UCLA women's soccer team earns 2019 Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award

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SAN FRANCISCO - The Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) voted to award the UCLA women’s soccer team with the Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award for 2018-19. The honor recognizes the strength of character and tremendous sportsmanship the Bruins displayed after the tragic loss of a Utah student-athlete last fall.

In October 2018, Lauren McCluskey, an accomplished student-athlete for the Utes women’s track and field program, was killed on Utah’s campus. Lauren, a senior majoring in communication and set to graduate in 2019, was a highly regarded member of the track and field team and an outstanding scholar. The news of Lauren’s passing shook the Utah and Pac-12 community. A vigil was arranged to mourn Lauren on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

UCLA and Utah had a scheduled women’s soccer match the day after Lauren’s vigil. The day before the game, instead of resting and preparing for competition, the UCLA team attended the vigil on campus alongside the Utah community. The Bruins’ show of support and solidarity in such a difficult time was noticed and greatly appreciated by many in the community.

Dominique Randall, a UCLA academic counselor who worked at Utah in the Fall of 2018, witnessed the team’s show of support and was deeply moved by its decision to attend the vigil. “The team went above and beyond to show support for the community,” Randall said, “That day they were not opponents. They were student-athletes supporting student-athletes.”

In a sea of red supporters mourning the loss of a beloved student-athlete, the UCLA women in blue exemplified compassion, unity and strength. It was a solemn reminder of the power of sports to connect people, especially in times of grief.

“When we heard about the tragedy surrounding the Utah track and field team, we happened to be on campus preparing to play Utah the next day,” said Chloe Castaneda, a redshirt junior midfielder for UCLA. “Being able to attend Lauren’s vigil and show our support for another athletic community made me realize just how powerful the platform of sports can be in its ability to bring people together in a time of need.”

This is not the first UCLA team to be honored for its commitment to sportsmanship. The Bruins’ gymnastics team won the award in 2015 after it supported and encouraged an injured member of the Utah gymnastics team at the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships.

The Sportsmanship Award is selected by members of the Pac-12 SAAC and is based on good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in participation of intercollegiate athletics, as well as a demonstration of good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Nominees must have demonstrated the values of respect and integrity through a specific action. The student-athlete or team must have consistently demonstrated the values of respect and integrity in their daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. Conference award winners are then nominated for the NCAA Division I Sportsmanship Award.

Previous Pac-12 Sportsmanship Award winners:
2004    Grayling Love, Arizona State
2005    Channing Frye, Arizona; Cara Chlebicki, California
2006    Eric Nygard, Washington State; Anna Key, California
2007    Mitch Canham, Oregon State; Jennifer Tangtiphaiboontana, Stanford
2008    Michael Capbarat, California; Arianna Lambie, Stanford
2009    Stenn Parton, USC; Lindsey Kelley, Arizona
2010    Ben Ashmore, Arizona State; Stanford women’s rowing team
2011    Jeff Gudaitis, Washington; Katie Matusik, Arizona
2012    Bryson Beirne, Arizona; Brittany Hart, Oregon
2013    Kylie Sharp, Washington
2014    University of Colorado Student-Athletes
2015    UCLA women’s gymnastics team
2016    Riley Sorenson, Washington State
2017    Anna Rosen, Washington State
2018    Sarah Shimomura, Arizona
2019    UCLA women’s soccer team

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