President Barack Obama congratulates 19 NCAA champion teams for their accomplishments and sacrifices at a White House ceremony Monday. He said these athletes have paved the way for his daughters, Malia and Sasha. (SHFWire photo by Cathryn Walker)
President Barack Obama congratulates 19 NCAA champion teams for their accomplishments and sacrifices at a White House ceremony Monday. He said these athletes have paved the way for his daughters, Malia and Sasha. (SHFWire photo by Cathryn Walker)

Men’s XC team honored at White House

WASHINGTON – The Buffs’ men’s cross country team celebrated its 2013 national championship with a trip to the White House and words or praise from the president.

President Barack Obama welcomed dozens of 2012-2013 NCAA Division I student athlete champions Monday for a White House tour and a ceremony on a sunny but windy South Lawn.

The CU men's cross country outside the White House after being recognized by the president. From left, Morgan Pearson, Zach Perrin, Connor Winter, Pierce Murphy, Ammar Moussa, Blake Theroux, Ben Saarel and Dillon Shije. (Photo courtesy coach Billy Nelson)
The CU men’s cross country outside the White House after being recognized by the president. From left, Morgan Pearson, Zach Perrin, Connor Winter, Pierce Murphy, Ammar Moussa, Blake Theroux, Ben Saarel and Dillon Shije. (Photo courtesy coach Billy Nelson)

He congratulated the University of Colorado Boulder and 18 other college teams on their national victories. CU’s men’s cross country team earned its fourth national championship title in November with 149 points.

“As a kid, I would have never guessed that I’d be meeting the president because of running,” Connor Winter, 21, the team’s co-captain said. “But through that dedication and hard work, I’ve fulfilled a lot of things I never thought I would do.”

Obama recognized the 2013 NCAA basketball and football teams separately. He said that, while the sports represented Monday may not receive as much airtime on the television, they’re just as remarkable.

“I think that for all these outstanding athletes and sports, it’s important to acknowledge that your investment and time and effort and dedication is just as significant,” Obama said.

Blake Theroux, 21, CU-Boulder’s other team co-captain, said that was one of the most memorable parts of Obama’s speech.

“The biggest thing that stuck with me was his appreciation for our sacrifice,” Theroux said. “He’s just as proud of us as any of those teams.”

Obama said that, even though many smaller college athletic programs are getting cut, athletics is about more than “just network ratings.”

President Barack Obama congratulates 19 NCAA champion teams for their accomplishments and sacrifices at a White House ceremony Monday. He said these athletes have paved the way for his daughters, Malia and Sasha. (SHFWire photo by Cathryn Walker)
President Barack Obama congratulates 19 NCAA champion teams for their accomplishments and sacrifices at a White House ceremony Monday. He said these athletes have paved the way for his daughters, Malia and Sasha. (SHFWire photo by Cathryn Walker)

Temple University announced in December that it will cut seven intercollegiate athletic programs by July 2014 to save money. Those sports include baseball, men’s crew, men’s gymnastics, men’s outdoor track and field, men’s indoor track and field, softball and women’s rowing.

Obama also recognized teams’ academic and community service accomplishments. He said athletes’ work raising awareness for Habitat for Humanity, Read Across America and gay rights is the kind of ethic that makes a true champion.

“Now, no matter what sport you play, no matter where you come from, for the rest of your lives every single one of you is going to be able to call yourselves a national champion,” Obama said.

Other teams recognized at the ceremony are:

Reach reporter Cathryn Walker at cathryn.walker@shns.com or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.

About Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

Interns report for work each day at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire, which is housed in the same office as the Scripps Howard News Service, four blocks from the White House. They report and write a variety of stories. Interns also talk with experts at the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Student Press LawCenter, the Washington Post, the State Department, the Pentagon and others to better understand how to cover the news. Interns should be prepared to cover government, politics, breaking news, business, sports and features.

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