Since graduating in May, Centre distance runner Willie Polio ’12 continues to receive honors for his combination of academic and athletic prowess. On top of being named Centre’s male valedictorian and male athlete of the year, Polio recently received one of the top honors in college athletics when he was selected as an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner.
The program, which was created by the NCAA in 1964, selects 29 male and 29 female student athletes in each athletic season. The field for the award is extremely competitive, with just 174 winners selected each year among more than 400,000 student athletes at NCAA member institutions. As an award recipient, Polio will receive a $7,500 grant to be used toward postgraduate study.
“It’s an honor for me to receive this award because I place a high value on being a student athlete,” says Polio, who plans on putting the scholarship to use when he begins medical school at the University of Louisville in the fall. “One of the main reasons I chose to come to Centre was because I felt it emphasized a well-rounded education that includes both academic and extracurricular components. In addition to taking major classes and preparing for medical school, during my time at Centre I was able to take enriching electives both abroad—in Greece and New Zealand—and on campus, such as glass blowing, as well as conduct academic research with a faculty member, participate on conference championship teams in multiple sports and compete at the NCAA Division III national championships multiple years in cross country.”
During his four years at Centre, Polio was a key member of Centre’s track and cross country teams, capping his senior year with All-South/Southeast Region honors in cross country and a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in the 5,000 meter run in track. The Owensboro, Ky. native also graduated summa cum laude in chemical physics and was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America in June.
“I am delighted that Willie has been awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship,” says Lisa Owens, Centre’s head track and cross country coach. “I cannot imagine anyone being more deserving than he. Willie was a pleasure to work with these past four years and will be sorely missed this fall once the cross country season begins. He is extremely bright and talented—the epitome of the perfectly well balanced NCAA Division III student athlete. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to coach him.”
Brian Chafin, Centre’s Director of Athletics, echoed Owens’ sentiments.
“This is a special award for Willie and Centre College,” Chafin says. “His outstanding work in the classroom and his running ability are an amazing mix of great talents. Willie has always represented himself and Centre College with outstanding grace and humility which only adds more credibility to his accomplishments.”
Polio demonstrated that humility upon receiving the award, deflecting the praise to those around him.
“All this was only possible because I was surrounded by teammates, coaches and professors who realized the importance of balancing academics with athletics,” Polio says. “They were willing to go the extra mile to make it all possible.”
To find out more about athletics at Centre, visit centreathletics.com.
by Centre College News
July 12, 2012