Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
They ignited, they fired up, they showed pride, good golf on a perfect day and, most importantly, a collective to-the-core support.
The ninth annual Chippewa Challenge on Friday brought out Central Michigan Athletics friends, coaches and student-athletes as some 430 people played in the event, conducted at Mount Pleasant Country Club, Bucks Run and The PohlCat. Many more joined the dinner and presentation at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort.
“It’s amazing to see the people who come from far away, not only to have our NFL alumni come back and other former student-athletes, but our donors who come and the joy they have at helping our student-athletes and the opportunity to get to know them on a personal level, and support them,” said CMU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Michael Alford.
“Their contributions just mean so much; they allow us to provide a first-class experience for our student-athletes, and they enable us to compete on a national level. And without their support we just couldn’t be where we want to be, and that’s winning championships.”
The event included an online silent auction, and 103 items were sold and raised approximately $25,000. A Samsung home theater package went or $1,400 and a vacation package to Fort Myers Beach in Florida went for a bid of $1,170.
The Chippewa Challenge has raised more than $1 million for the Chippewa Athletic Fund in its nine years, according to Associate Athletic Director Mike Dabbs.
The presenting sponsors were the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, Fabiano Brothers, the CMU Bookstore and Graff Mount Pleasant. The event included the live auctioning of a two-year lease on a 2018 Chevrolet Trax, which went for $3,500.
Adam Jaksa, the department’s interim director of multimedia services, served as the master of ceremonies. Included in the presentations was a highlight video, a video thank you to donors from current student-athletes, and a brief address from Alford, during which he pointed out some of the many highlights from the 2017-18 season.
• The Chippewa women’s basketball team’s journey to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen appearance, the team’s record 30 victories and its dual Mid-American Conference championships.
• Seven Chippewa track and field student-athletes qualified for the NCAA Championships. Five won individual MAC titles.
• The lacrosse team won the Southern Conference title in just its third year as a varsity sport. • Wrestler Matt Stencel captured the MAC title at 285 pounds and was one of seven Chippewas to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
• The gymnastics program was lauded for winning the MAC regular-season crown and the league championship event. On the individual front, Denelle Pedrick earned her second consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships and Katy Clements was named All-America.
• Tight end Tyler Conklin was taken in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL draft, and wide receiver Mark Chapman was taken with the No. 1 overall first pick in the CFL draft. CMU is one of just six institutions nationwide to have had a player taken first in both the CFL and NFL drafts after Eric Fisher was taken first in 2013 by the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
• The golf team rewrote the team and individual record book, and Kristen Wolfe placed 24th at the MAC Championships, the best finish ever for a Chippewa.
• Lexi Pelafas of the women’s soccer team scored 13 goals one season after she scored a program-record 16, raising her career total to 33, a CMU record.
On the academic front, Alford pointed up CMU’s continued success, including 39 consecutive semesters in which CMU student-athletes have posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better.
Twenty-eight Chippewa student-athletes achieved a perfect 4.0 during the spring, 2018 semester, while another 135 were at 3.5 or better.
Alford also gave updates on the Chippewa Champions Alumni Center along with ongoing construction of soccer and gymnastics locker rooms, field hockey and soccer locker rooms, updates to the club level at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, new turf for the field hockey complex, and a new scoreboard in the works for the south end of Kelly/Shorts Stadium.