With West Virginia University’s 2014 spring graduation celebration scheduled for May 9-11, WVUSports.com will focus on a student-athlete graduation story each day this week.
This week’s first feature centers on WVU redshirt-junior Thomas Kyanko, a four-year member of the 16-time NCAA champion rifle team. Thomas was asked to speak at the Mountaineer Athletic Club’s Scholarship dinner in Charleston, W.Va., on April 21. A Wellsburg native, Thomas used this opportunity to let those in attendance know that their support of the WVU Athletic Department plays a crucial role in the success of all Mountaineers.
Thomas, a 2013 CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-America At-Large Third Team honoree, will graduate this weekend with a major in computer science and a minor in mathematics. He will pursue a master’s degree in 2014-15, his final season with the rifle program.
Below is Thomas’ speech – read along as he says “thank you” on behalf of all WVU student-athletes.
I’m Thomas Kyanko
, I’m from Wellsburg, W.Va., and academically I’m a senior, though athletically I’m a junior. I’m majoring in computer science, and will be starting work on my master’s degree this fall. I’m here to give this speech on behalf of all the student-athletes at WVU, thanking you for your generous support.
I actually decided to attend WVU primarily to be on the rifle team. As a West Virginian, I already knew about the team and its reputation as the premier school for the sport. At the junior club where I started, which was actually in Pa., people seemed almost in awe of the team’s performance - it was the dream school for every high school senior who wanted to shoot in college. What I did not know was the amount of resources and effort it takes to have such a successful program.
There are a multitude of resources required. Scholarships are usually the first thing that come to mind, and they are definitely important. Without funding, many student-athletes would never have the opportunity to be on a team, or in some cases, even attend the University.
What we sometimes forget are the other resources required to have a successful program - training faculties and maintenance, equipment and staff, just to name a few, are often expected simply to be there for us, and they are absolutely vital to our athletic and academic success.
For my team, the ability to train while always having enough ammo, having access to athletic trainers to help recover from injuries or help us work out and prevent more injuries, is a huge part of our success. Over the last four years, I’ve personally seen the effects of the increased support my team has received, such as improvements to the WVU Rifle Range and constant contact with sport psychology personnel. I know that every student-athlete here appreciates the support that enables us to have these and other resources at our disposal.
For me personally, the experiences that I have had, which are due in large part from this support, are events that I did not expect when I joined the team. Some of the most notable experiences have been competing at three NCAA National Championships and bringing TWO NCAA titles back to Morgantown.
Additionally, I never dreamed I would have the chance to take a private jet to Washington, D.C., all to represent my home state and to meet the President of the United States. Much of the thrill of that trip was directly tied to a generous donation from a MAC member, and I know this is a moment that will be forever engrained in my memory.
These experiences are decidedly among the most important to me. I’m sure that every student-athlete here has his or her own collection of experiences. And so I would like to again thank you for the support you have provided all WVU student-athletes. Your dedication to our well-being enables us to succeed in all our academic and athletic endeavors, and we all are grateful.