becomes second nature. The Flats become a part of who you are - it’s the place you work, sleep, play, and struggle. It’s your friends, your family. A place you can call home. Let’s be honest, the work we do at our Institute is famously not easy. It is incredibly hard to be a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket. It is infinitely harder to be one that is also involved with varsity athletics. So, to all the students graduating today, congratulations. You made it.
Paraphrasing past years, but, picking a college isn’t just a decision that affects you for four years. It’s one that sets the tone for the entire experience after it. Georgia Tech prepares students for success in a way few others can dream. We are not defined solely by our athletics, but who crosses that stage or helps others be able to walk across it came here in their own way, for their own unique set of reasons, be they a student, faculty, or fan. On this day, we celebrate these students for their hard work on and off the field, court, course, pool, track, or pool, and we wish them the very best on the journey that is the rest of their lives.
I say that, much as I do every semester, and, for the first time writing it as an alumnus, I think I agree more with it even more than I did years back as a wider-eyed undergrad. But, true to that spirit of the “rest of the journey,” I think I’ve dropped the ball on the most interesting story out all of these, at least from outside the sporting world. Sure, Tamir Gonen Cohen is a Georgia Tech swimmer and mechanical engineer, and has done an admirable job overcoming injury to keep competing in the pool for the Jackets. But, on top of all that - being an Invention Studio PI, trying to work, you know, the classic Georgia Tech stuff - is also publishing a full-blown novel written in whatever free time an engineer-athlete gets. If that’s not the logical achievement maximum of a Georgia Tech student, I’m not sure what is.
That’s what Georgia Tech graduates and Georgia Tech athletes do - some pretty unbelievable things.
Graduate list courtesy of the Georgia Tech Athletic Association:
Daijah Jefferson — Business Administration
Jaytlin Askew — Business Administration
Kenny Cooper — Business Administration
Jack DeFoor — Business Administration
Stephen Dolphus — Literature, Media, and Communication
Xavier Gantt — Business Administration
Errin Joe — MS Building Construction
Brenton King — Business Administration
Jahaziel Lee — Business Administration
Mikey Minihan — Business Administration
Tobias Oliver — Business Administration
Zach Quinney — Business Administration
Jaylend Ratliffe — Literature, Media, and Communication
Tre Swilling — Business Administration
Tyler Strafaci — Business Administration
Lilian Englander — Biomedical Engineering
Morgan Bruce — History, Technology & Society
Amber Johns — Business Administration
Swimming & Diving
Joonas Koski — Biology
Tim Slanschek — Computer Science
Albert Zhi — Electrical & Computer Engineering
Tamir Gonen-Cohen — Mechanical Engineering
Kristen Hepler — Mechanical Engineering
Chloe Miller — Biology
Jordyn Sak — Biomedical Engineering
Carlos Divar — Business Administration
Chris Yun — Industrial & Systems Engineering
Nadia Gizdova — Computer Science
Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country
Andrew Kent — Mechanical Engineering
Women’s Track & Field/Cross Country
Ellen Flood — MS Operations Research
Sam Folio — Mechanical Engineering
Gabrielle Gusmerotti — Civil Engineering
Kim Hallowes — Economics
Hannah Petit — Mechanical Engineering
Grace Rigsbee — Literature, Media, and Communication