By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
After graduating from the University of Mount Union, Mary Mahoney was beginning the next phase of her life. Her career as a collegiate runner was over. She was trying to parlay a degree in environmental science into a good job.
Then came news that she was named Capital One Academic All-American of the Year for NCAA Division III Women’s Track and Field.
“It was two or three weeks after the season and everything was happening so fast,” the daughter of John and Karen Mahoney said. “I wasn’t really able to reflect until that came up.
“I had gotten a lot of news. I had graduated and was going through all these interviews, accepting a job and moving. I didn’t have time to sit and think about being a student-athlete anymore. I didn’t have that closure on it until this. Then, I was able to sit and reflect and I thought, ‘Wow, I did a lot in four years.’”
Mahoney will now be on the ballot for the national Academic All-American of the Year.
It’s not the first time Mahoney was recognized for her academic excellence. She has been named an Academic All-America First-Team selection in three straight years.
“I was really excited,” she said. “It was just one of those things that was unexpected. It was a hectic time. I was starting a new job and athletic career was wrapped up. It was one last thing that came in and surprised me.”
Mahoney was a well-decorated athlete for the Purple Raiders. She was a 14-time conference champion in track and field and an eight-time All-American who won two national titles — the 2012 outdoor 200-meter dash and 2013 indoor 400-meter dash. She was four-time Ohio Athletic Conference Sprinter of the Year and twice had been named the Great Lakes Region Sprint Athlete of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
A hamstring injury at the OAC Championships kept Mahoney from adding to that haul.
“It was one of those things that was kind of bad, but it went away,” she said. “At nationals, I tried the 200 and it just wasn’t right. I had to bow out a bit earlier than I wanted to, but everything happens for a reason.”
Mahoney also graduated with a 3.97 grade-point average.
The Academic All-American of the Year award might be the one award that means the most.
“I think it does because that’s the reason I chose a Division III institution,” Mahoney said. “They emphasize going to school to get an education and also being an athlete. They help balance an academic career with an athletic career.”
Just one class kept Mahoney from a perfect 4.0 for her college career.
“My freshman year, I had a politics class I had taken as a general requirement,” she said. “A lot of it was based on attendance. Being in volleyball at the time, I wasn’t able to meet everything because it was impossible to be there. We were on the road a lot for games. Then, I was adjusting to everything, too.
“I got a B-plus. I guess, in a way, it was a learning experience. Every person I talked to who took the class said they didn’t like the way the material was presented.”
Being such an accomplished student as well as such an accomplished athlete is never easy. But Mahoney found a way to be excellent in both arenas.
“At times, I wonder how I did it,” she said. “It sounds corny, but I think whatever you put your mind to, you can do. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
“I didn’t know what I could achieve, but if I did my best, I could accept whatever came with it.”
Mahoney has put her college life — both athletically and academically speaking — in the rearview mirror. She accepted a job with EnviroScience in Stow, where she serves as a GIS technician/scientist.
“It’s an environmental consulting company,” Mahoney said. “I make maps that help define where wetlands are. I tell people all the time that it would be easier to sit them down at a computer and show them rather than explain it.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.