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CCC graduate making the grade for Navy

By NANCY MORGAN, Times Sports Correspondent
Published October 21, 2007


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Attending a military school was the last thing on Kari Weniger's mind in 2003 as she neared the end of her high school career at Clearwater Central Catholic.

All that changed, however, when the soccer standout and academic whiz received a letter from the Naval Academy.

This year, Weniger, 21, is in her fourth year at the Naval Academy, where she has continued her prowess on the soccer field, in the classroom and around the community.

Recently, Weniger was chosen to represent Navy as one of 20 women student-athletes nationwide for the 2007 Lowe's Senior Class Award. Started in 2001, the award recognizes well-rounded student-athletes who stay in school rather than leave early to pursue a career.

Starting with her plebe year, Weniger made an immediate impact on the soccer team at the forward position, even battling back from her third ACL injury her second year to be the team's third-leading scorer last year.

Academically, the ocean engineering major has achieved the Patriot League academic honor roll all three years and has a 3.97 GPA.

Weniger's leadership has been tested not only in her role as team captain this year but in military duties such as plebe summer company commander and her company's honor representative. Community service was ingrained in Weniger at a young age and has continued with her involvement in various projects, including the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, the Children's Dream Fund and the Midshipmen Action Group.

"To be selected for the award is certainly a great honor and speaks of the training I've had from all my coaches over the years," Weniger said. "I grew up with a strong presence of being involved shown by my parents and learned that if you care enough, you make the time."

Navy is fourth among eight Patriot League teams with the top four advancing to the league championship. Weniger hopes to defend the league title and repeat an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

"I would love for us to have another successful season and get back to the NCAAs like last year," Weniger said. "If we play well, and do all that we can do to get there, then we can be proud that that was our best effort. Every game counts, and we can't be happy with a tie."

In her role as forward, Weniger said, perseverance is a key factor to success and is coupled with hard work and never quitting. The best skill, she said, is the basics, and she said continues to practice the basics such as ball juggling and ball touches.

"Certainly playing soccer at Navy is a great experience, but you don't come here just to play a sport," Weniger said. "I'm getting a great education and have learned what all the Navy has to offer. After graduation, I have a five-year commitment, hopefully on a ship. Following that, I would love to still be involved in soccer in some way."

MORE SOCCER: Sophomore forward Rachelle Ornelas Largo is third in shots for the Citadel.

- Junior Emily Steger (Eastlake) is battling for the attacking midfielder position at Ohio Wesleyan.

FOOTBALL: Sophomore linebacker Matt Wiszowaty (Countryside) has recorded 26 tackles in five games for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

- Freshman running back Marcus Santini (Seminole) is averaging 66 yards per game for Bethany College and has scored three touchdowns. In four consecutive carries against Thiel College, Santini ran for 40 yards.

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to namorgan@tampabay.rr.com or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.

[Last modified October 20, 2007, 22:30:57]


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