Diving into the books


Sports editor

Courtney McKenzie is what is right about college athletics. The 1999 graduate of Decatur High School is the definition of a student-athlete.

McKenzie proved herself as one of the top divers on the Northern Arizona University swim/dive team but, more importantly, she proved herself in the classroom during her four-year stint on the Flagstaff campus.

Intercollegiate sports are a major part of our cultural landscape, there is no doubt about that — 80,000 people will show up to Husky Stadium on fall Saturdays to watch the University of Washington football team play Idaho. But college athletics have become troubled with rule violations, academic failure and exploitation.

McKenzie didn’t let those attitudes and preconceptions creep into her four-year intercollegiate career at Northern Arizona University. She just did what she has always done — went to class and went to practice.

In a day when a bulk of the American people agree that college sports have gotten out of control, are being corrupted by big money and the many cases of serious rules violations have undermined the traditional role of a university as a place where young people learn ethics and integrity — McKenzie persevered.

“I’ve always wondered how she does it,” said Tonia McKenzie, Courtney’s mother. “She is a very driven individual.”

McKenzie recently graduated from Northern Arizona with a double-major in economics and finance with a minor in Spanish and is heading back to NAU in the fall for graduate school. She compiled an astounding 3.93 grade-point average, won the Northern Arizona Scholar Athlete of the Year, was a 2001 Academic All-American nominee and was named to the Verizon Academic All-District VIII At-Large team this year by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

McKenzie also was recently recognized as honorable mention Academic All-America by the Collegiate Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) for her academic and athletic accomplishments.

To be recognized as Academic All-America, student-athletes must possess a minimum grade-point average of 3.5. She was one of only 99 female athletes at all NCAA levels to be honored with the award.

Her secret is simple — good, old fashioned dedication.

“It’s great to see hard work both athletically and academically being recognized,” McKenzie said. “To do the best in both areas has always been my goal.”

She was no slouch on the diving board, either.

McKenzie earned first-team, all-conference honors on both the springboard and platform diving boards, which goes to the top-eight finishers in the conference. McKenzie was also an 11-time All-National Independent Conference performer on the springboards and platform — including nine first-team nods — and was a four-time qualifier for the NCAA Zone Diving Championships, one of only four such athletes in school history.

Quite the impressive resume for a potential employer to scan and accomplishments that prove there are quality student/athletes floating around the country with all the bad publicity university’s get in the media.

McKenzie is what makes college athletics worthwhile.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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