Iowa tennis players put the "student" back in student-athlete


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Hawkeye men’s tennis players Garret Dunn, Andres Estenssoro, Michael Swank, Chase Tomlins, and Joey White were five of Iowa’s 57 student athletes to receive Academic All-Big Ten recognition for the 2013 spring semester. Dunn, who served as Iowa’s captain this past season as a senior, was selected to third team Academic All-American after posting a 3.99 grade-point average.

Athletes need to be letter winners in their respective sports during at least their second year attending their current school while obtaining a 3.0 GPA or higher in order to receive this accolade.

Academic All-Big Ten honorees Swank, Tomlins, and White have been living together since their sophomore years. White is majoring in biology, and Swank and Tomlins are studying finance at the UI Tippie College of Business.

Swank and Tomlins have taken similar classes and often aid each other in homework and studying.

“This was the most classes we’ve had together during this past semester,” Swank said. “We get to help each other out when projects and stuff like that come around. Anything I don’t get, I can run to Chase and ask him for help.

“He usually doesn’t ask me for help,” Swank noted and laughed.

The three Hawkeye roommates have stood out in the classroom. White achieved a 3.2 GPA in a strenuous biology field, and Swank and Tomlins impressively accumulated 3.4 GPAs during the spring semester.

Balancing school and athletics is difficult for any student-athlete, especially in season. Long days, filled schedules, and demanding practices are some of the challenges presented to student-athletes daily.

“Balancing athletics with school is extremely tough,” Tomlins said. “It’s a battle between choosing to study for a test or going out for another practice session.”

The Hawkeyes played nearly half of their tennis meets on the road during the 2013 spring season — they traveled to various destinations across the United States, including San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio. The most difficult aspect of playing on the road takes place off the court, when athletes try to keep up with their scholastic obligations.

“I would say that’s when everyone’s grades kind of take a hit,” Tomlins said. “You miss class, and it’s really hard to make it up.”

White noted, “You always think you can study in the car, but it’s so tough. But we’re used to it; this is what we signed up for.”

Each of the three is extremely proud of his accomplishments. The term “student-athlete” has been under question when considering the current landscape of college sports.

But the Iowa men’s tennis players believe their academic success reflects the standards that the Hawkeye men’s tennis program expects.

“One thing that the Iowa tennis team has really hung our hats on is a group of really good, high-quality kids who care as much about academics as they do athletics,” Swank said. “The fact that we can be the face of that really means a lot.”

And in athletics — where grades can often be overlooked for the amount of skill one athlete has — these Iowa men’s tennis players are more than proud to show off their intellect.

“It shows that we’re more than just tennis players,” White said.

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