Natural-Born Leaders

Curious, competitive and civic-minded student-athletes

By:
Sarah Beaudry, Arizona Athletics photos

2017 NCAA Woman of the Year Nominee Laura Larson ’17

Sport: Volleyball | Graduated: May 2017 | Major: Molecular and cellular biology

How’s your fall season without volleyball?
Kind of weird — I played volleyball for 13 years. 

What are you doing instead?
I moved back to Minnesota in May, and I am going into sports management. I just interviewed with the Super Bowl Committee and hope to get a job in logistics.

Most memorable Arizona experience? 
Going to the Sweet 16 my senior year. It was unforgettable to make it that far in the tournament.

What do you miss the most? 
The team and the coaches. They are like my second family. I am surprising them at their first tournament in Nashville. 

You graduated summa cum laude with a degree in molecular and cellular biology and a minor in biochemistry — why sports management?
I planned to go to pharmacy school. I met with a pharmacy school adviser, and they asked me why I wanted to be a pharmacist. It was then that I realized I was passionate about sports management. I had to admit to myself that it was the direction I wanted to go. 

Life lessons from being a student-athlete? 
Time management: Being a student-athlete, you have so many responsibilities. You learn to prioritize what you want to do and need to do. 

And dealing with stressful situations? 
When you play volleyball in the Pac-12, you have to make split-second decisions that win or lose a point for your team. Making decisions and sticking with them is important. 

On your nomination for NCAA Woman of the Year? 
I could not be more honored. It is nice to know that someone who is well rounded with athletics, academics and volunteerism can be recognized. It’s really important to me to know that all my hard work didn’t go unnoticed.

Why the University of Arizona?
The second I met the team it was such a welcoming, family environment. They cared about me as a person, not just a player. And I couldn’t say “no” to the warm weather compared to Minnesota. 

Sammy Morrison

Sport: Football | Year: Sophomore | Major: Prebusiness

On applying what you learn on the field to academics? 
At the end of the day, it’s all about discipline. You have to put in the work, whether it’s in life, sports or academics.  

Why president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAC)?
I want to be well rounded — I don’t just want to play football. My sister, Faith, was a gymnast at the University of Washington and a SAC president. So I wanted to try it to make a difference, to show athletes you don’t have to be confined to sport. We won’t play sports forever. 

Why prebusiness?
I am applying to Eller this fall, and if I get in I will study marketing and entrepreneurship. Eller has a top-five entrepreneurial program, so it’s an awesome opportunity. I want to start an alarm company when I graduate. Starting your own company is hard, but it’s intriguing — the idea of being my own boss.

Your favorite UA classes?
Freshman year, I enjoyed MIS with Bill Neumann. It was an interesting cybersecurity class. I liked Spanish because when I was a kid I had a Hispanic nanny and learned Spanish. And my theater improv class — it was harder than I thought. We were put in pairs and had to read from well-known plays. The professor was trying to get me to change my major to acting, but I am sticking with business. 

Other than football?
I enjoy singing. I am now the vice president of the Eller a capella, Eller Vator Pitch. 

Why the University of Arizona?
I had a lot of offers, but my father, Darryl Morrison, played football here. My mom and dad met in high school in Phoenix and both went to the UA. I love the campus; I visited with my family when I was 7. 

Avery Mickens ’17

Sport: Track and field | Year: First-year grad student | Major: Educational psychology

What do you enjoy most about track and field? 
I like being able to travel and meet all kinds of people from different cultures around the U.S. And long jump is really fun; it feels like you are flying. Run and jump up in the air — it’s one of the best feelings.

Other than track and field?
Cliff jumping. And I like to travel. Over the summer, I took a 40-day trip through Europe. I visited my girlfriend from Belgium. We traveled to the Netherlands, Germany, Venice and Paris. Our road trip through Germany was great. We drove on the race track in Nürburgring [motorsports complex]. 

Why change from an engineering major to educational psychology? 
I did well in engineering, but I wanted to work with people. I like learning about people living in certain social constructs. If you can learn about a small sample of people, you can help a larger group. 

Your influences?
My dad was in the military. I was born in Guam, then moved to Germany, then Florida and to Arizona. I learned a lot about different cultures. This led me to want to work with people. People have similar struggles all over. 

How about your interest in working with children?
My dad worked at a youth home for troubled kids, and everyone gave up on them. I’ve had opportunity in my life, so I want to give opportunity back to kids who don’t have it from their families or anyone around them. 

Greatest lessons from your coaches?
No matter how out of reach something seems, if you practice — if you put in the work — anything is achievable.  

Why the University of Arizona? 
I was recruited by the UA and by Cornell. It’s really cold there. When I came to Arizona I loved the atmosphere and the track team. We went to Seven Falls (where you can cliff jump) and I fell in love with the team. 

