Five members of Women's Track & Field family celebrate graduation
Dec. 8, 2012
Mallory Majcher, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- A total of 31 current and former Texas student-athletes have finished their coursework and will graduate from The University this weekend. Among those athletes, five from the Women's Track & Field family in Nichole Denby, Laleh Mojtabaeezamani, Stacey-Ann Smith, Angele Cooper and Amanda VanDyke will cross the stage and enter the next chapter in their lives.
Denby completed her athletic eligibility in 2004 and since competed in the professional ranks. In August, Denby returned to the Forty Acres to finish her last nine credit hours to earn a degree from the College of Education.
"This is definitely my biggest life accomplishment," said Denby. "To be a college graduate means so much to me."
Denby, who has a three-year-old daughter, wanted to finish her degree to show her daughter the importance of education, especially as a professional athlete.
"I didn't want to have to tell [my daughter] to do something, like go to college, when it was something that I never finished," said Denby.
After graduation, Denby plans to return to her life as a professional runner, training full time.
Denby ended her athletic career at Texas by winning the 2004 NCAA title in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 12.62, a school record in the event that she still holds today. The six-time All-American was also the 2003 and 2004 Big 12 Indoor Champion in the 60-meter hurdles as well as the 2004 Big 12 Outdoor Champion in the 100m hurdles.
Mojtabaeezamani competed in the distance events for the Longhorns, completing her collegiate running career with the 2012 cross country season. During her tenure at Texas, Mojtabaeezamani was a three-time All-South Central Region honoree for cross country and also earned outdoor All-Big 12 First Team accolades twice in the 10,000-meter event in track. She was named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team for cross country in 2010 and 2011 and for track & field in 2011 and 2012.
After graduation, Mojtabaeezamani will return to her hometown in Keller, Texas, and begin teaching in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area for Teach for America. After two years with Teach for America, she wants to continue teaching elementary school and possibly coach track & field.
Mojtabaeezamani will be the third of her siblings to earn a degree from The University of Texas. As she prepares to walk the stage, she reflects on her journey over the past four and a half years at UT and how excited she is to become a part of such an incredible legacy.
"UT's reputation across the world is absolutely amazing," said Mojtabaeezamani. "It is the best balance you can find between academics and athletics and I am so honored to have been a part of that."
Smith, who also competed with Texas Women's Soccer during her time at UT, will graduate from the College of Education with a degree in Government.
Smith was a member of the gold medal-winning 4x400-meter relay team at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Track & Field Championships. Smith and Texas teammates Julie Amthor, Marielle Hall and Betzy Jimenez hold the school record for the indoor distance medley relay with a time of 11:14.53. She is a five-time first team All-American (once outdoor, four times indoor) and earned a spot on the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll during four semesters of her academic career.
Cooper, a sprinter for Texas Women's Track and Field from 2009-2012, won an outdoor NCAA title as a member of the Longhorns' 4x400-meter relay team in 2009. She was a six-time first team All-American and a 13-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree.
Cooper graduates with a degree in Applied Learning & Development from the College of Education.
Van Dyke, who will also graduate with a degree in Applied Learning & Development this weekend, was a thrower for Texas from 2009-2012.
Van Dyke recorded the fifth-best mark in school history in the indoor shot put throw, posting a distance of 53 feet, 11 inches, at the Arkansas Last Chance meet during the 2012 season. She also holds the sixth-highest outdoor shot put throw in UT history with a distance of 51 feet, 11.75 inches at the Florida Relays, recorded in April 2012.