Four years ago, a head coaching candidate for our men’s basketball team sat across from me in my office. He told me if given the position, he would build a winning program at Davis & Elkins College and do it with young men of character. Coach Daniel Mondragon is a gentleman of his word.
The 2022-23 Senators compiled a season record of 19-11. Winning basketball teams have been scarce at D&E in recent decades. The last winning season for D&E was 1980-81, and you must go all the way back to 1958-59 to match the number of wins from this season.
The Mountain East Conference (MEC) is known as a strong basketball conference. This basketball season, three of this year’s top 10 NCAA Division II teams play in the MEC. The Senators finished 12-10 in the conference and were in a three-way tie for 5th place. Coach Mondragon was named the MEC Coach of the Year, a very well-deserved honor.
I had the pleasure of being in Wheeling recently for the MEC Tournament, where D&E was seeded sixth and played the third-seeded University of Charleston in the quarterfinals. Since joining the MEC in 2019, D&E was winless against the University of Charleston. The “Cinderella” Senators took care of business to defeat the Golden Eaglers and advance to the semifinals against nationally ranked Fairmont State University. While ultimately falling short against the Falcons, D&E gave Fairmont all they could handle in a low-scoring game. The Senators earned the respect of our competitors and made believers of many in Elkins and beyond.
The players, particularly junior Sam Rolle and senior Breland Walton, received wonderful post-season accolades. Beyond the awards, both young men have worked very hard in their academic pursuits and sport. They are also well-respected on campus and have pulled together to overcome personal and team adversity. During this academic year, two of the starting five tragically lost a parent. As in basketball, so in life, the lessons of hard work, perseverance in the face of adversity, and supporting one another for the common good served the Senators well.
College athletics, particularly at the NCAA Division II level, provides athletes an opportunity to take their chosen sport to the next level after high school and learn all the life lessons inherent in competition and being a part of a team. As President of D&E, I am always grateful when we are athletically competitive, and the recognition of our team(s) and our institution makes us all proud.
Equally important to me is that the young men and women who make up our athletic teams understand and celebrate that they are student-athletes and “student” comes first. Their accomplishments in the classroom that result in the conferring of a baccalaureate degree, coupled with their leadership on campus and the lifelong relationships they form with faculty, staff, and fellow students, are paramount. Hopefully, included among their treasured D&E memories are a school athletic record, a huge win against a rival team, or a conference championship. For our athletes, all these experiences combined make for a transformative and memorable collegiate experience.
How proud I am of all our D&E Senators who give it their all…in their academics, extra-curricular activities, athletics, and wherever they learn and mature.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College