Lauryn Mattson

Sport: Gymnastics | Year: Junior | Major: Accounting

On maintaining balance between a rigorous practice schedule and earning Pac-12 All-Academic honors?
Growing up, gymnastic clubs are rigorous. You practice four hours a day and then have to come home to do homework. So when I got to college I was ready. It’s actually easier because you aren’t in class all day, and you can use your free time to study.

You’re very scheduled?
I am very Type A and very organized. It comes with gymnastics.  

Most memorable Arizona gymnastics moments?
My first meet as a freshman; the Girl Scouts were in the crowd screaming. I was so nervous. I did my first vault, and the crowd erupted. It was an awesome feeling. And last year, we beat Cal at our first home meet. We were in our zone. I love being with my team and meeting our goals. It’s the best feeling. 

Your career dreams? 
I am looking into accounting internships — public accounting firms. I’d like to somehow stay in the sports realm. I am also going to apply for the Nike internship. 

Favorite classes? 
Accounting classes are not my favorite, but the toughest. I’m kind of a nerd. I really like to learn. Accounting is so difficult, and you have to pay attention. An hour class feels like 15 minutes. It keeps me engaged. I really like learning history and about different cultures. Mythology — gods and demons. I like the stories and how they apply in everyday life. 

What do you love about Tucson? 
My favorite thing about Tucson is campus. Every day I walk the Mall. The palm trees are so beautiful. The weather is so nice; the mornings in winter are chilly, but then it goes up to 70. And because the UA is the main sports team, it is nice to have the whole city support you. It’s one of my favorite things.

Trent Botha

Sport: Tennis | Year: Senior | Major: Business management 

On moving from Cape Town, South Africa, to the U.S.?
It was a big change, leaving my family at a young age. It opened my eyes to new ideas and took me out of my comfort zone. It’s a faster pace, a lot more “in your face.” Tucson — I love the mix of cultures. I am familiar with that, being from South Africa where people speak four languages. 

How long have you been playing tennis? 
Since I started walking. My dad played on a pro tour; my brother played at Alabama; my sister plays. I started competitive play at 6 or 7. Wherever life takes me, I’ll have a tennis racket in hand.

On applying lessons from tennis to life?
Tennis taught me about who I am and what I stand for; how I react to things. Playing here has developed me in presenting myself and representing my team. Learning how to lose … come Monday morning, you have to find positives. 

Why the University of Arizona? 
I came on a recruiting trip, and straight away there was a homey feel from the coaches and players. You don’t come by that often. It’s a great thing to be representing a school like Arizona and to be playing in the Pac-12 conference. 

How about after graduation? 
I will extend my stay. America is a great country, and it’s been an honor to go to college here. 

Career aspirations? 
I’m looking into commercial real estate and interested in human resources. One of my strengths is working with people, being sociable. I have a great opportunity, working with teammates from six different countries: Ukraine, Republic of Georgia, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, Germany and the U.S. 

Favorite thing about campus? 
Good weather is No. 1. I’d rather be way too hot than way too cold. Walk past the union, and everything is happening — there’s always engagement, even when its 105 degrees. 

Claire Green

Sport: Cross country | Year: Senior | Major: Marketing

How do you apply cross country to academics? 
To be successful in cross country you have to be gritty, and you can’t give up. I push my body to the limits, and in the classroom push my brain to the limits. The key to being a student-athlete is being balanced, and you give up a social life: Academics and practice come first. 

Why running? 
I enjoy training with a team but having control over my own success. This summer, we had team building and high-altitude training — a week of intense training to get an advantage at the beginning of season and make connections between old and new teammates. 

Favorite UA classes?
The Eller program is very structured, but I try to take one class a semester just because I want to take it. My favorite class is African dance; I’ve taken it twice now. I’ve enjoyed Native American linguistics and a U.S.-Mexico border class, which was really interesting because it is so relevant, being in Tucson. I really love my marketing classes, especially sports marketing. 

What do you do in your spare time?
I love to read and I love to dance. I like anything outside: walking, hiking and swimming. I can’t sit still. Photography. I like to eat, of course. Sushi is my favorite thing to go get. 

Inspiring college experiences? 
An internship in Japan with Sports Camps of America. A teammate and I were English immersion camp counselors; we relied on sports to bridge the language gap. 

Marketing major? 
I started in elementary education and switched to marketing. You can get into any field with a marketing major. My mom is a middle school math teacher and there are so many students unnoticed or underserved. I want to start a nonprofit that provides educational services to reach underserved students to help them be successful. 

Why the University of Arizona?
When I met with the coaches, I knew I wouldn’t find better coaches anywhere — and it has great training weather year-round.