Class of 2020 recruits prepares for athletics at the College

by Alexander Agadjanian | 8/11/16 10:41pm

As Dartmouth welcomes a new class of students to campus, the various Big Green athletic teams will soon see their programs infused with new talent. The Class of 2020 recruiting class hails from across the country and the world, and like several members from the previous freshman class, could easily impact the Ivy League in their first season in Hanover. What follows are short profiles of some of these incoming athletes.

Micah Croom ’20, football

As part of the squad that achieved Dartmouth’s first Ivy League title in nearly two decades last year, the defensive unit — one of the best in the nation — served as the backbone of the team. While the fact that only one defensive starter returns in 2016 poses a problem, the Big Green will soon begin to receive reinforcements on the defensive side. That starts with Croom, a standout safety/defensive from La Mirada, California who received a scout grade of 73 from ESPN.

As he plans to make the trek across the country to Hanover, Croom pointed to several key moments that led up to this point in his life. Growing up in the Los Angeles metropolitan area — one traditionally rife with football talent — Croom said that during his football upbringing he always played against tougher and older competition, preparing him well for the collegiate stage.

While several schools were on Croom’s radar during the recruitment process, Dartmouth stood out for a few reasons. For one, the incoming freshman attributed much of his attraction to Dartmouth to a serious balance between athletics and academics, in contrast with Bowl Championship Series schools that don’t always fully uphold the student-athlete paradigm.

“It was very different from any other offer I had received,” Croom said regarding this point. “The culture that I got to experience there was unlike any other.”

That culture was one he got to experienced first-hand, when Croom visited Dartmouth on Jan. 9.

“I went up there with my father, we landed in Boston,” Croom said about his travels. “We drove to Hanover from the Boston airport, which was probably the best decision, because that kind of sold [the school] itself, just seeing the scenery along the way, the geography, the trees, the forest. We went up in the winter time too. To me, coming from southern California, especially LA, seeing snow is like seeing a deer on its hind legs, I’ve never seen something like that before.”

During his visit, Croom found a family environment among the players, and facilities that competed with those at a Football Bowl Subdivision school. Along with the world-class education, he said it was hard to say no to the offer.

“Even though I was there for four days, it felt like I had been there a month,” Croom said. “I was just that comfortable being there. And I didn’t feel that comfortable at any other school.”

Three current football players reached out to Croom during his stay in Hanover: Charles Mack ’18, Emory Thompson ’18 and Kyran McKinney-Crudden ’18, the last of whom was his host. Croom said that in talking with these three players, what captivated and brought them to Dartmouth also captivated him. Moreover, Croom was able to talk to alumni like former star cornerback Vernon Harris ’16, who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs and shares the same position as Croom.

“All of those guys just gave me more assurance and confidence in making the right decision,” Croom said.

Looking ahead to the fall, Croom expressed his excitement to join a program on the heels of one of its greatest recent accomplishments.

“To come off with that momentum, it’s a great place to come in at because there’s an energy there especially coming off a championship,” he said.

Cha’Mia Rothwell ’20, women’s track and field

Having started running at the age of six with her club team, the Durham Striders — her same team through this summer — Rothwell will bring a very useful versatility to Dartmouth’s track and field team having excelled in various events beforehand.

Hailing from Durham, North Carolina, Rothwell began her track career just competing in sprint events. Her skills eventually allowed her to branch out to other areas: first to high jumps, then hurdles — which Rothwell views as one of her best events, as well as her favorite — and most recently on long jump. Rothwell is also the first Big Green women’s track and field recruit to have posted a 100-meters hurdles time inside 14 seconds. While she knows she’ll compete in the hurdles and long jump, Rothwell said that she won’t be limited to those events.

Rothwell singled out a few things that have prepared her to run track at Dartmouth, including having competed in national events and thus against some of the tougher competition in the country for her club.

"Just trusting in my training and my coaches brought me a long way,” Rothwell also mentioned as part of her preparation. “And just being confident in my abilities and what I know I can do. Just bringing that to the collegiate level is all I think I really need.”

After initially receiving a phone call from one of the Dartmouth coaches last July, Rothwell wasn’t considering the College, but eventually it landed on her top few schools.

“I took a visit the first week in October, and I really loved it,” she said. “I felt like I fit in well with the team, I loved my coaches. One thing that just stuck out to me was that I felt like I could see myself there [unlike with other schools].”

Rothwell also mentioned her future coach connecting with her family as figuring heavily into her own decision-making.

