Ke’kuewa, Rogers named NJCAA Distinguished Academic All-Americans
Jun. 29th, 2012
Smith, Zwart named to NJCAA Academic All-American list
Yuma, Arizona – June 29, 2012 -- Arizona Western College is proud to announce that four Matador student-athletes have been named to the NJCAA Academic All-American List, with two of them earning the honor of NJCAA Distinguished Academic All-American. The four student-athletes come from three of the Matador Athletic Department’s seven athletic programs. The announcements were made as part of the comprehensive list, which was posted on the NJCAA website.
Those who reach the level of NJCAA Distinguished Academic All-American must have a 3.8 cumulative grade point average or higher. Blowing right by that mark was the starting center for the Western States Football League Champion Matador Football team, David Ke’kuewa (KEH-koo-WEH-vuh). The native of Kea’au, Hawaii, came to Yuma in the summer of 2010 wondering why the combination of strong high school grades and high marks for on-field potential didn’t translate to scholarship offers from four-year schools. He spent the next two years showing how much of an error the universities that passed him up made-both on the field and in the classroom. He worked feverishly as a freshman to finally earn a starting job on the Matadors’ offensive line in time to be on the front five for the Matadors’ appearance in the 2010 C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl. Ke’kuewa used that momentum to become the epitome of his nickname-‘The Chief’-as a sophomore, anchoring the 6th-most powerful rushing offense in the nation, leading the Matadors to the brink of a national championship at the 2011 El Toro Bowl, and being named an NJCAA 1st Team All-American as well as a 1st Team All-ACCAC and All-WSFL selection. His biggest accolade is this one, though, since he posted an incredible 3.87 cumulative grade point average during his time at AWC, including getting straight A’s for all 16 credits last fall (a perfect 4.0 GPA). Ke’kuewa’s academic and athletic talents will next be seen in Ohio as he graduated after the fall semester, and transferred to Bowling Green University.
Joining Ke’kuewa at the prestigious Distinguished Academic All-American level is another star from the fall semester, Matador Volleyball student-athlete Nina Rogers. Like Ke’kuewa, Rogers had to work her way into a starting role for Jason Smith’s Lady Matadors on the court, but she remained a frontrunner in helping lead the team to be named an NJCAA All-Academic Team each of the past two years. Her 74 kills as a sophomore this past season was a vital part of the Lady Matadors’ run to the Region I Volleyball Finals, but off the court, she was even more important, posting a perfect 4.0 GPA for the spring semester (exceeding the 3.77 GPA in the fall) over 15 credits to graduate with a whopping 3.84 cumulative GPA over her two-year academic career. Rogers, who was born and raised in Cathedral City, California, will take her Associate’s degree from AWC back to the Golden State as she heads to Mills College in Oakland this fall.
Rogers wasn’t the only member of the AWC Volleyball squad to make this particular grade, since heading the list of those making the NJCAA Academic All-American list (must have a 3.6 cumulative grade point average or higher) is Lady Matadors’ volleyball player Kailey Smith. The balance between staying strong in the classroom while living up to your potential on the court is a challenge for any student-athlete, but Smith’s journey through her sophomore season had another turn that made this achievement that much more memorable. After a promising freshman season that saw her work her way up to a part-time starting setter position, AWC Head Volleyball Coach Jason Smith handed the ball to Kailey this past fall, and told her to lead the team as the starting setter. That looked like a great idea until three weeks into the season, when Kailey was stricken with an illness that was expected to sideline her for the remainder of the season. Undaunted, the native of Sumner, Washington, worked to stay in shape and mentally strong, and fought through the illness to not only return to the court in time for the Lady Matadors’ run to the Region I Finals, but also post a 3.81 GPA for the fall semester. She followed that with a 3.78 GPA this past spring, giving her a cumulative 3.71 GPA for her Matador academic career. Smith is bound for Francis Marion University in Pennsylvania for the fall semester.
Finally, the pressure of becoming one of the few sophomore returners on the new-look AWC Baseball team this past spring didn’t hamper the academic efforts or consistency of Matador outfielder Hunter Zwart (SWAHRT). New AWC Head Baseball Coach Drew Keehn overhauled the roster when he took over the reins of the program, but made sure to keep Zwart, who had been one of the promising stars of 2011. Zwart remained one of the team’s fastest runners, stealing a total of 13 bases in his two seasons, but in the classroom, he was the team’s best during his two-year career. After posting a 3.84 GPA over 20 credits during the fall, he blew those marks away this past spring with a perfect 4.0 GPA for 23 credits. The native of Cottonwood, Arizona, wound up with a cumulative 3.7 GPA. Zwart is expected to attend Grand Canyon University in the Phoenix area in the fall.