Walk-ons step up to the varsity plate

When Rob Gearity ’11 signed up for a diving class six months ago to satisfy a P.E. requirement, he hardly could have known that only a few weeks later he would be credited with not only a half-semester’s worth of P.E., but also points towards team wins as an official member of the men’s diving team.

“Diving just always seemed pretty interesting to me, and since I still needed a P.E. credit, I thought I might as well give it a try,” Gearity said. “Toward the end of the diving class, the coach, Kit [Koch], told me that they could always use another guy and that if I was interested she would love to have me on the team and teach me even more.”

Gearity is not the only Eph student-athlete to have unexpectedly stumbled his way onto a varsity team. While Gearity was sought out by a coach, hopeful players often contact coaches to seek a spot on a team.

Dan Marcet ’11 always enjoyed playing baseball when he was young – since fourth grade he has been developing his skills as a pitcher. “I always had a good arm but other than that I didn’t really have much of a talent for baseball,” Marcet said. “I just really liked it and worked hard. My high school baseball team was very good, and we played year-round so that helped me to get better.” Marcet always assumed he would play baseball at the college level – until he injured his arm junior year of high school.

“I didn’t throw much senior year, but then I found out I could throw again, so I decided to come to a Div. III [school] because I thought I could make a team,” Marcet said. “I e-mailed [Head Coach Bill Barrale] over the summer before freshman year, and he told me that I was welcome to try out but that he couldn’t promise I’d make the team.” Marcet practiced with the team through the fall, and tryouts came in February. About 32 players competed for the 26 spots on the team trip to Arizona. “On the final day of practice, the coach called me into his office and said that I was the 27th guy, so I could continue to practice with the team but not go to Arizona,” Marcet said. “Somebody was injured, though, and so I got to go to Arizona and have been on the team ever since.”

Unlike Marcet, who played baseball for years, Gearity had never dived before coming to Williams, although he was on the swim team. “I just thought that [diving] would be a lot of fun!” Gearity said. “[Koch] seemed to think I had pretty good ability; since I knew a few people on the swim team I asked them what they thought and then decided to go for it. Why not?”

Jess Cross ’10 began playing softball in fourth grade, and similarly to Marcet, two injuries toward the end of her high school career left her thinking that she wouldn’t be pursuing softball at the college varsity level. “However, once I got here I realized being an athlete was part of who I was and something I needed to try to continue doing,” Cross said. “I didn’t play my freshman year but that spring I decided I really missed playing.” Cross then contacted women’s softball Head Coach Kris Herman to discuss the possibility of walking on to the team her sophomore year. She began training with the team in the fall of her sophomore year and made the squad during February tryouts.

The route that Cross and Marcet took – that of playing in high school, encountering obstacles because of differing circumstances, and then trying out – to get onto their desired teams is the most common path for walk-ons. Then there are those like Edgar Kosgey ’10, who didn’t play their respective sport in high school but still excel at the Williams varsity level.

Kosgey is known for winning multiple races on the cross-country team, but actually played soccer in high school. After high school, Kosgey was selected to join the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project (KenSAP), which helps students from North-Rift Kenya gain admission to elite colleges in the United States. “It is in this program that I started running, but I couldn’t get a lot of running in since we only met for nine weeks,” Kosgey said. “My freshman year, I wasn’t in good shape because I wasn’t doing a lot of running. But with time, I started picking up and increasing my mileage, and that is when I started winning some races,” he added, with a modest emphasis on “some.”

“I think the difference between being a walk-on and being a recruit is the fact that people were not really sure I was serious at first,” Cross said. “I definitely had to prove to my teammates that I was in it for the long run and ready to make a serious commitment.”