“One thing that I noticed was that the head coach [Sandy Ford-Centonze] right off the bat formed a very strong relationship with my mom, and that was something I really admired,” Rothwell said. “Considering that I’m 12 to 13 hours away from home, I like that they established a relationship right away.”

Looking ahead to starting her track career with the Big Green, Rothwell laid out several goals she has for herself. Starting with getting adjusted and helping out where she can with the team, Rothwell lists striving to break a couple school records in her events, winning an Ivy League championship for the women’s team and eventually trying to go to NCAA meet and place in the top eight there as long-term goals.

Zach Kalk ’20, men’s soccer

In winning its second consecutive Ivy League title last season, the Dartmouth men’s soccer team was led in large part by several talented freshmen who accounted for nearly half of the team’s goals scored. In 2016, the program will hope for that same type of support from the freshman class, among whom is midfielder Kalk.

Born in Toronto, Canada and having played soccer since he was three years old, Kalk arrives in Hanover with a decorated career playing north of the border. As part of playing for his U14 club team the Klineburg Lions, Kalk won the Canadian national championship, and during his time with his U16 team, the incoming freshman won his Ontario provincial cup and played in national competition.

Currently playing for the semi-pro Woodbridge Strikers, Kalk said experiences with various different coaches and playing alongside older players who have since moved up in the soccer ranks has spurred his development as a player.

Last year, Kalk went to Berkshire school, a prep school in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where current Dartmouth soccer player Justin Donawa ’19 and Jack Harrison, 2016 MLS Superdraft number one pick and current MLS player, went to school.

“I wasn’t in much contact with [Harrison], but I got to play with him a few times with [his club] Black Rock FC, which was awesome, and I’ve met him a few times,” Kalk said about his experiences with these players. “This past December, with Black Rock, we went to IMG showcase. Justin came with [the team] and we got to play together and spend the whole week together in Florida. That was probably our best bonding experience, getting to play soccer together every day and living together. Just finding out about the [Dartmouth soccer] program, asking questions about how he liked it.”

Education came first in Kalk’s college decision-making process. Along with the recent successes of the Big Green soccer program, Dartmouth became a very compelling option because of this balance. Moreover, having a brother at Dartmouth — Corey Kalk ’18, a forward on the men’s hockey team — paved a way for Kalk to talk with some of the Dartmouth soccer players during his visits to Hanover. The familial tie at Dartmouth further motivated Kalk’s choice to come to Dartmouth as well.

Having already met many players on the team and with knowledge of the Big Green’s current stature in the Ivy League, Kalk said he looks forward to taking the field in the fall and continuing the program’s successes.

“I’m just really looking forward to getting on campus and being a part of the team and the opportunity of playing on such a high level, and just having the chance to learn from the older guys,” Kalk said. “The team consists of so many great players from around the states and the world, it think it’s just a really good opportunity to improve as a player and a person, and I’m just looking forward to what the team can achieve in the future.”

Chuyang Guan ’20, women’s tennis

Starting her tennis career at the age of seven, for much of her life incoming Dartmouth women’s tennis freshman Guan was driven by a lofty goal that intertwined her academic and athletic aspirations.

“When I was a child, my dream [was] always to study at a top university and play high level tennis,” Guan said. “So having the opportunity to study and represent Dartmouth as a member of the tennis team fulfills my lifelong dream. [This dream] has been carrying me these last 10 years.”

Coming from San Antonio, Texas, Guan has participated in a tennis academy for eight years along with playing for her high school team. Attaining national high school tennis All-American honors in 2016 and being ranked 55th in the country, Guan believes her prior tennis experiences have prepared her well to compete in the Ivy League.

“On the court, I deal with a lot of adversity, I’ve learned how to deal with pressure,” Guan said about her readiness coming into college. “I think that has made me a stronger player.”

After committing to Dartmouth in November of 2015, Guan didn’t come to visit Hanover until February of this year. During her visit, she really enjoyed spending time with the team and took note of the high academic level at the school.

"I just fell in love with everything,” she said about her time in February. “The campus was the perfect size for me. Meeting the team, I thought the team chemistry was really good. Everybody seemed like a family together.”

As she prepares to come to Dartmouth in the fall, Guan expressed optimism for what she’ll do in the tennis program and outside of it.

“I’m hoping that I will do well both on and off the court,” Guan said about her expectations for being at Dartmouth. “I’m hoping I can at least earn a spot on the lineup, and I really look forward to playing for the team.”